Twelve Days of Budget Cuts and a Crow in a Dead Elm Tree (Partridges and Pears Were Too Expensive)

Keeping with the spirit of the season (by which we mean the end of the fiscal year, not the holidays), here is a list of twelve phrases you will want to watch out for as your organization starts talking about the budget for 2020.  Any of these may mean someone is about to cut your budget. You will want to be prepared so you can deploy your stealth strategy for fighting back and keeping your sense of humor. An earlier version of this post appeared a few years back for those of you who have been keeping track. We like to call it re-purposing, but maybe there was a budget cut.

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Credit: paurian cc

1.  Streamlining operations – The org chart will be made more symmetrical and some boxes will magically disappear along with their budgets. It’s sort of like removing the wings of the airplane to turn it into a rocket while it’s flying but forgetting that the engines were on the wings. Keep your cape and tights handy, heroics may be required. It might be time to take the wings and build your own airplane someplace else.


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Credit: geoftheref cc

2. Strategic realignment to top priorities – Budgets from the boxes on the bottom of the org chart will be cut and moved (that’s Ctrl-X and Ctrl-V) to budgets on the top of the org chart. The cream always rises to the top and with all those calories, a few fat cats are bound to show up. Try increasing your revenues, you can sell almost anything on the internet if you use enough cats.


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Credit: Marshall Astor-Food Fetishist cc

3. De-layering of management – Boxes on the org chart will be merged and budgets cut by firing (known officially as attrition) most of the people in middle management who actually know how to run the business and keep the customers satisfied. De-layering is sort of like removing the meat from a hamburger and serving it as a diet dish. It’s definitely slimmer, but I mean, “where’s the beef?”  If you are middle management, try hiding under the lettuce or impersonating a tomato slice.


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Credit: petrr cc

4. Re-engineering the business process – Each of the steps you take to deliver your service or product will appear on Post-It notes on the wall in the conference room. Some Post-It’s will be accidentally knocked off by custodial services at night and these steps will be cut out along with their budgets. You might want to have some masking tape handy, better yet, super glue your Post-It to the wall.


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Credit: roger.karlsson cc

5. Re-focusing on the core business – Your company cuts the budgets for innovative stuff that is making money and re-focuses on what it has always done that doesn’t make money. Would this work for an apple orchard? I mean, would they try to sell all those cores and throw out all the good parts?  By the way, what is Apple’s core business? iPods? iPads? iMacs? They seem to do fine with sales but have a problem with “capitalization.”


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Credit: Keith Allison cc

6. Doing more with less  –  Your budget will be cut and you will be assigned “stretch targets.” This is equivalent to telling people who are 5’4” to just dunk the basketball to increase their shooting percentage. Get a real jump on the competition by getting yourself a mini-trampoline with your year-end bonus and practice slamming that ball through the net with two hands. Brush up on your trash talk, too.


download7. Rationalization of functions –  In the immortal words of Inigo Montoya, “You keep using that word, I do not think  it means what you think it means.” The definition of rationalization from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders is : “dealing with emotional conflict or internal or external stressors by concealing the true motivations for thoughts, actions, or feelings through the elaboration of reassuring or self-serving but incorrect explanations.”  Inconceivable? 


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Credit: Nick in exsilio cc

8. Moving to the paperless office  – This means that all your documents will be saved in the cloud and you will read them on your tablet making it possible to cut budgets by getting rid of all those Printers and Copiers along with their quill pens, parchment scrolls, and robes. Or wait, maybe it means the owners of the building raised the rent and you are moving to an old warehouse with no wallpaper. Either way back-up your files.


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Credit: hugovk cc

9. Consolidation to get economies of scale – The parts of the business that do similar things will be merged into a single unit. For example, everyone who talks on a telephone will be consolidated into the Outreach Department so they can buy new phones at a discount. Hello, hello, is anybody there?  Hide your desk phone in a drawer.  When was the last time you used it anyway?


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10. Benchmarking to industry leaders. The secret to this cost-cutting strategy is to find other businesses that are like your business. Then we compare the cost of your operations with their operations. So be prepared to be compared to other companies with the same number of letters in their name. If you see people painting apples orange, you will know it’s time to play the “but-we-are-unique” card.


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11. Mainstreaming special initiatives. Remember when we said diversity was important enough that we should have someone around whose job it was to help us make it happen?  Or we need a mentoring program to develop our in-house talent? Well, surprise, we now think we can simply add these responsibilities to managers’ job descriptions because really, managing is their job, right?



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Credit: alles-schlumpf cc

12. Capturing synergies – This means that the whole of your organization will now be greater than the sum of its parts.  But you do the math, it really means that some of those parts will have big holes because their budgets will be cut.  For real synergy you will need a “catalyst” – this should get you started: Hereford, Holstein, Black Angus, Longhorn, Guernsey, Brown Swiss.