The Love Or Money Equation: The Clash of Culture & Cash

“Don’t tell me what you value, show me your budget, and I’ll tell you what you value.” Joe Biden

Peering into a budget will provide insight into an organization’s value system. A good litmus test for the true importance of initiatives and operations, is to measure the relative dollars apportioned.

There are programs and functions that decision makers love, and there are others that will generate revenue and/or cost savings. The sweet spot is where both converge, however more often than not, leaders have to make trade-offs between passion projects and money-makers.

Here’s four budget conditions to look for:

  1. Operations vs. New Investment. It’s a perennial problem that operations take the lion’s share of budgets, and new programs have to jostle each other for resources, like commuters trying to squish into a subway car. Signs of serious intent to save money on operations shows up in monies allocated to make operations more efficient. Look for investment in process improvement techniques and automation solutions that combine to a strong ROI – freeing up resources to apply to needed initiatives.
  2. The Peanut Butter Affect. It’s tough to say “no” or “not now” to attractive projects, with the affect that resources get spread amongst many projects and few deliver intended value or get done on time. Look at the number and size of projects relative to the historical capability and capacity of the organization – will the budget lead to spreading the budget peanut butter thinly and getting tepid results? Leaders need to make tough decisions on what is really most important and getting the value as fast as possible.
  3. Matching Talent and Technology. You can buy a toddler a Tesla, but you’ll have to wait a number of years until s/he can drive it, and by that time the car could be obsolete. Look for signs in overall and project budgets that sufficient investment in change management and training is happening with employees so they have the necessary skillsets to match planned technology.
  4. We Love Everything! It’s easy to say “yes” to the no-doubt well-crafted and well-intentioned requests for funding. Everybody’s happy, right? Happy in the near term. Funding doesn’t equal guarantees of getting stuff done. You can allocate $1 million to a project, but if procurement doesn’t have time to help with acquiring the products needed, the developers are booked on other projects (including hold-overs from last year), and a project manager isn’t available for two months – these are examples of signs that the budget eyes are bigger than the organizational stomach.

Don’t wait for the next budget cycle – take a look at the current budget and start thinking now about how to better ensure the dollar signs match up with strategy *and* organizational capacity. It’s worth some quick analysis to make sure that investments towards efficiency, putting the money towards the true priorities, and ensuring talent gets attention relative to new skills needed.

“It’s good to have money and the things that money can buy, but it’s good, too, to check up once in a while and make sure that you haven’t lost the things that money can’t buy” George Lorimer

Worth Considering: 

The latest job report appears to be a mixed bag – plenty of jobs out there, but wages remain stagnant. However, despite what any job report says, the market for IT talent is tough – in one survey, over 80% of respondents report it is tough to hire and retain tech talent.

And though there are many IT jobs, they are unevenly distributed across the US. This article describes it as a chicken-and-egg problem; tech workers won’t settle in places where there isn’t much of an eco-system, and tech companies won’t come to places where there aren’t tech workers.

Leaders do long-lasting damage when they fail to support their teams publicly. People do not want to work for someone who does not stand up for them in difficult circumstances, and leaders cannot get good stuff done without an engaged team. The “I” in leadership is a small “i” – leaders need to place themselves second and their customers and teams first.


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