In a large organisation it is fairly safe to say that the more resources allocated to a particular issue or project then the more likely it is that you will make progress on that issue. But this can also create problems. If one issue is prioritised over everything else then it is likely that all the other issues will suffer through a lack of focus and resources. The traditional answer in such cases is that you should hire outside resources to supplement your current resource pool so that all the major issues can be dealt with in an adequate fashion. But even then bottlenecks are created. In many cases there will be a few key individuals that all the projects need to reference so that they understand the background to the issues at hand and use the experience of those key individuals to come to the right conclusions more quickly.
The danger in such cases is that the urgency to complete the programme overtakes all other requirements and increases the likelihood that you get outcomes that are “fit for purpose” rather than the optimal solution for that business. If you have used external consultants it becomes more likely that there will be very little knowledge transfer during the life of the programme. Once the external consultants have done their job they leave and the experience goes with them. This is most common with technology implementations. At one client they had brought in external expertise to implement a state of the art credit and collections system. While the technical implementation went extremely well the financial results post implementation were a disappointment. On further investigation it was found that much of the functionality that was available was not being used since the key individuals who were also key users had been inadequately trained and had not been part of the implementation process. At another client the external consultants did a flawless technical job of implementing supplier catalogues. Two years after the implementation was completed not a single supplier catalogue had gone live due to the lack of properly qualified and experienced procurement professionals within the client who could have set up the commercial side of the process.
This has become a particular problem with regard to low cost country outsourcing. Although the goals of the outsourcing programme may have been achieved, i.e. reduce back office cost, a lot of experienced personnel are lost from the parent organisation as a result of the process. The theory is supposed to be that the outsourcer’s people will work in close partnership with the client organisation to the point where this deep experience is properly replaced. In practice staff turnover rates in these outsourcing companies is very high. One reason for this is that many people employed to do process operator roles are grossly under-employed. For example, it is very common that people who work in shared service centres and outsourcer operations in Central and Eastern Europe will speak multiple European languages and probably have a master’s degree. But many of these people will start jobs, such as invoice clerks, doing extremely basic administration roles. So the work is not fulfilling to people who are more than intellectually capable. Secondly, many of these shared service centres are based in purpose built office parks that are often completely populated by other shared service centres doing almost exactly the same functions. So anyone with any experience at all will try to get a job for better money and they only have to move across the street. In some parts of India they reckon that wage inflation is in excess of 20% in these types of office parks since it is so easy for people to change job. Thirdly, these jobs offer a very limited career path. While it may be very possible to advance yourself within the shared service structure, it is usually not possible to transfer to other functions in the parent/client organisation that could provide a path of advancement to these well qualified people. So the only way of having a career is to leave for another company. There are of course the exceptions but there are not many. This means that the resource capability of the organisation is reduced in the long term and means it is more likely that other external resources will be required to successfully complete future change programmes accentuating the risk that future knowledge transfer will fail.
In smaller organisations the problem of resource capability is almost always compounded by the bottlenecks created by having only a small number of sufficiently capable personnel and by the lack of financial resource available to employ expensive third party consultants. It can also be a major cause of organisational growing pains: being big enough that systems and processes need to become more advanced in order to keep a growing business under control, but at the same time being too small to avoid those personnel bottlenecks and afford external assistance. This is why there are very few organisations in the modern world who have survived all the way from being a small start-up to being a corporate giant. Many decide that it is easier to cash in their chips and pool in with a larger operator who has already overcome these restraints. But there are those who succeed in passing that barrier and they tend to be extremely innovative companies not just because of the products they make or the services they deliver, but also in the way their business operates. Obvious examples in the digital world are Apple, Google, Facebook and Twitter. But there examples in the non-digital world too like Dyson and South West Airlines of companies built around a business operating model or invention that succeeds at every stage of corporate growth.
So it is better to ask if you have the optimal number of resources for your programme rather than enough. Too many is just as bad as too little. And it is always important to ensure that the right resources will be in place after the programme is complete so that the benefits of change can be sustained and even bettered in future years.