Wednesday, September 19, 2007

ZBB2 - Zero based bureaucracy

The business types among us may already know about ZBB - which is Zero based budgeting. The idea behind ZBB is that instead of adding a cost of inflation onto departmental budgets you outline your budget from scratch setting out what you want to do and costing it up. It can be a very intensive but thorough process. It makes managers really justify their budgets but only if the scrutiny board / panel remain objective otherwise it just becomes another traditional attempt at re-inventing the wheel.

Anyway as far as I am concerned that was ZBB version 1, now we move onto ZBB2 - which is zero based bureaucracy. Which instead of justifying budget you justify paperwork and processes.

Of course you start by scrapping everything (Are you scared yet- that includes those triplicate based forms where copies get sent to different departments). Step 2 if half of your organisation haven't just had multiple heart attacks is to rebuild it from the bottom up. Start with setting out what you want to do, then identify the information required to facilitate this and then finally the absolute minimal process from get to the start to the finish. So end, start and then middle.

Throughout this process it is important to be able to challenge the whole team:


  • 'Why?' - If it cant be justified it gets binned.
  • Ask the people that operates the procedures. This is not a management process, this is a worker process, managers should only facilitate.
  • Risks - Take risks and turn your back on tradition. Triplicate copies are obsolete - if it is stored on computer it is much safer than storing on a paper file. Computer files are backed up, paper files are not. You don't know it wont work till you try it. To be human is to learn by our mistakes not compound them.
  • Minimise - Always minimise the process.
  • Discuss it to death - you have time, you are going to save a lot of it from cutting red tape.
  • Re- energise - Don't rest on your laurels, the chances are even the bravest people wont cut all the processes they can, but when you see it start to work keep going.
  • Evolve- Make the department evolve. Don't think in terms of cutting jobs, in tandem with this process identify new things you can get involved with.
  • Ask - If your not sure about something ask, keep challenging, keep asking 'why?'
  • Drag - Don't let other departments drag you down. This process is going to involve telling some departments no. Don't be afraid, help them find another way, maybe even ZBB2.
You can of course use the more traditional tools like 'SMART' and 'SMARTER' to identify and structure departmental objectives.

I leave you with this thought, when I take over my very own HR Department let the whole organisation prepare for the coming of 'ZBB2 - Warm Dread' - It was a time of change, a new leader emerged from behind the mountain paperwork - he was greeted with warm dread (said in best husky movie trailer voice)

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