Efficiency improvements or cutbacks?

When our bosses say "efficiency savings" do they really mean "cutbacks"? I don't think they do.

Now I’m sure that regular readers of my blogs will have sensed a little left-wing leaning so you may be surprised at my support for this Conservative policy.  This has been rumbling for a while and I found myself some months ago shouting at the radio when James Naughtie was berating Andrew Lansley, the then Secretary of State for Health, for causing redundancies in the NHS.  Mr Lansley was basically saying that he asked for efficiencies and the local managers had translated that into ‘redundancies’ which was not his intention.  Looking at the article below from the Guardian newspaper suggests that is still happening.


My big issue (and support for Andrew Lansley) is that the message was NOT about redundancies, it was about getting more from the existing resources, something that all organisations would want to achieve.  It is so similar to many other “top-down” messages, e.g. one company I worked with asked their managers to cut costs by 10% by becoming more efficient.  No sooner had the words been uttered when everyone was talking about a cut of 10% in personnel.  Again this was NOT the message sent but it was the message received.  The reality of this is, for me, that it is much harder to identify and drive efficiency improvements than to just wield the axe.  The problem for managers tasked with making savings (in any organisation) is that they are often thrown an arbitary target and expected to just get on with it.  What they really need is support from their managers and leaders to clearly scope out the task of making the savings and to be supported through the improvement process over a (potentially) longer term, even being robustly challenged when they offer redundancies and cut backs rather than improvements and efficiencies.

That way we can start getting “even more from the same” rather than “more from less” which usually ends up with “getting less than we wanted from those we have left”.


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About the author

Dave Dyer

Dave Dyer is a principal consultant within the Operations Improvement team in ABB Consulting. His speciality is in bringing sustainable change and operational benefits to an organisation through the engagement of its people. He hopes to share good ideas and good practice, to inform and to learn.
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