It is always a struggle to find money to fund new innovative programs while some legacy programs, which are either ineffective or no longer aligned with the district's strategic vision, are funded year after year. The current system does a poor job of tracking return on our investment. At the same time, it takes more than just courage and determination to tackle this issue. Some systematic change in how we do budget is needed to improve leaders' capacity for making informed budget decisions.
– A frustrated district leader
Cycle-based Budgeting (CBB) helps districts track and return on investment in each of those areas. This information and the process empower leaders to make informed budget decisions and feel easier and more comfortable to say "No" or "Yes, but ..." All of this is achieved by: 1) identifying an owner for each program, 2) having the program owner specify measurable goals to achieve, and 3) assigning an Continuous & Improvement Cycle (CIC) for achieving those goals. With the support of , a program is automatically subject to review at the end of its Continuous Improvement Cycle. Whether the program goals are achieved will impact the continued funding support.
By setting expectations at the beginning and demanding accountability at the end of the Continuous Improvement Cycle, CBB transforms recurrent spending on programs . Leaders get a clear picture of where money is spent and the impact of that spending over the years. The cumulative evidence makes it harder to defend and easier to say "No" to an ineffective program. More important, leaders will be able to allocate and re-allocate resources to achieve the organization's goals and missions.
I spend a great deal of time and effort conducting rigorous evaluation studies to provide scientific evidence about program effectiveness for leaders. However, my work is rarely put to use and has had little impact on programs. In fact, I am not sure whether my reports are even read. I don't feel what I am doing is important here.
– A disheartened evaluator
Evaluations are unlikely to have "teeth" when program outcomes are not tied to budget decisions. In Cycle-based Budgeting, program effectiveness will be at the center stage when making budget decisions for programs at the end of their Continuous Improvement Cycle. In addition to program effectiveness evidence, evaluators should also produce cost-benefit analysis data, which is another part of the equation when leaders make budget decisions.