Mark Faust: Embrace The Constraints With Intelligent Allocation

“Constraints beget greater innovation—not just because innovation is good but because it is a requirement for survival.” ( Stock Image )

How often have you heard one of the following requests? “We need to hire more people. I’m overworked.” Or “We need the latest and greatest equipment. We’re losing too much time.” Or “I need more capital to invest.” But the fact is, communication and awareness ameliorate angst and frustration. 

People tend to support that which they help to create. You will get greater engagement from the team if you have open and quality dialogue about how all organizations have limited resources. A core management practice is to discern how to best balance those resources, not just hope for more. Involve your team in the decision-making process by asking for people to share opinions or asking them to prioritize and justify resource requests (quantifying the expected ROI, for example.) Teams are more likely to support final decisions when their voices have been heard or they have contributed directly. 

Like siblings who remember scraping by together, teams can develop camaraderie when you create a turnaround mindset and purposely point out the challenge of limited resources. Rather than being a manager who acts like a harsh parent, you can find great value in being a pioneer in the frontier who proposes, “No matter what this environment dishes out, we’re going to beat it—and not just survive but thrive!” 

Constraints often birth advantage. “Necessity is the mother of invention. If it weren’t for the lack of ___, then we would have never achieved ___.” 

You hear it all of the time. Small organizations bootstrap their way to success. But the fact is, this isn’t just in spite of their lack of resources. It is frequently because they lack resources. Constraints beget greater innovation—not just because innovation is good but because it is a requirement for survival. 
My firm kicks off innovation sessions with clients using questions like: 

  • If our company were legally unable to sell to any of our existing customers and markets, then how could we adapt to keep the company afloat? 
  • If we were legally unable to sell to anyone other than existing customers, then how could we adapt to this constraint and grow the company? 
  • If we were required to cut expenses at X% but could not lay off one employee or stop one production area, then how might we achieve that objective? 
  • If we were prevented from having access to ___ resources and could only use ___ resources to deliver ___ results, then how might we accomplish our current production targets? 
  • If we eliminated the following products and services, then how could we still hit our current growth objectives? 
  • If we had no access to any new capital, then how could we still grow the company by X%? 

Don’t fear your constraints, but embrace them. Any company, military or other organization can benefit from being the underdog—smaller, younger or constrained in resources. Embrace the turnaround mindset, and leverage your weaknesses into strengths.  

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