Recently HSBC Holdings Plc, Europe’s largest bank, announced plans to eliminate as many as 14,000 jobs as CEO Stuart Gulliver set out plans to cut an additional $3 billion of costs as he tries to revive profitability. $3 billion! 14,000 jobs! How come they are just noticing they are super fat! In fact, it is even worse: since 2011 when CEO Gulliver was hired to improve the financial performance of HSBC, he has cut 46,000 jobs. Why is it that typically the only time you see managers realize that they are fat and slow is when they are in deep trouble financially? Here are the two reasons why I think this happens all the time:
1.) Adding People is Easy; Subtracting is Hard – Here is how most people operate: If the boss wants change, you claim you need more people to make the change. Why? You indicate that everything you are doing is vital and cannot be changed. To incorporate what the boss wants while keeping the trains running, so to speak, extra people are needed to do it. If times are relatively good, usually the boss gives in, and your organization grows in both size and complexity as you just add the new capability instead of really changing.
2.) Most Managers Believe the Bigger Their Organization, the More Important It Is – Most people won’t admit it but that is the way they think. The more complex and large things are, the more talented you obviously are! Your pride becomes associated with the organization and the harder it is for you to accept change. Any change that is forced on you causes you to defend what you currently do and eventually you win the argument that in order to incorporate what the boss wants, you need more people.
Here is my career advice which is completely counter to a lot of the basic human traits that you see captured in the two reasons cited above:
People who constantly cut and streamline their organizations and are always anxious to take on new things are your most valuable employees.
Outstanding Leaders constantly exhibit these traits and such behavior requires self-confidence, curiosity, and a whole lot of guts!