You can't do more with less. You need to be realistic with the size of the boat you've got.
by Dan Slee
Stop kidding yourself, there's no such thing as more for less.
You had 10 in your boat and now you've got six.
But the demand is more, you need more skills and some days you just don't see an end to it.
It can't go on.
It's time we all had a Big Difficult Chat with the people we work for. It's a firm conclusion.
There's an Indian saying that the fruit ripens slowly but drops suddenly. This has dropped. Quite probably right into your lap.
As a Janet and John story...
Janet and John went shopping. They usually had £1 to spend. But now thanks to austerity they only had 50p.
"Sorry," the shopkeeper said. "You can only have one 50p chocolate bar instead of two."
Lesson: In the real world we can't get more with less.
As an emergency story
There was a flap on and it was all hands to the pump. Can you work longer? Later? Across weekends? Just to get us over this hill? You can? Marvellous.
We've all done it. The chips are down and you manage to do it. For an emergency that's fine. But just think for a second. Is this a real emergency? Or the same emergency as last month? And the month before?
Lesson: You can go the extra mile when you need to. But if this is the default position you've got problems.
As a real life story...
A comms person I know was part of a team. They were cut from five to one.
Bravely, they carried on in an empty office trying to do the jobs of five.
So bleak were things, they drew a face on a football he found in the office and called it 'Wilson.' Just like in the Tom Hanks film 'Castaway.'
Aha, everyone eventually thought. We can't get more for less.
Lesson: You can't do the job of five long term without things changing.
Not more, different
Of course, we can always do things differently. Remember sending out faxes? Or the folder that sent faxes used to be stored in? There was no email but quietly they were dropped. This is what we have to do as comms and PR people.
This is not an argument to say 'no' to everything. Instead, take a calm, rational look at what's expected of you, see what you've got and work out the difference.
The ship that can carry 10 containers can only carry 10 containers. If people want to send 12 they need to work out which two they'll leave behind. Or else they need to pay for another ship.
An exercise: measure what you've got
A few years ago on a course we were asked to make a note of what we did for a week. Meetings, planning, delivery evaluation and writing emails. I was stunned to discover I spent 25 per cent of my time in meetings and another 25 per cent writing e-mails. I was actually delivering on what I needed to do about a day a week. That surprised me.
Count up the time you have and what you spend it on.
Count up what the expectations are and how much time every week you and the team have.
Do you have a list of priorities? Are they meaningful or vague?
Do you know what the full list of priorities are?
How many people would you need to deliver those?
What would that cost?
How many priorities in the list can you really deliver?
Do you have permission to do those as a priority but if there's no room on the ship not to do non-priorities?
What keeps your organisation's important people awake at night?
Are you doing anything to tackle that?
Are you telling them once you've delivered some good stuff?
What skills do you need to deliver what you need to?
These are the question every organisation needs to answer. This is the reality of communicating in a digital world. It's not all hoverboards. It's trying to make the old and the new - the best of each - work together.
You may well have head space to do that.
If you'd like to work out the answers to these questions then we'd love to see you at our communicating in a digital world workshop in London on July 18. You can learn more here.
Dan Slee is co-creator of comms2point0.