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Published
July 17, 2020

Academic Deans Reveal Their Leadership Styles

Annual Budgeting Becomes an Exercise in How Authority is Enacted

Academic deans adopt one of three approaches when developing the annual budget report for their colleges: distributed authorship, delegated authorship, or dominated authorship. Depending on the approach they select, deans can include and collaborate with their senior teams—or exclude, ignore, and alienate them. Their choice demonstrates how they lead.

From Volume 48 Number 4 | July–September 2020

Abstract: Few studies have investigated how academic deans enact their authority in Responsibility Center Budgeting (RCB), despite its widespread adoption. In this article I explore findings from a study that investigated how deans crafted a confidential annual budget report at an American university. Ultimately, deans adopted one of three approaches to crafting the report: delegating, distributing, or dominating authorship. Deans who distributed authorship collaborated with their senior teams to establish a shared sense of priorities for their colleges. In contrast deans who delegated and dominated authorship ignored and alienated members of their senior team during the budget review, engendering confusion and frustration.

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Published
April 1, 2017

Juggling Chainsaws

Managing the Tensions between Strategic Planning and Decentralized Budgeting

The numerous benefits of these processes can be realized only when the institution recognizes and plans for the different, sometimes conflicting perspectives they bring to high-stakes discussions.

From Volume 45 Number 3 | April–June 2017

Abstract: The advantages of thoughtful, well-structured strategic planning and decentralized budgeting are numerous. But they bring different and sometimes conflicting perspectives to high-stakes discussions within the institution. By recognizing and preparing for these tensions, the odds increase that their potential benefits will not be eroded or eclipsed by distractions or destructive forces and they can work in harmony to help an institution accomplish its goals in an increasingly challenging environment. The author considers specific tensions and conflicts and draws on the experience of a flagship public university to suggest ways to manage these tensions and reap the benefits of both approaches.

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Published
April 1, 2017

No-Brainer or Brain-Twister?

Linking Planning and Budgeting

While there is no one right way to link planning and budgeting, there is good practice: what works to influence behavior in the direction of institutional goals, supported by strong leadership.

From Volume 45 Number 3 | April–June 2017

Abstract: This article presents a range of approaches for linking budgeting to planning. After briefly discussing the natures of planning and budgeting, it presents four conceptual categories of ways to link the two. The article defines these as structural, adaptive-incremental, devolved, and holistic/advanced. No one approach will be correct for all institutions. Even where there is a system in place to link planning and budgeting, this is unlikely to be enough unless there is firm, skilled, aligned, and distributed leadership to keep the system on track toward institutional goals.

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Published
April 1, 2017

Responsibility Center Budgeting and Management “Lite” in University Finance

Why Is RCB/RCM Never Fully Deployed?

Despite its promise of revenue generation, cost reduction, and a host of other benefits, what is it about RCB/RCM that leads universities to deploy it only partially?

From Volume 45 Number 3 | April–June 2017

Abstract: After its first application nearly 40 years ago, responsibility center budgeting/responsibility center management (RCB/RCM) is now in place at nearly 70 major North American universities. An unstudied fact is that despite its popularity RCB/RCM is rarely deployed to its fullest extent. Instead, it usually exists in parallel with conventional planning and budget models. This study asks why, instead of fully implementing RCB/RCM, universities have chosen to apply it partially. The study finds multiple explanations. On the revenue side, some universities hold back a portion of income to create funds that are used to underwrite institution-wide strategies or subsidize mission-central academic programs that cannot be fiscally sustained under RCB/RCM. In other cases, revenue is held back to fund shared “public utility” services, while in still others the practice of holding back revenue for allocation by some other means is due to difficulty in drawing a functional line between the “academic” and the “non-academic.” On the cost side, some universities have limited the application of RCB/RCM in order to limit market behavior and forestall “fragmentation” (Burke 2007). The study points to several problems in both the practice and theory of RCB/RCM. For example, models meant in theory to complement RCB/RCM may in practice compete with it or promote monopolistic behavior.

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