Keep in mind that there is a direct relationship between participation and a feeling of ownership. Here’s an example from your personal life. If I studied your spending patterns and how much money you make, I could come up with a savings plan for you. If I did, you’d probably politely thank me for all my hard work — and then promptly put that away in a drawer, never to be seen again. There would be little sense of ownership.
But if YOU set saving goals for yourself, and then worked with a program to help you play around with some options and assumptions and came up with your OWN savings plan, the outcome would be way different. You’d have a much better understanding of how the numbers were derived, how they relate and impact each other, and what exactly you’ve got to do to meet your goals. And more to the point, you’ll be much more likely to do the right thing when the time comes than you would be if I just handed you a plan and asked you to approve it.
One of the things you can do if you do budget to strategy is to identify strategic spending in your budget. But even if you don’t take that step immediately, you should immediately require clear documentation and explanation for all planned expenditures. Also, keep in mind that people don’t like change, so if you don’t have the right processes and tools in place, people will likely fall back into the old pattern of just taking last year’s budget and inflating it X%. The point of requiring strategic justification, or at least clear and well documented justification, is to break people of that old conditioning.
And involve your Budget Holders in the decision on what application to use for budgeting. There’s a much better chance that they’ll embrace accountability if they’ve been involved in that process.