Is It Possible To Be Too Lean?

2013 02-17 Frustrated Office Worker iStock_000015900242XSmallWhen the “great recession” began, companies got lean and they went there quickly. This worked, for employers, owners and employees.  Now 3+ years into recovery, lean continues while sales have grown. The result is increased profits.  So….what’s the issue?

I have been hearing a troubling refrain lately. I began hearing this from middle managers in large public companies I work with; and I am now hearing it from small and midsize companies.

Middle Managers say it like this:  “My team is exhausted and the workload continues to increase. I am struggling with how to become more efficient than we are and I am seeing signs that we are becoming less effective”.

High Performing employees put it this way: “The saying used to be, the best thing you can do for a high performing employee was terminate a low performing employee. I don’t feel this way anymore. In fact, quite the opposite. When anyone leaves, I groan. I groan, because I know there is going to be more work for me and I am struggling to get the work I already have done”.

As business leaders and owners, I encourage you to ask:

  • Are my middle managers and high performing employees saying similar things?
  • Am I listening?
  • Am I perhaps too lean? What are the risks to production, client servicing, morale and ultimately profitability if I am?

Elisa K. Spain