Death and taxes are not the only certainties. In the business world, you also can count on budget revisions.

The nature of the budget game, with all its personal ploys and fortune telling, makes revisions inevitable.

To explain the rules in a simplified way, I'll pretend the game is played with a pair of dice. (Actually it's not that scientific.)

In the large-company version, the first-round players are usually department managers, and they start the game simultaneously.

Each manager is supposed to begin by trying to determine the exact minimum of personnel, equipment, supplies and outside services necessary for his or her department to perform well. After this the manager draws up a proposed expense budget and rolls the dice.

If each die balances on one of its corners, the budget will be approved as submitted.

If both dice merely balance on edge, the higherranked players who get into the game later will all agree in their hearts that the budget should be approved; someone will feel compelled to cut it anyway, though, to demonstrate watchful stewardship of the company's money. The cut will only be restored if one of these later players makes the same roll.

All rolls from two to twelve inclusive mean the budget will be cut. (The reasons vary, from an honest difference of opinion... to the higher-ups' need to show they "cut out the fat"... to the common suspicion that any budget has been padded.)

Nevertheless, it's important for the manager to roll an eight or higher, because lower rolls bring other penalties. These depend on both the dice and the proposed budget.

Situation One: The Modest Budget Proposal (the rare variety that only includes the minimum expenses calculated at the start):

A roll of seven means the department manager will be branded as a spendthrift in spite of submitting what he or she thought were minimum figures. A six or five means the manager will be labeled as a dunce for not padding the budget. A four or three means the budget cut will be severe enough to hinder the department's performance significantly. Snake eyes mean the manager underestimated a major item to such an extent that if the figure is approved, budgets will eventually have to be revised throughout the company.

Situation Two: The Modestly Padded Budget Proposal (designed to allow for expected cuts):

In this case a roll of seven or six means the manager will be considered a spendthrift, but only five signifies dunce. The other rules remain the same.

Situation Three: The Aggressively High Budget Proposal:

Here a few generalities are in order.

The likelihood of incurring disfavor goes up, but the odds of getting an adequate final budget also improve.

The big grab (for expensive new equipment or more personnel, for example) combined with a big promise (such as major long-term cost savings or higher sales) often stands a better chance of approval than a request for a new desk, potted plant or electric pencil sharpener. But it sets up expectations that the department manager had better meet.

Unfortunately, there are so many variations of the aggressive expense budget, as well as of the personalities and finances involved, that the manager seldom knows all the rules until after the budget is submitted and the dice have been thrown.

In short, this way of playing is more art than mathematics. Probably.

To be continued -- with the stark realities of sales projections and other fiction.