PEOPLE & PERFORMANCE: March 96 issue                        back to articles menu

LIFE WITH PUNTER

TOPIC: Budget Time - Running on Faith

Depending on the way your company’s year runs, you may be just starting out in a new budget period, in which case your training budget is established, or if you have a March end-of-year you are probably in the thick of the fight for your share of the pie. Speaking from a background in Line Management, and with particular personal experience of being both the recipient and the provider of such funds, I thought it might be timely to offer a few words of well-meant advice on the subject.

Training is very much a vocation. While most of what we actually facilitate is based on scientific and academic premise, it’s my personal belief that the factual content, be it skill or information, sits on our internal foundation of what can best be described as ‘warm fuzzy’. In other words, many of us have the the Human element at heart as a first concern - we are vocationally interested in the development of Humans as individuals. The challenge in the Budget Race is, that in order to secure the biggest lump of the pie possible, one needs sales skills and political skills (the same thing), in that the people we are trying to influence are primarily driven by commercial or logistical aspects as a first concern rather than by altruistic thoughts. Who can blame them? There’s not much hope for the CEO who reports to his Board that "All staff are happy and well motivated after the expenditure of several million dollars in T & D, and Oh, by the way, we’re broke......".

It’s a commercial focus, not a philanthropic one. That’s life, so come to terms with it.

From a Line Manager’s point of view, all expenditure needs to be linked to present or future revenue. New plant, new systems, more staff - these things can be measured and assessed to a larger degree (in terms of the likelihood of incremental revenue), than can Advertising. And sadly, many in Management view Training in the same category - it’s hard to measure the incremental effect in dollar terms, and, like Christianity, has to be taken on Faith. While Eric Clapton might be making millions out of his song Running on Faith, I don’t suggest you try it as a sales philosophy in your budget negotiations.

Paradoxically, in the last few years Management has been attracted like moths to a candle to a seemingly never-ending series of ‘fads’ - the latest magic wand - which will revolutionise their businesses and provide a clear path to the Holy Grail. Suffering from a bout of insomnia the other night, I watched the BBC World Service and there was the King of Fads, Tom Peters himself, being somewhat roughly treated by a well presented item which showed a rising tide of disillusionment among UK Management with his latest offering, which focuses on the apparent need for Revolution instead of Reorganisation. The gist of that disillusionment was that many of the interviewed managers could not see any practical relevance in what Peters is expounding. He is now asking Management to Run on Faith - and thereby may shoot himself in the foot.

Leading the charge in the criticism was the Director of IPMUK, and a Professor or two from respected UK Universities whose names I can’t remember (it was 2.00am).

The common sentiment is that Peters has gone from the useable/practical/measurable to something far more rarefied - to the extent that those interviewed commented that they couldn’t understand what he was talking about. When you consider the millions that must be at his disposal to help sell his packaged message, and compare it to your resources if you try to sell your message on Faith alone - what hope have you got?

Before going to your budget presentation, try this little exercise. Grab a big piece of paper and make five columns. Head these columns Attention, Interest, Conviction, Desire, and Close. You are going to make notes under each of these headings.

Under Attention, think about how you are going to make some statement or opening that will make people sit up and think - something that will separate your presentation from the rest of the crowd. Under Interest, remember that people care deeply about things that affect them personally. Make your message personal. Under Conviction, be able to prove that what you say is right, and convince people that whatever you say should happen, has a damn good chance of happening. Under Desire, remember that you rarely buy something you don’t actually want. Make them want what you’re offering. And under Close, present people with an actual decision they need to make, start by assuming that the approval will come, have their objections already answered, and outline the consequences of nil decision or a ‘no’ decision. At budget time, forget your vocation and become a salesperson/negotiator. Either that, or accept what you get. If you get stuck, I won’t mind the occasional phone call.....

Carpe Diem

Steve Punter ANZIM, Dip Bus (PMER), FHRINZ
Staff Training Associates Ltd, Auckland, New Zealand. email: steve@sta.co.nz
Steve Punter 1996 All rights reserved by the author

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