Doing more with less: The right limitations can boost team performance

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Doing more with less seems to be a daily mantra in organizations operating at high speed these days.

This is often viewed by my clients as a negative experience and something that can severely affect team morale. It is common to complain about the constraints at work and in our lives: too few resources, too little time, not enough budget, and so on. These are the realities of business and some of these restrictions do affect our performance. What, however, if we saw constraints in a different way?

What if we viewed constraints as a positive inflection point to force us to make different decisions, come up with more creative solutions, nurture underdeveloped skills, and push us to heights never before imagined?

Here is a story of constraints that turned into hyper-success. Did you know the creator of Dr. Seuss, Theo Geisel, won a bet with Bennett Cerf, the founder of the publishing firm, Random House? What was the bet of constraints? That Dr. Seuss could not write a good children’s book using only 50 different words.

The result was the popular book called Green Eggs and Ham, with 200 million copies sold, the best-selling children’s books in history.

Setting limits for yourself

Take the example of one of the clients I coach. Being a single mother of two young children, she found that when she picked up her children up from daycare, she was exhausted and they arrived at home hungry and tired. This made for an unpleasant dinner ritual. Her constraints led to pre-prepared meals for the kids to enjoy on their 30 minute ride home, which left space for playtime and a much more relaxing evening.

Time constraint Set a specific time or due date to get a task completed
Word constraint Write a compelling tweet using only 140 characters
Resource constraint Use fewer and different resources to accomplish a task
Environmental constraintFit exercise into your schedule even when you are traveling

Setting limits for your team

We know about the triple constraint in project management as the combination of the three most significant restrictions on any project: scope, schedule, and cost. How about challenging your team on everyday constraints too, to spark both creativity and boost productivity.

What can you do with your team?

  • Have your team provide you a list of a few challenges they are dealing with prior to your next meeting
  • Take one or two of those challenges and plan to place constraints on them before finding a solution as a team
  • Run an interactive meeting to solve the challenge while using the constraints. For examples, with meetings, challenge the “hour-long” meeting. Can we accomplish the same (or more) while meeting for 30 or 50 minutes? Would a stand-up meeting (managing the environment) engage participants more? Can we constrain talk time and what would that look like? Can we share fewer PowerPoint slides? Can we use meetings only to make decisions (share supporting information as pre-read)? And so on.
  • Celebrate their creative input and gain commitment to work as agreed on that challenge.

Want us to facilitate a High Performing Team Workshop for you? We have creative ideas to address your specific team challenges with engaging and results-driven learning. Let’s talk!

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Helanie Scott
Helanie Scott
Helanie (pronounced yeh-LAH-nee) Scott, CEO and founder of Align4Profit in Dallas, Texas, has driven stunning leadership and cultural transformations for an impressive list of organizations. She has mastered the ability to connect with her audiences in the boardroom, classroom, on stage, or in one-on-one coaching sessions. Helanie’s Align4Profit clients rave at the way her engaging programs freshen outdated mindsets and deliver results-oriented, aligned action.