Extreme dieting is unhealthy and even dangerous. Likewise, in corporate environments, extreme dieting is unhealthy and potentially crippling.

A guest contributor to NPR wbur’s CommonHealth website, talked about this idea of “thigh gap” in teenage girls and extreme dieting.

I have never heard of “thigh gap”, although I am familiar with extreme dieting and anorexia, when my brother (a retired international competitive bodybuilder) and me authored the book “This Body This Life“.

This Body This Life book by CJ & Seamus Phan

This Body This Life book by CJ & Seamus Phan

To all of us who believe in holistic health and fitness, we would observe or learn that extreme dieting never work for the long haul, is detrimental to health, does nothing to healthy muscular development, and is dangerous to health, whether physical or even psychological.

Likewise, if we use health and dieting as a parallel to corporate health and organizational optimization, then the same principles may apply.

Tree's deep roots - business longevity

Tree’s deep roots – business longevity

In recent years, especially after the dotcom bust, more and more companies would emerge with great splendor into the limelight, only to fizzle out very quickly when all funds, borrowed or otherwise, are depleted.

There are also many companies that have trimmed their employee numbers so present “better” numbers in their balance sheets, or as attempts to reduce the “bleeding”.

But are these approaches healthy to the longevity of corporations?

First, when business is brisk, some corporations would go on a rapid employment exercise just to get sufficient people to handle new business. This rapid but unnatural expansion is often unsustainable, especially when customers can come and go, and business volume is transient. What happens then? Suddenly the corporation would be facing a large team of people without nothing to do, and expects to be paid in full. After some time of inactivity, this large team of employees would be seen as redundant, and the corporation would have no choice but to let these employees go.

Second, employees are human beings, no less than CXOs or managers. When large numbers of employees are let go, the remaining employees would be demoralized and would then jeopardize the business health of the corporation further. Morale is infectious, and no amount of “rah-rah” from leaders will turn the tide for demoralized employees facing an uncertain future.

Third, business optimization is not about using employees as the tokens to tilt the business health in the direction a leader desires. Rather, business optimization is a holistic approach of fine-tuning and balancing many factors, employees, processes, infrastructure, technology, competition, and so on. In many ailing businesses, the critical flaws are often not in the area of human capital, but in processes, infrastructure and technology, and failing to keep pace with the competition. By merely hinging on hiring or firing employees as the only tactic, is probably the most myopic of approaches.

Therefore, just as extreme dieting is not good for health and can be dangerous to people, extreme dieting in businesses with an exclusive cut to human capital, is unhealthy and crippling to business health too.

Think wide, think deep, and think humane, and your business may benefit immensely from your holistic and strategic mindset.