Beyond Budgeting: Revolution or Revulsion?

August 10, 2016

How would you feel if your company abolished budgeting? Many would jump for joy at not having to submit to this annual pain any more. Abandoning the annual budget is exactly what the Beyond Budgeting Roundtable (BBR) has recommended companies to do.

The BBR defines”budgeting” more broadly than just the process of creating annual financial estimates. “Budgeting” is defined as the main tool of control that is used by traditional “command & control management”. Because Beyond Budgeting seeks to change traditional management, removing the budget process is the key action in this process.

The Beyond Budgeting model of management rotates the typical org chart 90 degrees counter-clockwise, putting senior management on the far left, and the customers on the far right, per the figure below (from http://www.bbrt.org/beyond-budgeting/bb-vision.html).

Article Beyond Budgeting Org Chart

The aim in this change is to put the focus on providing value to the customer. It proposes to move some support functions (typical cost centres like operations, accounting, etc) to within the Value Centres, closer to the customer. This creates more direct costs and less allocated costs in the organization, and increases customer-facing focus for the whole organization.

More generally Beyond Budgeting proposes to link up the effort across the organization with common guidelines rather than piles of rules, allowing judgement and common sense at the “front lines”. It promotes development of real-time KPIs which will serve as the barometers for success, and puts the direct responsibility for faster and more relevant responses on those front-lines.

So why has Beyond Budgeting transformed our world?

Even Beyond Budgeting proponents admit that this is not a quick or easy change: current management needs to embrace this change and be willing to invest in the process. That is a tall order for management which has achieved their individual success around the traditional model. It is equally difficult for those who may support such a project but who may see such support as ‘career limiting’.

Beyond Budgeting also requires a significant investment in technology in order to allow forecast modelling information to be collected from the decentralized (and possibly far-flung) Value Centres, and to be fed back as KPIs against the actual results.

But there are compelling reasons to look at organizational change. The changing nature of the workforce/workplace; increased volatility in economies, and even volatility in the weather all have huge direct and indirect impacts on business outcomes. If there is growing volatility in the outside forces on business, it may make sense to look at adapting the inside forces to meet that volatility.

However the language around the Beyond Budgeting model is a little off-putting and overly-euphoric.

The Beyond Budgeting website claims that this process is “…about releasing people from the burdens of stifling bureaucracy and suffocating control systems…”; another site claims that the “dead hand of command and control” de-motivates employees and kills innovation, and there are articles in support of Beyond Budgeting which refer to the traditional budget as “figures of hate” (http://www.thefreelibrary.com/Figures+of+hate.-a078965363).

Them’s fightin’ words!

Traditional management has been adapting: many companies use more democratic, outward facing strategies, such as a rolling forecast, which starts its life as the budget; numeric and non-numeric goals, and personal professional goals all of which are intended to guide people to some common strategic objective. These strategies most often work together to advance customer value, though often not perfectly.

As a manager or as a volunteer, you may have noticed how poorly many organizations have been and continue to be run – the argument that we need to improve management is not at issue! Yet solutions to this problem which are brought to the table with trumpet blasts and rhetoric proclaiming its arrival as necessary and revolutionary should alert the skeptics in all of us.

Yet there is value in considering change: management structures tend breed bureaucracy over time, and bureaucracy tends to get in the way of innovation. A little revolution now and again – whether planned, like Beyond Budgeting, or unplanned, like a financial crisis – cleans out the cobwebs and allows new ideas to bubble up.

There is value in decentralizing decision making and trusting the people you hire to understand their role and exercise good judgement. Equally, formal budgeting is a process that recognizes scarce resources as an important variable in running a business.

In short, no matter what the management model the need for good management is critical to success. Beyond Budgeting is big change, and that may be what is needed, but it is not an easy step. How would you know if it is for your company? Good management looks to the company, its people, the market and prevailing conditions and makes changes as required. Start there.


Would You Raise Your Kids This Y, I Mean Way?

June 4, 2016

Gen Y, the conundrum of today’s workforce. Really?

I have read all sorts of blogs and articles, listened to podcasts, attended webinars, about how to deal with Gen Y. Not because I am stuck on what to do with a young workforce, but because I am trying to figure out why I need to bother to do anything different at all.

Gen Y, the Millennials, we’re born from 1985 to 1990, and came of age only a few years ago and have entered the workforce. Seen as disloyal, over-parented and self-centred, this group (it is said) is impossible to understand by their older supervisors.

But I disagree.

Many of the Gen Y’s I work with have a great sense of humour, are smart and hard working. I can connect with them; explain tasks and supervise them, and laugh with them. I am not young (though not old!) and don’t expect to be part of their “crowd”, and certainly not their friend.

I have worked with some Gen Ys who were not those things, and they did not last long: they left or were fired. I have worked with baby-boomers and Gen Xer’s who were also those things, and they also found their way to the door.

The webinars and articles I read say to do “fun” things for your Gen Y employees, like small gifts or cards on their birthday, or a first-day present of 5 business cards as a treat. Please, we are not in grade 4. I would not cater to my kids’ self-centred-ness, nor would I insult them by doing anything like that. Why would I do anything like that for 20-something employees?

My prediction, the young employees who meet the stereotype of lazy and self-centred will learn the hard way, but they will learn, and it will not be pretty for them. They will in fact have lots of jobs because they moved on because they saw the writing on the wall, or because they were moved on by their employer.

My kids act self-centred lots of times, all kids do. You train them not to be like that over time. If their parents haven’t trained their 20-somethings, have no fear, someone will.

So I have the following plan: I will try to treat all employees with respect, talk to them like equals and expect good effort and good results. For new employees, and for young ones, I will expend the effort and patience needed to turn them into good employees.

Quite honestly, I don’t have the patience for much else. Is that so wrong?


Doilies and Your Mother’s Dishes

April 10, 2016

“When did you get so concerned about doilies and your Mother’s dishes?”, Gandolf asks Bilbo in the first movie instalment of The Hobbit, at a point where Bilbo is looking for an excuse, any excuse, to avoid joining an adventure.

At this point in the story, Bilbo is just the other side of young, tending towards fat and quite please with his life, thank you very much. Why rock that boat?

Sound familiar?

There was a time in our careers (and life) when adventure was what we wanted…and we could drop everything and up and go. Whether it is a spur of the moment vacation, an invitation to a party or to help a friend move, there was no question that we would just head out the door and take part.

Career-wise, when we were younger, we did work that no one else wanted to do (we may or may not have realized that at the time), or we did the “Joe-jobs” that are reserved for the very newest of employees. ‘Things’ were less important, partly because we couldn’t afford them, and anyway we didn’t need them! We had discovered a world that has so much to offer and were just dipping our toes into that world. We were out there ‘doing it’ and though we didn’t mean to be, we were creating those memories that we look back on and consider ‘the good-old-days’.

But once we left that hump behind us and had started to move up at work and settle down at home, things start to change. We started to like where we were, we like and love those who we had met along the way and we started to collect and keep things we like. We start making commitments – children, careers, debts (good and bad) – and so on. In short, by good luck and good management, eventually we created something to protect and preserve.

There is only one word for where we are: “congratulations”!

So why do we often look wistfully back at the good old days? How do we get that feeling back? How do we take the thrill of the unknown from feeling like it is too risky to being something that is fun and that energizes us again?

Here are three small things that can make a big difference:

Trust: there is a fine line between the caution borne of experience (wisdom) and outright cynicism, and we all need to examine where we have drawn that line. Lack of trust can save us a lot of grief but it can also cause us to not seek new friendships or to destroy existing friendships. People hurt us and that hurt is real. If we forgive those people and those circumstances, we free ourselves from carrying around the pile of hurts that can weight us down and stop us from acting.

Things: there is a common saying that when you own too many things, they start to own you. Have you ever hesitated doing something because you did not want to risk making a mess or breaking something? I have! Sometimes it is hard to remember that we bought things to use them and not just to clean them!

Try something new: taking a risk might just mean stepping out of your door and interacting with people: help a friend at a charity; go back to church; take cooking lessons; make an effort to talk to a troubled colleague or start or finish working on that big project that has been gathering dust on your desk.

In The Hobbit, Bilbo crosses half a world and fights dragons and in the process becomes a new and more confident person. By the end of the story he accomplishes great things by making changes in his life, (as opposed to trying to change others).

Our commitment and obligations to the people we love and our work really do keep us from selling up and tramping around the world seeking excitement, and that is not a bad thing (and no, our families and friends are not holding us back)!

But slaying the figurative dragons (small and large) in our own lives in our own small corner of the world can be no less adventurous and can be life changing, if we choose to see it that way.


The Psychologist is In

February 10, 2016

There is a pretty solid foundation in credit procedures on how to collect debt. Call, remind them of their commitment, let them know that there are consequences that could include seizure of property, loss of reputation, etc.

If you think about it, there is some psychology at work. You appeal to the debtor’s sense of obligation or pride, or make them worry about consequences. It is not sophisticated psychology for sure, but the collection industry is built around these practices.

So what other psychology is out there that could be useful to the collector or credit manager? There is a surprising amount of psychology around debt, the accumulation of debt, and how to set things up in advance to facilitate collection.

There is a psychological phenomenon called “anchoring”, where peoples’ judgment is impacted by arbitrary numbers. The online journal Science Daily discusses the 2009 paper by Dr. Neil Stewart (of the Department of Psychology at the University of Warwick, UK) called “The Cost of Anchoring on Credit–Card Minimum Repayments” where he examined the impact of minimum payment amounts in debtor’s decisions.

Stewart found that those who were planning to pay the entire balance were not impacted by the presence of a minimum payment amount, but those who were not intending to pay the full amount (38% of card holders, according to the study) more often than not opted to pay the minimum balance.

Furthermore, the lower the suggested minimum payment (which vary by credit card), the study found that the average actual payments were lower, even if the debtor could afford to pay more.

Do we as collectors employ this tactic? To a certain extent we do. When setting up a payment plan, best practices say to ask for a higher initial payment to establish commitment of the debtor. Essentially, we set a higher expectation for that first payment, and we do it because it works.

Another study called “Winning the Battle but Losing the War” published in the Journal of Marketing Research highlights consumers’ satisfaction with paying off small debts, even if there is larger or higher interest bearing debts in their portfolio. The psychology of why this happens is drawn from the psychology of decisions and goal pursuit – people are disproportionately impacted by small “losses”. When those “losses” are debts, people often elect to clear up small debts first, thereby creating a sense of progress.

While we as credit managers work to set a manageable credit limit that once reached the debtor can actually pay off ( hopefully all at once) it would be reaching to say we are taking advantage of the psychology around the preference for repayment of small debts. We are simply being practical, matching customer cash flow to expected debt. In fact the ‘Winning the Battle’ study suggests that this is a tactic that debtors will employ when they have multiple debts…and a credit manager would hopefully be able to identify and avoid those kind of customers in the first place!

Putting your mind to it, credit managers could come up with some clever ways to employ this information, and would do so differently for consumer customers than you would for commercial customers. The strategy on how to employ this psychology would flow from having a clear understanding of your customers, their cash flow and their business.

Ultimately this science suggests you make sure you set management credit limits that you enforce, and that when you set minimum payments or payment plans, don’t lowball.

It sounds like credit managers know their psychology!


Fallis Trophy Found!

November 29, 2015

It is amazing what you can find in your basement when you are cleaning out old boxes! Requesting anonymity, this former Chapter President and curler (whose name you just might see in these pictures) found the trophy in a bout of fall cleaning.

The Fallis Trophy just might be the oldest curling trophy in Manitoba, dated 1912 on the main cup, and was first awarded in 1914 (101 years ago), and last awarded in 2006.

The inscription on the cup reads

“The Fallis Trophy, Presented to the Canadian Credit Men’s Association by Mr. W.S. Fallis presented 1912 for Annual Competition”

The Fallis Trophy is now safely on display at National Leasing’s Winnipeg Office.

 


Grad 2105

November 29, 2015

On November 12th, 2015 the Chapter gathered at the Caboto Centre to celebrate our 2015 grad and our student success. It was a great evening and is the centre of our Chapter year – it is what we are about!

Click on the photo to see the name of our winner and of the award!


Membership Report, September 2015

October 17, 2015
The report for the period ended September 2015 is attached. Overall the Manitoba Chapter has 91 members at the end of September (compared to 99 last year).
The change is really a reduction of students. National has reviewed the database and removed students who were not active. Overall we are up 7 paying members and down 14 unpaid members (13 students and 1 honourary member). Through the summer we contacted all unpaid members and associates to remind them to pay their dues.
Click on the image below to enlarge.
Members (Paid) Sep 2015 Members (Unpaid) Sep 2015

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