Fool’s Gold, How to Save Money

It is easy to save money.  I have seen it done time and time again.  Here is a simple 5 step plan to achieve that very thing:

  1. Look at the work you do and split it into all the different tasks
  2. Send all of the easy stuff to a low skilled (cheap) outsourced supplier
  3. Focus your remaining staff on one type of task so they get really really good at it
  4. Incentivise all your staff on tasks completed so they work quickly
  5. Make sure that your staff always have work to do, operating at maximum efficiency

Now you have:

  • Easy stuff done by cheap people
  • Hard stuff done by very fast, efficient, specialist staff
  • A constant queue so everybody is 100% occupied

You are as efficient as efficient can be.

Unpleasant Side Effects

Unfortunately there is a downside associated with all this efficiency.  You will find that you also have:

  • A bunch of very demotivated cheap people, who would (and no doubt could) do the specialists’ tasks if only you let them
  • Queues in front of every specialist
  • Specialists waiting for tasks that you really can’t afford to have them waiting for
  • Specialists looking at tasks that belong to other specialist, who would love to see them if only they had been passed to the right specialist in the first place.  (Unfortunately none of the specialists will be entirely sure which queue to hand their work off to next)
  • Work being passed backwards and forwards between queues relentlessly

It will feel like a scene from the magic roundabout

But this is all OK, it is saving you money

Of course, I am being facetious, nobody could possibly be so stupid

Remember that next time you phone your tax office or check in for an airline or visit accident and emergency or …

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Image by The Shopping Sherpa


  1. James

    Excellent. If you optimise the system then you have to optimise the whole system and for the longer term. As soon as you start optimising the parts then the performance of the system as a whole suffers. And you have explained that beautifully.

    Too many ‘best practices’ are ‘best’ only from a particular viewpoint – that of the person who is flogging you something associated with you buying into that best practice. Furthermore, with every strength come weaknesses – by default. This is something that is little understood.

    I believe that John Seddon would be proud of you: focus on the flow (from the customer perspective, end 2 end process) not on reducing the unit costs of specific discrete tasks that collectively make up the end to end process.

    All the best

  2. Hi James,
    I recently did an interview with Syed Hasan of Responsetek ( and he made a couple of interesting points about employee engagement where he said: Reasonable compensation, an interesting job and a voice in an organization seem to be the keys to employee engagement.

    If you get that then you get productivity, you get better management of process and experience….and it may save you money too but not in the way that the division of labour and scientific management models work.

    Time to reinvent how we approach streamlining and process efficiency?


    • James Lawther says:

      Thanks for the comment Adrian. There is a great book called 3 signs of a miserable job by Patrick Lencioni. It makes very similar points. You will never get anywhere without engaged employees. No matter how clever you are.

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