Deal with Budget Cuts from Task Side, People Side

November 27, 2011

More pain is coming. Agencies face cuts in annual appropriations and more cuts emanating from the 2011 Budget Control Act, commonly known as the debt ceiling deal.

If your personal income is cut by 25 percent, living as if nothing happened is not an option. While panic is not the approach, certainly an urgent effort to see how to deal with life is an imperative. So it is with organizations and the federal government. When an agency's budget is cut and the president wants agencies to also reduce spending, it is not a trivial matter.

The first question at the water fountain is, "What do we do?" Unless leadership is deliberate in taking action, the fallout from knowing that funds will soon dry up for projects and programs will cause concern, worry and even chaos among the working staff. If not dealt with in an orderly and transparent fashion, morale will suffer along with work performance.

One client, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Coastal Services Center with a mission to support management of U.S. coasts, took action to head off the expected reduction in funds. The annual technical services contract budget was reduced by 15 percent. This was accomplished by addressing two aspects of the issue — the tasks needing to be done and the people needed to get things done. This task-side/people-side framing of any issue is a simple, yet powerful means to get a handle on any challenge. 

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