The Invisible Costs of Freezing Budgets

Manager: you’re seeing a problem that your executives aren’t seeing. Shine a light on it, and work with them on fixing it (sharing this email with peers might help).

The issue starts with your executives being tense about the current business landscape. As a result, you are more constrained than ever.

You can’t hire the people you need, and may have had to lay some off. You can’t start certain projects. Forget about training or conferences.

A choice is being made here: Wait it out. Don’t invest in the team or their process. Keep building stuff until the market picks up. In one word: inertia.

Everyone probably feels this is the safest choice. But it’s certainly not strategic, and it may well be detrimental.

Why? Because your department’s current way of working is not entirely fit for purpose.

That’s both normal and surprising. After all, the team works hard, uses industry-blessed methods, and produces requested deliverables.

However, these visible indicators obscure the consequences of decisions and actions, and the business effects of those consequences:

Late, meh, or wrong product features ⇒ reduced customer satisfaction
Erratic delivery ⇒ excessive overhead
Rising tech debt ⇒ development costs more and more
Lock-in to product choices ⇒ later changes will be expensive or unaffordable
IC & manager disengagement ⇒ various vicious cycles
Handoffs, task switching, delays, etc. ⇒ wasted money
Big commitments ⇒ opportunity cost

These effects hurt the company now and in the future. They also make your work ever harder and more stressful.

Your executives don’t see the effects of the way of working. You do.

But as a leader, you can influence changes, especially to the way of working, while continuing to deliver and without spending budgets you don’t have.

It takes being open to the possibility of an “alternate reality,” so to speak, in which ICs & managers make different choices.

Personal example: For many years, I’ve eaten healthy and been physically active. Yet, my weight kept going up, and nothing helped. Last year, I discovered a program that went against the weight loss dogma axiom of “eat less, exercise more.” I’ve rearranged what I eat and when, and have built better habits around hydration, sleep, and self-awareness. I’m now sustainably back to weighing what I did when I was 30, and am the healthiest I’ve ever been.

In the work context, “eat less, exercise more” is akin to doubling down on your current practices. Trying a popular diet, which gets quick but unsustainable results, is akin to “transformation.”

Maybe these are just not the way to go? What if, instead, you made your system of value delivery healthier and more fit for purpose?

Discover a detailed roadmap for that in my new book, Deliver Better Results. I’ve also explained it on various podcasts.

You can counter the inertia and create a better reality. You owe it to team and to yourself.


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