Plans and budget are all well and good. We don’t know a single business operating without them. Businesses operating in accordance with them . . . well, that’s another matter entirely. In quite a few companies that we are invited in to help, we find that plans and reality are two very different creatures indeed. Holding budget reviews and working to bring things back into alignment can be both useful and energising to firm operations.

A good starting point is the mid-year or mid-plan budget review. Your organisation clearly put thought and care into pulling these plans together, so digging into the gaps between plan and reality is a worthy pursuit. By pulling together a state of the firm and comparing it to the plan, all of the critical gaps, overruns, missed deadlines, and overlooked items come into clear focus.

From there, your budget review takes a more strategic turn. You can see from your current management accounts what is happening, but you need to look into why. Where have barriers emerged to success? What is holding back XYZ department from achieving P&Q objective? Why has spending run out of control? Investigating these items at the mid-point provide the opportunity for answers and prevents nasty surprises when the final reports come in.

A budget review of this nature also provides a valuable opportunity for mid-year tweaking to your plan. At many firms, strategic planning and strategic implementation sessions are once a year events. Revisiting these topics more often can help adapt them to realities on the ground, providing the means to push progress, stimulate results, or at the very least salvage what is possible from a lofty strategic objective being missed by a mile.

Mid-year budget reviews can further offer the chance to pull the plug on losing initiatives. In this economy, letting a bad operation continue to overspend or waste resources is tantamount to shooting yourself in the foot. Why on earth would you do it? With a mid-course review, your organisation can spot these serious red flags and work to mitigate them or pull resources off them toward more productive endeavours.

Strategic reviews can send a clear message to staff, too. Someone cares, someone is looking, someone is checking, and someone expects things to be moving along. Reviews can provide the right jolt to lock things back on track and push moribund groups back into high gear.

When plans were first designed, they were carefully considered and evaluated. Why make that effort a waste? Mid-year reviews of budgets and strategic objectives validate the initial plan and work to address the reasons if it has fallen off course. The net effect is to clear away any murkiness about what is done and what needs to be done for the firm to meet its goals. You can take your budget review and use it to re-create the initial energy for your plans with your firm and find the ways to get your firm to achieve more of its overall objectives year in and year out.