At our recent webinar, “Improve Mid-Year Review Reporting- An Insider’s View”, 316th Wing Inspector General Lt. Col. Benjamin Milarch and Decision Lens's Chris Hartin discussed best practices in preparing for, conducting, and the aftermath of midyear reviews.
Lt. Col. Milarch provided insight from a leadership perspective, while Hartin, who has experience with DoD Financial Management (FM), spoke from a program analyst’s perspective. The key takeaways from their conversation were how to prepare for changing scenarios, avoid decision fatigue, and improve communication across organizations.
Prepare for Changing Scenarios
Though midyear reviews are done differently at different organizations, with some having a more formal process and others being informal, all midyear reviews are alike in that they provide leadership with a snapshot of the budget’s status. The goal is always to get as much information as possible to leadership. However, the situation can change quickly, creating difficulties in forecasting.
There are always unexpected curveballs that can pop up, whether it’s mapping budget cuts, unforeseen events, or other scenarios. Hartin described the importance of honesty.
“There has to be honesty in how you are going to present data when you aren’t hitting your targets, and you have to consider how leadership will receive that,” Hartin said.
He recommended developing multiple scenarios in advance of the meeting and recommending one of them. This way leadership can be provided with more than one option and will know the analyst has done their research. It also helps to reduce the back and forth that can occur when leadership wants to try different scenarios.
Milarch added that leadership needs to see that spending is aligned with current organizational priorities.
“Does our current spending match our priorities? And what does that money get us?”
When information can be presented to leadership in a way where scenario planning can be done in real-time, then leadership can see the impacts of potential tradeoffs that may not have been considered.
If possible, the best option is to find a way, using a tool such as Decision Lens, which allows users to scenario plan in real-time while in the midyear review meeting.
Avoiding Decision Fatigue
Lt. Col. Milarch described the decision fatigue that can plague organizations. He said that in the past in his role as Inspector General that decsion-making meetings across the organization would be scheduled as close together as possible, so that as many meetings as possible could be held in as little time as possible. While this may have seemed the most efficient way to get decisions made, it resulted in his leadership needing a mental break to continue to feel they were participating meaningfully in the conversations.
Milarch said it was impossible to consider and make high quality decisions one after another without breaks. Though the midyear review meeting itself does not take nearly as much time as the preparation that goes into it, changes made must carefully be considered to ensure that they are better aligned with organizational priorities. Usually the outcome will be minor course corrections or simple validations that your organization is on the right track. But how can your organization ensure that everyone is aware of and onboard with organizational priorities?
Improving communications across your organization
Communication is critical in the decision-making process, and a key part of the midyear review process that can often be overlooked is capturing lessons learned. PPBE is iterative. The cycle repeats itself over and over, offering additional opportunities to improve upon preparing for meetings with leadership, and improving upon the process for obtaining that information year after year.
Milarch emphasized that the lowest hanging fruit to improve midyear reviews was clear communication of priorities.
“It is impossible to overcommunicate,” Milarch said. He described a 3C approach for communication that has been implemented at his organization.
- Clarity – Commanders need to communicate clearly what should be done and why.
- Continuity – In the military many staff are only stationed for a few years and then they move on. Milarch recommended creating a document to facilitate continuity in processes.
- Communication – Milarch recommended that the commander empower midlevel and lower level tiers to make decisions for themselves based on the commander’s priorities.
Want to learn more and hear the discussion? Watch the webinar on demand!