Recently Cisco Systems announced plans to shed 6,500 employees; 9% of its staff. The quote to the press was they needed to “right-size the business.” Even more telling, 15% of their VP’s and above will be let go.
Cisco is not unique. Over and over again you see this kind of article in the business press. Let’s face it, people massively over-hire. Why do they do this? Is it because they refuse to kill projects as they endlessly add new things? Are managers mistakenly motivated by their perception that managing more people means more prestige? Are they simply too timid to say no to additional staffing requests?
When you have more people, eventually you start to have more layers in the organization. This creates an excess of bosses and that causes more meetings, more emails, and slows down the business and creates crippling bureaucracy.
What I have just described occurs all the time. So what should we all learn from this kind of thing? Here are four fairly obvious points:
1.) Over-staffing is built into the DNA of human beings and consequently, at every step you need to fight it.
2.) Constantly focus on doing things with the minimum number of people possible.
3.) Your highly valuable top performers want good jobs, where they can do significant things; not waste time fighting bureaucracy.
4.) Whenever you get to a point where you are going to hire people, stop and carefully look for activities you should be discontinuing.
Ever been in a fat, bureaucratic organization with excess bosses? Miserable, right?