Small Budget, Big Expectations

How do you manage when your budget keeps getting cut, but the expectations don’t?

You need to support 30 percent more products or customers and your budget is flat or down.

The level of quality demanded is higher.
The business is more complex.  But you have less money…

It’s important to remember:

  • This is not a unique situation.
  • Every leader in every company is in this same boat at one time or another.
  • This is what your job actually IS

Any smart person can do more good stuff with more money!

That is not what your job is. Your job is to do great stuff no matter what the budget.

If you walk around saying “I can’t do as much as I did last year because my budget is smaller” you are putting a bulls-eye on your chest.  The most effective leaders don’t worry about how much money they don’t have and how much harder the job is, they just get to work making the right, few things happen.

“Do Less with Less”

The goal is not to do “More with Less”.  More with less just doesn’t work.

Just piling more work on with less resources and telling everyone to deal with it, is not a formula for success.

At one point in my career I had to cut my annual budget from $140M to $60M.  The details are not necessary.  That is a cut!  My mantra became “we are going to do LESS with LESS”!

I learned that when you are faced with less budget you need to do less stuff, but you need to make sure what you do now, is  better stuff than what you used to do!

Do less, but achieve more

That’s where the leadership comes in. Here is when you personally need to step up to drive change.

It’s about challenging yourself and your team to do things in new and different ways to achieve better results with the same or fewer resources. This is what I refer to as “Better with Less“.

Your job as a leader is to find a way forward when expectations don’t match  resources.

It is to find different ways of working that accomplish more.  It is to:

  • Make your team less busy on things that don’t matter
  • Make trade-offs on purpose
  • Decide things with less study
  • Emphasize a few key things over everything
  • Make cuts without being asked

Focus on key outcomes, then make cuts to make room

So many managers get into the mode of trying to take on everything without enough budget, and don’t think of making cuts on their own unless they are forced to do so from above.

You need to step up and take the ownership and initiative to make cuts to make room for the most important stuff, whether or not you are asked to do so.

Avoid across the board cuts.

Another sign of whether you are doing your job as a leader is that some things get less money and some things get more money.

This shows you have chosen things to emphasize to drive the business, and that they will succeed because they are well funded.  If everything gets cut equally, you are not doing your job.

For more ideas see Better with Less.

You can find Patty at, follow her on twitter or Facebook, or read her books RISE and MOVE.

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