Coming back to work last week it would seem the new year for our coaching clients is starting with the same challenges as last year – overwork, overload and not enough scope to negotiate additional resources or reduced task load. We are now regularly hearing the line ‘I am doing one and a half jobs’ and sometimes even ‘I am expected to do two jobs’.

Quite often there are good reasons to reduce resources in a particular area when priorities shift for the organisation, but usually what gets forgotten in the haste of revolving restructures is the need to stop tasks that are no longer required. Our observation over the last few years is that most organisations have no trouble starting new projects, but stopping things is an altogether different matter.

In a recent example, a management team we facilitated a planning day for had no trouble setting up half a dozen new projects that had come out of recommendations from a business review. Once they told us that there was no budget for extra resources, we challenged them what they were going to stop. All we got was stunned silence at first and then, despite continuous intervention, a discussion that went in circles without reaching definitive agreement. In the end they went ahead with the new projects anyway and we heard through contacts in the organisation that work on the change projects had pretty much stopped 3 months later without having achieved any of the desired results.

Sounds familiar? Then maybe it’s time to reintroduce the mantra that in the absence of increasing resources the total amount of work cannot continue to grow indefinitely! The impact on people is just too big, especially on high performers who usually pick up most of the extra work.