Merge's Blog

Are limited resources really a problem? Or an opportunity?

Limited resources – people, money, equipment, and time – seem to be a reality in today’s workplaces.  This is usually perceived as a bad situation with negative outcomes.  We have come to expect that limited resources will be accompanied by poor service, fewer options, and lesser quality.

But what if limited resources were actually an opportunity in disguise?

limited resources

There have been higher-than-normal temperatures in Western Canada over the last few weeks.  As a result, the water levels are falling in some of the ponds and smaller lakes in our part of the world.  I got a first-hand look when I went on a day-hike this past weekend.  I was at this same pond at this time last fall, and the water levels a year ago were significantly higher than they were last weekend.  So much so that, what struck me immediately was the contrast between then and now.

The surface of this one specific pool when I was there last September was smooth like glass.  This time though, the water had dropped to a level where I could now see the garbage, trash and other debris at the bottom of the pond.  I am pretty certain that the trash wasn’t new, it’s likely been there for years.  But I couldn’t see it before because there was more than enough water to completely cover the junk and litter at the bottom.  This time though, the lower water levels laid bare the problems at the bottom of the lake.

Which, if you think about it, is not necessarily a bad thing.  Before, no one (or at least not many people) knew the trash existed.  Now, because it is visible, more people are aware of the problem, and those who care enough can choose to do something about it.  In fact, in conversation with a few of the locals, I discovered that there is a plan afoot to conduct a shoreline cleanup sometime in the next few weeks.

Limited resources – problem or opportunity?

One can draw a strong parallel between this situation and the workplace.  Many organizations today are “operating lean” – conducting business with minimal staff levels and limited resources.  Usually, this is portrayed as a negative.  But what if we were to look at this as an opportunity to identify the trash at the bottom of the lake.  When we “operate lean”, when we operate with limited resources, it lays bare the problems and issues in our processes, products and services.  It is an opportunity for us to identify the inefficient or unproductive activities we have engaged in for years, invisible in the past because staffing levels and resources were higher.

But just identifying the trash isn’t enough.  If we are to truly take advantage of this opportunity, then we need to also step forward and clear up the junk and litter that is now fully exposed.  We need to do a shoreline cleanup – to eliminate and streamline the inefficient and unproductive tasks that are now laid bare to the world.

Well, what do you think?  Operating lean with limited resources – hindrance or opportunity?  I would love to hear your perspective.  Please share your thoughts by commenting below.


  • Opportunity. During good times, there is a tendency to allow the successes to cloud and mask things that are not going right. Lean times provide the visibility about those things that aren’t going well; they need to be deal with. Failure to do that results in lost opportunities to improve operations and prepare for the next positive trend.

    • Good to hear from you Jim. As you can tell, I think it’s an opportunity as well. My concern though is that these types of situations create anxiety, and many people are unable to get past that discomfort to be able to focus on the opportunities. So we don’t take advantage!


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