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Achieve growth by design—Not by chance

Written by Stephenie Slahor

Planning is one of the most important parts of the financial management of your agency. It is a component of budgeting and managing that really cannot be overdone. Yet many departments let themselves grow by chance, rather than by design. Letting the finances “ride” from year to year is, at best, a haphazard way to manage. Even with the uncertainties about budget allocations or grant availability, there is no reason to adopt a “wait and see” or “hand to mouth” attitude about your agency’s finances.

Meet with other administrators in your agency at least twice a year to discuss growth by design. Where do you want your agency to be in six months, a year, three years and five years? What resources will you need for those objectives? What will be the steps toward each objective, and what timeline can you set to keep everything progressing?

In essence, planning is restructuring. Factors such as increasing the productivity of staff or aligning the work to be done have to be addressed so that planning is efficient, yet flexible enough to cope with sudden changes or negatives such as budget cuts or denials of grant money. The restructuring you do in planning is reflected in the agency’s “bottom line” and can be helpful when you find your budget being stretched to capacity.

While it is likely that your agency will “survive” even if money is tight, its expansion or its future projects will depend on restructuring, and that includes using the agency’s time, personnel, resources and money wisely, without taking away from the functions that must be done.

Setting “growth by design” goals for several timelines in the future means defining the work or methods needed to reach those goals. Even if money is uncertain, your growth plans can name the key people (or positions) to be involved in the future growth.

Remember that you are not necessarily committing to an exact plan of action—much will depend on availability of money and resources—but you can choose people who will be involved, selecting enough of those team members so that no one is “spread thin.” In other words, you are ready with specific plans when money becomes available.

In the past couple of decades, the management trend has been a style of working in committees and groups to accomplish a task or goal. While that is certainly a viable method of getting things done, remember the other option of choosing team members who are proven “self-starters.” These are the people who get a job done with little or no supervision, and who generally do not need input from a committee or group to take specific steps toward a goal or project once they know what is to be done.

As your plans for growth begin to materialize into action, give your team members the information and resources they need to get the growth going. Ask for their input about what will be needed and when. Ask what kind of support structure is needed. Ask how each major goal will be accomplished. Establish a written timeline for those main steps, and then calendar what must be done by a certain time.

As the chief coordinator for the financial side of growth by design, you set the administrative style for your specific team. Whether you work better with loose control over your team, tight control, or in between, set your style and keep it so your team consistently knows what to expect from you, and what is expected from them.

When using growth by design, you can organize the work so that similar functions come together as a unit, and so that diverse functions can more easily coordinate. That keeps everything on track—all with an eye toward growth by design, not chance.

Get feedback from all the teams involved in growth by design—even those not a part of the financial side—and be sure that everyone is focused on the plan and purpose. Do each step in a timely fashion. As soon as practical, implement what is accomplished because that will motivate everyone toward continued work and steps for new goals.

Stephenie Slahor, Ph.D., J.D., writes in the fields of law enforcement and security. She can be reached at drss12@msn.com.

Published in Law and Order, Feb 2011

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