Doing more with less isn't always desirable

Bob Lewis says the emerging 'slow IT' movement is a great idea

"Our financial situation is strained and that is putting it kindly. You're going to have to find ways to do more with less. It is time for that can-do attitude. Time to put your backs into it and show your mettle." There is no doubt you and your IT colleagues are hearing such talk from company management. It is time to respond. "What are you, nuts?" is one possible way. Well, maybe that would be a bit intemperate. The right answer is, "Let me huddle with my team and put a plan together". Of all the instructions given by a business leader to IT, none is fraught with more peril than "do more with less". The naive among us might think the opposite – that it is a chance to shine, to show how you can rise to a difficult occasion. But nothing could be further from the truth. That is because anything you achieve beyond standard "continuous improvement" (incremental increases in effectiveness, usually in the 3 to 5 percent range) will be an admission of past incompetence. Did I say "admission"? Let's make that "broadcast". Let's say you agree to do more with less and succeed in a spectacular fashion. It might make you a lot of friends. More likely, it will raise the question of why you didn't start doing all the things that let you do more with less years ago. It is a problem that is always going to be with any employee. In times of stress it is accentuated, because in times of stress, people are more likely to be grumpy than grateful. All things considered, you will find it a lot safer to do less with less than to do more with less. The challenge is making your case in a way that leads to your stakeholders nodding their heads, instead of grabbing their pitchforks. The economy is in tough shape – no news there. The most optimistic projections have it remaining in tough shape for some time to come. This isn't a blip and it is going to personally affect us all, including IT leaders and practitioners, for years. Everyone in IT, from service desk analysts right up to the CIO, deals with requests that have political consequences every day. In the hangover economy we're in, politically charged requests will be more frequent and more strategic than they were when the "kegger" economy was in full swing, and the requesters – sober and headachy instead of ... well, you know – are less likely to throw their arm over your shoulder to slur, "Hey, that'sh OK. I unnuhstan. We're shtill friendsh, aren't we"? There is no request that is more political than whatever variation of "do more with less" hits your desk. If you are a developer, it will take the form of "Can't you just squeeze this in"? If you're the CIO, it will be, "We're cutting your budget by 10 percent and adding three new projects to this year's mandatory list". Our goal for the Less with Less blog and the Slow IT movement is to give you some tools, tips, and techniques to get you through the day and the next budget cycle, and to spur some discussion. In other words, don't be coy – post your own thoughts. Join the discussion group, add comments to the blog post or write on our "wailing wall". Just go to If you have ideas to share, please do so. And if you have any specific topics you would like us to cover, please don't be shy about it. Let us know and we'll be sure to add them to the list. In the meantime, here is your first tip. Faced with a request to do more with less, always remember the single most important rule for handling any request. There are two answers that are almost always the wrong ones to give and one that is always safe. The two wrong answers are "yes" and "no." The safe bet is, "here is what it will take."

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