An Administrative Detail

Being effective has nothing to do with the size of your staff.

A previous client of mine, in an informal chat this week, revealed his plans to aggressively increase hiring for his firms.

His main argument was that, in order to improve client experience and deliver better results, the business needs more "manpower". This reasoning helps him justify a decision already taken. But as a friend and advisor, I politely disagreed and challenged the partner.

Effectiveness is not about "manpower", inputs, or volume of work. Is about doing and working on the right things.

Here's the passage from "The Effective Executive" that I shared with my previous client to invite him to reflect on his decision. Hopefully, it's thought-provoking for you as well.

"Whether a knowledge worker is an executive does not depend on whether he manages people or not. In one business, the market research man may have a staff of two hundred people, whereas the market research man of the closest competitor is all by himself and has only a secretary for his staff. This should make little difference in the contribution expected of the two men. It is an administrative detail. Two hundred people, of course, can do a great deal more work than one man. But it does not follow that they produce and contribute more.

Knowledge work is not defined by quantity. Neither is knowledge work defined by its costs. Knowledge work is defined by its results. And for these, the size of the group and the magnitude of the managerial job are not even symptoms.

Having many people working in market research may endow the results with that increment of insight, imagination, and quality that gives a company the potential of rapid growth and success. If so, two hundred men are cheap. But it is just as likely that the manager will be overwhelmed by all the problems two hundred men bring to their work and cause through their interactions. He may be so busy "managing" as to have no time for market research and for fundamental decisions."

Very rarely you may need "more manpower" to deliver better results. Maybe you need to hire or collaborate with better consultants. Or change the way you and your existing team work.

If the only growth lever you can see for your consulting business is hiring more consultants, maybe it's time to rethink.

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