It’s Time to Budget….

It’s that time of the year when most businesses get into their annual planning. NPO’s (Not for Profit Organisations) are no different. In fact, an NPO’s task is harder as one has to generate the required revenue to cover all costs & make enough to invest back into the business. In my current role, whilst looking at how best to market the institution and aid the service lines in achieving their financial and brand targets, I also delve into the organisational requirements in ensuring that the planned direction can be executed well.

The latter is extremely important and brought me to write this post.

 “An organisation’s strategic success is totally dependent on its work culture & attitude

I.E. the best of plans are executed by people. And getting all the people, all the time, on the same page can (and usually is) a bit of a ask. Whilst on paper a strategic plan, logically shows achievement, in implementation (and management) a lot of drops can happen.

So the question is how do we manage this?

Here’s my list of (what I call) critical “must-haves” that need to be in place in order to ensure that the planning exercise (in itself) is a success. After all without a strong foundation the entire exercise can be compromised resulting in ad-hoc-ism and a reactive approach to business opportunities.

  • Team Structure: The right team structure needs to be in place.

  • Debate: The C Level team should encourage discussion and debate (of course time-controlled else the exercise can simply go down the toilet) on key strategic issues and arrive at working directions. Debate helps in bringing forth innovative thoughts towards an issue at hand. After all—“two heads are better than one”.

Debating & discussing is very different from being argumentative. Culturally (in Asia), work cultures frown on debating a  point  with a superior. Whilst this stems from age-old cultural norms of respect, there are limitations to carrying this into work space given the requirements today.

Encouraging positive & constructive debate would enable the C level to obtain brilliant nuggets of insight into operational management which, in turn, would aid them to formulate strategy that is:

A)     Owned by the executors and implementers—as they would have contributed to it through the debate.

B)      The ownership would, automatically, bring about responsibility which then will ensure that the best is given to achieve the goals.

  •  Centralised Budgeting: The last item on my “must-have” list is budgeting. Whilst all business units and key function heads are great managers and subject matter experts, my opinion is that, the individual budgets should be drawn up in discussion with the CFO.

The CFO, next to the COO & CEO, is the person with full knowledge of an organisation’s planned investments, risk appetite and key financial milestones that need to be achieved to keep the meter ticking over. This helps a business unit head tremendously as the CFO will ask where the funds are coming from in order for a business unit to invest in required resources. In this process two things happen:

A)     Prioritisation of resource need

B)      Profit target milestone setting

Both, actually, are critical elements to the C level in terms of reporting to the board. Having it detailed out takes away the question the Board would, normally, ask.

To sum up:

  1. Identify the right people for the right job and empower them to use their skills, ability and intelligence. Don’t micro-manage them but debate with them. This will make the employees feel valued, responsible and part of a cause.
  2. Put aside prejudices and cultural norms and approach the task ethically i.e. Honestly and set time aside to have constructive discussions.  Don’t instruct but request. You’d be surprised how far kindness (from a leader) goes with rank and file.
  3. Lastly make sure all key staff know who, where & how the entire organisational budgeting is being done.  Provide clear communication so that staffs know what they have to provide to the CFO’s team and what responsibilities they have.