American Toast: The Revenue – Expense Debate

A classic quote from Dr. Deming was “let’s make toast the American way . . . you burn, I’ll scrape.”  This quote has so many references that you can see in manufacturing, but the same applies to management.  I see more burning and scraping in service organizations with management than I care to mention.

The most obvious is when we take the income statement and functionally separate it into revenue and expense by having sales be responsible for revenue and operations responsible for expense.  CEOs claim that we must grow the top-line and reduce the burden of expense – nothing wrong with that, except asking the question “by what method?”

Getting the sales dogs to hunt and the operations to cut is the formula most management embrace for organizations.  The problem is that revenue and costs are the two sides of the same coin.  The two are inextricably tied together.  The optimization of each as independents leads to sub-optimization and waste.    The burning of toast and scraping becomes a way of “doing business.”

We have functionally separated organizations and rely on specialists to optimize the functions.  This erases the real aim of business . . . profit!  The reward and incentive systems lock in the waste.  Too many times have I seen management make their functional targets and rewards while the organization goes down the tubes.

Profit comes from the combination of revenue and expenses together.  The next step is to manage that way.

Tripp Babbitt is a speaker, blogger and consultant to service industry (private and public).  His organization helps executives find a better way to make the work work.  Read his articles at Quality Digest and his column for  Learn more about the 95 Method for service organizations.  Reach him on Twitter at LinkedIn at

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