Managing Power Undercurrents in a Budget Meeting

July 2, 2018

Managing Power Undercurrents in a Budget Meetingbudget

In a previous post, you tried to get the budget for a new project but got snookered by the others at the meeting (your boss Alicia and your peer managers, Dante and Marguerite). Is there any way you could have better the outcome of having to fund the project from your existing budget?

Preparing to meet power undercurrents

There is a charming, naïve and completely wrong idea that, even with important issues, you can wing it. You can’t. Just hoping for the best is not a plan. You need to think through the issue before you engage with others who also have a stake in the outcome of the discussion.

I don’t say that you have to do this for every meeting, but you need to in the case we’re talking about, you probably do. Budget, and its discussions, is pointy end of the spear in any organization. Everyone will arrive ready to defend their piece of it and, if possible, increase it. The power undercurrent will be running fast and strong. You’ll get swept under unless you prepare yourself.

Questions to ask yourself before the budget meeting

In the earlier post, you made the assumption that you could get the money you needed from your boss’ special project fund but were wrong.

Here are some general issues you should have considered prior to the meeting. I’ll give you the analysis for the meeting depicted in the earlier post.

How much money will you need? 500,000. Make sure you know the breakdown of this figure into specific items and their cost.

From where do you want to get the money?

  • Why would Alicia give you the money? She wants the project done.
  • How would the other managers feel? Is Alicia favoring you by doing that? Is this a sign to pay attention to?
  • How would Alicia feel? She might also be worried that it looks like favoritism.

What is your fallback position if Alicia doesn’t give you the money? Ask for the money from the other managers’ budgets.

  • What arguments will the others make to resist the budget cuts? Already cut to the bone; the sky will fall in; you shouldn’t have gotten the project to begin with.
  • How could you counter them? Project important for the company; if successful, will make more money available for all; don’t rehash old decisions.

How much can you (really) afford within your present budget to fund? Keep this figure in your back pocket. You’ll probably want to argue that all of the money come from other sources than yours, but if that doesn’t work, you need to know how much you can actually give.

Why is this good for the company? Move deeper into digital presence; attract new customers; create more business downstream.

Are there any aspects of the project which would incline the other managers to support giving you some of their budget?  Future considerations; trading something wanted by the others; appeal to greater good?

If you spend some time working through these issues and any others that occur, you are in a better position to be successful in the upcoming meeting. You will have thought through how the undercurrent of wanting to obtain and retain power (in this case, money) might well operate in the meeting.

The next post will apply this planning to the actual budget meeting.

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