Zero-based budgeting

I was once asked to do a ‘zero based budget’ for my department.  I had no clue and you couldn’t just Google stuff back then.  I rang round and found a mate who had had to do one.  Over lunch she gave me a pile of forms.  We got a bit pissed later and she admitted it had all turned into a paperwork farce, even worse than doing the ISO quality malarkey I’d helped out on the previous year.  I spent the night Tippexing and creating forms to put my submission in on.  Each form I needed to fill in came with several other forms for upward filling by group bosses.  By the end of the next weekend, my budget was done and n10 versions of it sent off with forms to fill in for various directors.  Eventually, every Tom, Dick and Edwina was phoning me up to ask me for forms and the secret, even accounts.

It was obvious what ZBB was.  Imagine yourself out of a job sums it up (Google for the real bull).  It really scared most of our group.  Seemed like a good idea to me.  Gave us all chance to work out some good excuses for our sorry existences!  Of course, some months after the fandango began, the clown who had come up with ZBB because he had nothing better to do was ZBBedd; right up the chuff and out of a job.  He blamed me.  In his last job he’d come up with the same bull, everyone though he was a smart-ass, and over time most departments got round to thinking they were about to be zeroed, before the gossip moved on.  No one had been stupid enough, like me, to find out what it really was.

If you forget the paperwork and treat things like zero based budgets as thought experiments, they can be quite useful.  These days, I’d just write a note to the effect that my project manager is using dynamic programming budgeting that reconciles to a monthly zero base, and thus the work is already done without incurring costs.  It’ll be a bastard if we ever give up smoking at the same time, and don’t have the back of a fag packet to write it all down on!

One brilliant way of cutting costs is to get a Liberal MP to swear something won’t be cut.  That’s it – simples rules!  Gone in a flash!  Faster than you can say ‘Vince Cable’s a twat’.


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