Debunking 'Do More with Less': HR Insights on Organizational Efficiency from Harvard

with Manuel Cuevas-Trisán, VP of Human Resources at Harvard University 


Interview by Jim. K, Host of the HR Impact Show podcast.

Interview Key Takeaways

  • Doing more with less is a fallacy; it's about achieving and expanding contributions with the right people.

  • Building high-performance teams requires individuals who care, dare, and prepare.

  • Interdisciplinary thinkers are essential in complex organizations to drive innovation and overcome inertia.

  • Leaders should avoid shortcuts and focus on the process to achieve lasting change.

  • Putting in the work is crucial for achieving elite performance and moving the needle.

In this episode, Dr. Jim interviews Manuel Cuevas-Trisán,  Harvard University's Vice President of Human Resources.

The mantra of doing more with less has become ubiquitous among organizations aiming for heightened organizational efficiency. He challenges this widely held belief, providing groundbreaking HR insights on fostering high-performance teams without succumbing to the do-more-with-less philosophy. Join us on the HR Impact Show as we delve into Cuevas-Trisan's fresh perspective that reshapes our understanding of productivity and resource management.


The Myth of Enhanced Productivity Through Minimalism

Cuevas-Trisan, renowned for his expertise in employment policies, talent development, and labor relations, criticizes the conventional wisdom of increasing productivity by merely reducing resources. His experiences have led him to conclude that the essence of augmenting a team's output lies not in the quantity of resources but in harnessing the right human capital.

"The real equation for organizational efficiency is to optimize and expand the contributions of well-chosen personnel, rather than toggling between less and more," asserts Cuevas-Trisan.


Cultivating Elite Teams: The Essentials of Care, Dare, and Prepare

In the quest for building high-performance teams, Cuevas-Trisan identifies a trinomial formula: caring, daring, and preparing. This blend of passion for the mission, courage to initiate change, and possessing the requisite skills sets the foundation for exceptional team performance.

"Genuine concern for the organization's goals, the boldness to challenge the status quo, and preparedness in skills are non-negotiable for achieving peak organizational efficiency," he elaborates.


Interdisciplinary Thinking: The Keystone of Organizational Agility

One of the pivotal insights Cuevas-Trisan offers revolves around the value of interdisciplinary thinkers—individuals capable of transcending their expertise to collaborate and innovate. Such professionals, according to him, are instrumental in propelling teams forward and breaking through the inertia that often hampers organizational progress.

"Those who engage with diverse organizational facets bring expansive imaginations, questioning the status quo and fostering innovative solutions," Cuevas-Trisan advocates.


Navigating the Shift to Matrix Thinking: Challenges and Strategies

While the transition to a workforce of matrix thinkers is crucial for organizational transformation, Cuevas-Trisan highlights the roadblocks of impatience and the temptation of quick fixes. He stresses the importance of realistic planning and perseverance to avoid the pitfalls of employee burnout and ensure sustainable change.


"Achieving true organizational efficiency demands dedication and a strategic approach to overcoming challenges"

Manuel Cuevas-Trisán


Reimagining Productivity: Implications for Modern Organizations

The insights from Cuevas-Trisan have profound implications for modern organizations. By moving away from the do-more-with-less ideology to a focus on leveraging the right talent, companies can cultivate a culture of meaningful investment in their workforce. This shift not only enhances retention and engagement but also drives superior business outcomes through innovation and collaboration.

Moreover, promoting interdisciplinary thinking and a culture of questioning can unlock new avenues for creativity and problem-solving. However, organizations must remain vigilant against the risks associated with rapid transformation, ensuring support and resources are available to navigate the journey toward enhanced organizational efficiency.


Looking Ahead: Embracing Change and Investing in Talent

As we look to the future, the work landscape continues to evolve, demanding adaptability and a forward-thinking approach from organizations. "The constant in today's work environment is not just change but the inherent resistance to it," Cuevas-Trisan reflects. Embracing change, investing in the right talent, and fostering a culture of continuous learning are pivotal for thriving in the modern workplace.

In conclusion, the notion of doing more with less is debunked by the insightful perspectives of Manuel Cuevas-Trisan. Instead, the path to organizational efficiency and high-performance teams is carved through strategic investment in people who care, dare, and prepare. By nurturing an environment that values interdisciplinary thinking and supports innovation, organizations can achieve lasting success and resilience in the face of change.


"The real equation for organizational efficiency is to optimize and expand the contributions of well-chosen personnel, rather than toggling between less and more"

Manuel Cuevas-Trisán


Note: Based on a conversation on the HR Impact Show, this article explores these transformative HR insights from Manuel Cuevas-Trisán, VP of HR at Harvard University, as we challenge traditional notions of productivity and organizational efficiency.


Manuel Cuevas-Trisán

Vice President of Human Resources at Harvard University


Manuel Cuevas-Trisán Vice President of Human Resources at Harvard University


Manuel Cuevas-Trisán is the Vice President of Human Resources at Harvard University and an experienced Chief Human Resources Officer. He has a strong legal background and has successfully led teams at a major technology company worth over $6 billion. Manuel is skilled in managing various human resources areas like talent management, employee benefits, and organizational growth. He is also experienced in labor relations, employee communication, privacy issues, and compliance. His work includes leading the Board of Directors' Compensation and Leadership Committee and handling mergers and acquisitions. Manuel is known for building effective teams and guiding companies through significant changes and cultural shifts.


Connect with Manuel on LinkedIn



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