Friday’s NYTimes (12/4/2015) brought another article about meetings. This one, “The Modern Meeting: Call In, Turn Off, Tune Out” by Katie Hafner, takes on the virtual meeting facilitated by the mute button on your phone. The article, accompanied on the web by a slideshow of some guy doing yard work while at meetings, repeats the age old complaints of meetings that are not involving or engaging many of the participants. Some companies are insisting on videoconferences to provide more “accountability” for participants. There is sage advice about the use of the mute button and the dangers of video. I once appeared in my bathrobe for a meeting with some colleagues in India when I mistakenly hit the video button on a Skype call.
Recently I was talking with two clients (partners in an engineering firm) about meetings. In particular were the meetings that one of their customers was calling on short notice with no formal purpose with a cast of thousands. We were puzzling through the various ways they could handle customers who think that it is alright to have meetings that take up lots of time and only really involve my clients occasionally for their input and expertise.
Feeling lonely today? Let’s call a meeting. Continue reading
I have used David Allen’s book, Getting Things Done: the art of stress-free productivity (Penguin: NY 2001) both personally and with clients for a number of years. Recently I volunteered to lead a discussion of the book’s approach to personal productivity with the Greater Boston Business Network. This provoked me to re-read the book in preparation. Here are a few thoughts following my re-read and the discussion with GBBN.
Underlying Principles and Thoughts
Work and personal are now quite blurred. And so, this book is about everything in your life. There is no boundary between work and personal when it comes to being more productive. And, your mind does not treat them as separate, so a productivity system can not either. There is also a need to incorporate the big picture, strategic view, with the tactical day-to-day, but the emphasis must be on actionable tasks. Thus, the title, Getting Things Done.
Getting into a “Productive State”, what I might call a state of flow, when required is both a challenge and an objective of a productivity system. ((Here you might compare this with the work on how we work best in a state of “flow” as discussed in see Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi’s Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience ( Harper Row, NY: 1990)))
Allen builds his approach to productivity on a few “principles”.
First principle: Deal Effectively with Internal Commitments
Increase customer perceived value by managing expectations, making services visible, and following up.
This podcast is 12 minutes 41 seconds long.
A text version is available here
Five steps to hiring a part-time CFO to simplify your life.
This podcast lasts for 8 minutes 49 seconds.
In my earlier article, Seven Reasons to Add a CFO – part-time or full – to Your Team, I discussed the reasons to add a Chief Financial Officer (CFO) to your team. If you have not read that article you should do so before reading this one.
The first step in the hiring process is to define the job you want filled. What specific results should the CFO produce for you and your company? Are you concerned about running out of cash because you have taken on a big project but will not get paid until completion? You worry about having enough cash on a regular basis. You are not certain that the bookkeeping is being done in an efficient and rigorous manner? What else of a financial character concerns you? Is your CPA driving you crazy with questions or suggestions that you do not entirely understand?
Make a list. Look back at the seven reasons I gave in my earlier article and see if this don’t provoke some additions to your list of worries. When you have completed your list, these are the problems, largely, that the CFO should solve.
Do not spend too much time thinking about exactly which functional skills are required to produce these results. It is the job of candidate CFOs to demonstrate to you that they have solved problems like yours and produced the required results. You are not hiring a trainee or development project, you are hiring an experienced CFO.
A few concrete skills and experiences you should look for.
First, your CFO must know how to get their hands dirty. This means they must have active skills to build spreadsheets and extract information from financial software systems and paper documents. Second, they must know how to present this to you in a clear, actionable format. A key task for them is to get financial information about company performance into your hands in a timely fashion and in a format that leads to making decisions. Third, preferably they will have experience in your industry so that they can set the analysis within the context your business lives in. Fourth, they should have worked as part of a team so that they have the skills to present the financial “score” clearly and then engage in a dialogue with the other management team members to help drive the business forward in a coherent fashion. At the level of the CFO, finance is not an isolated function, rather, it plays an integral role in managing the ongoing business and developing new strategies. Continue reading