Four Reasons Your Federal Program Doesn't Need More Resources

“I need more resources!” is the desperate cry of the beleaguered federal manager. “I can’t keep doing more with less.” Whether you are trying to get out from under a crazy workload or trying to build an empire of people to boss around, be careful what you wish for. The additional value of more resources diminishes quickly. Here are some reasons why:

1. It’s more to manage. This seems obvious but people forget that resources come with an obligation to manage them. You only have so much bandwidth and the more you extend it across additional employees and contracts, the less time you have for other things. Some of my best clients have lean and specialized teams and hesitate to grow them too quickly.

2. Mission Creep. The best organizations focus their efforts where they can provide the most value. If you look at employee satisfaction numbers, smaller and more focused agencies do well. I think that’s because people feel good if they are doing good work and can see the value they provide. A bunch of new money can get you into areas you shouldn’t be in or force you to invest in lower value projects.

3. You can’t spend it. Lots of federal managers underestimate the time it’s going to take to hire new people and put contracts in place. Those systems run slowly and you often can’t influence them all that much. If you get money and then don’t spend it, it becomes a problem for your agency and you probably aren’t going to get the next plus up when you really need it.

4. You probably won’t get good people or products. Lots of times when we get new money, it’s on a tight timeline. You’ve got to rush to buy or hire and when you do, you end up taking big risks. It’s hard to find good people and good providers.

That said, there are reasons to get more resources. If you’ve tried other options, if you know there are valuable projects in your space that you’ve scoped and you just can’t fund, and if you have the lead time to get hiring and contract processes in place, it might make sense. Just don’t rush into it without thinking of the downside. That additional $500k, $5 million, $50 million could be the biggest headache you have.