Doing “more with less” is emerging as a sort of business mantra for 2023.
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella used the term externally and internally this week to talk about the overall business climate. In a memo to staff announcing layoffs, he looked outward:
“As we saw customers accelerate their digital spend during the pandemic, we’re now seeing them optimize their digital spend to do more with less.”
Speaking later at Davos, he looked inward:
“We in the tech industry will have to get more efficient — it’s not about everyone else doing more with less, we will have to do more with less. We will have to show our own productivity gains.”
Too often, doing “more with less” means doing more of the same thing the same way, just with fewer resources and a smaller budget. This can lead to burnout, short-term thinking, and unintended consequences.
Actually doing more with less requires rethinking how we work entirely.
Kaz Nejatian, Shopify COO, recently introduced the concept of “useful subtraction” as a way to rethink how they work. He took aim at meetings and Slack as two areas that were getting in the way of productive work, and should be “subtracted.”
At the start of the year, Shopify deleted 10,000 events across the company, equating to at least 76,500 hours of meetings, and put into policy changes to curb meetings going forward. They also curbed Slack, which they described as “bloated, noisy, and distracting”. This included de-populating all Slack subscriptions, and capping future public Slack channels to 150 subscribers.
As Kaz put it:
“Meetings are a bug. Today, we shipped a fix to this bug at Shopify. To start 2023, we’re cancelling all Shopify meetings with more than two people. Let’s give people back their maker time. Companies are for builders. Not managers.”
Here are a few related cartoons I’ve drawn over the years: