Tag Archives: assumptions

Underpinnings of Theory

“I have to tell you,” I started. “I have a high bias for action. Theory is okay, but for me, I am more interested in real world application, the theory, not so much.”

Pablo gave me a short grimace. “Unfortunate,” he said. “I know you young people are short on attention, you look for excitement in the world. Often, the underpinnings of theory escape you.”

“It’s not that,” I defended. “I just lean toward doing something.”

“I am sure that is what you believe, but every action you take, indeed, all of your behavior is based on your perception of the world, what is going on around you. Understand, that perception is always a frame of some sort. There are things within your field of vision, and things outside your field of vision. Sometimes, to change your frame, all you have to do is turn your head.”

“I get that,” I nodded. “I’m a visual person.”

“Most of your frames,” Pablo turned his head to see me sideways, “are not visual frames, but mental frames. Your mental frames are based on assumptions, beliefs, the way you see the world. Most of your frames are based on some theory. And, if your theory is not intentional, studied, tested, then your behavior may be (mis)guided by a theory of which you are not aware.”

Are Budgets Necessary?

From the Ask Tom mailbag –

Question:
We are looking at our planning scenarios for next year, and one question we have is the value of creating a budget. Doesn’t it make more sense just to print comparative reports year over year rather than spend the time to create something new?

Response:
I always go back to purpose. What is the purpose for a budget? What are the questions we ask ourselves as we look forward to next year?

  • What is our market? Size of market? (Facts or assumptions)
  • What macroeconomic factors impact our market?
  • How much of that market can we expect to earn with our product or service?
  • Is our product or service something that can impact the market (materially) different than in the past, with a disruptive technology or delivery method? Or is it a product or service with a maintenance track that will substantially see similar volume to last year?
  • Given our assumptions about our revenue levels, what is the appropriate cost structure to deliver our promises in the marketplace?
  • Does that cost structure deliver the gross and net profit levels, appropriate to the risk, and within the return on (investment, assets) that we believe appropriate?
  • Is there a disruptive (to our market) cost that we are willing to suffer that might dramatically impact our positive ability to sell or take marketshare? Like a warranty program or alternate delivery method, like air freight for a heavy product? I know it might be heavy, but the question of air freight might spark an idea.

I see budgeting as a bit of realism for our strategic decisions. The purpose of budgeting is to help us make those decisions. As a post-mortem, budgeting helps us check our assumptions (were they wrong or confirmed) and how well did we execute on the decisions we made.

When I am working on this process with a company, a quarterly shakedown on the questions (above) help us deal with reality and adjust (our assumptions, our efforts, our cost structure, our decisions). In a stable, incremental business model, year over year may be a satisfactory approach. Where the business model is seeing dramatic disruption, by economics, technology, largess competition, regulation or other factors, a zero-base approach may be appropriate.

Budgets ARE necessary as a measurement to check our assumptions and aspirations in the market.
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