21st December 2023

The ‘do it just once’ principle

My 3 interesting things for you this month…

1. Getting ready for the new year

It’s the time of year when we reflect on how this year went, and what’s coming next in 2024. But a lot of us find it hard to figure out our goals for next year in the first place.

I wanted to share a framework I’ve been working through with a number of my clients recently to help with this.

The challenge is that we have big ideas, but struggle to turn them into something that motivates us to take action.

Here’s how the framework goes:

  • Start by defining your personal goals for next year, like more time with family and friends, a new hobby or moving to a bigger house. Consider how achieving these will impact your work commitments.
  • Add in what you’d like to achieve professionally e.g. more interesting and less busy work, more responsibility, developing a new skill. Again, think about the constraints this creates. For example, if you want to spend an afternoon a week learning something, you’ll need to get rid of 3 hours of work.
  • Finally, this provides the opportunity for you to ask: what would I need to change to achieve my personal and professional goals next year?

Follow-up questions might be:

  • What do I need to delegate, automate or stop doing in 2024?
  • What new role would enable me to achieve the above?
  • What support do I need from my manager? Do I need a new manager?!
  • Would it be a good time to look for a new role, or do I need role stability?

The answers to these questions will start to give you an action plan for the new year. You can then turn what were vague resolutions into real action.

It’s useful to talk it through with someone else, and accountability is the best way to stick to it! As always, get in touch if I can help.

2. Can you do it just the once?

A lot of my clients are looking for faster career progression, mainly because they feel their current pace of development is too slow (as opposed to insatiable ambition!).

Making multiple decisions every day on how to speed up progression can be draining, so we give up. But having principles to apply in each situation can help speed up progress and use less mental energy too.

My favourite principle to apply in career development:

Do things in your role just once, or a maximum of 3 times. Then move on to the next thing.

It’s pretty easy to do the maths on how this will help you progress! If you only do everything 3 times, and you stay productive, by default you will have to develop at a good pace.

Here are some challenges you might immediately think of:

“But Oli, finance jobs are all about repetition – surely this can’t work?!”

I’ve completed 147 month ends in my career (yes I calculated it 😊). My approach was to try and improve things every time. That counts.

I also applied radical delegation. If you’re not the only person who can do something, find someone else who can do it after you’ve completed it a couple of times.

“But Oli, I won’t be very good at it if I don’t practice?”

If you apply the 80/20 rule aggressively (80/20 on 80/20 on 80/20) – 1% of effort gives you 50% of the result (feel free to check my maths!).

So you can get a huge amount of value from doing it once or twice. You’ll also find that in reality, you won’t be able to get rid of it after 2 or 3 times, so you’ll get more practice anyway.

“But Oli, my boss won’t let me drop this, or they say I have to do this for at least 2 years?!”

In this case, focus on improving things and trying new ways to approach them. If that isn’t possible, perhaps it’s time for a new role and/or a new boss.

I don’t pretend this is an easy principle to apply, but it does help give you the discipline to speed up progress.

3. There’s no need to say no

Finance is often seen as the bad guy or blocker, having to say no to ideas or opportunities all the time. But there’s a smarter approach!

Building on October’s point about asking the right questions to get to the outcomes you want without saying no, we’re going to talk about combining clear frameworks with these questions to do the hard work for you.

This technique ultimately removes our need to police the business and say no.

Let’s start with frameworks – agreed-upon guides that define how something will work or how to approach something. Examples could be:

  • A business case template and the process we use to get it signed off
  • How teams request more funding outside of budget
  • Who makes decisions on big issues, what is the escalation path to make this happen

Frameworks are so powerful because they’ve been agreed by everyone involved. So when a challenge arises, we can use the framework to find the answer. We either stick to what we agreed, or we need to break the framework – which is much harder to do.

The framework that we collectively agreed on then becomes the new villain, rather than finance.

This is where open questions come in to help us leverage the frameworks, avoid saying no, and lead the business to the outcome.

Some example open questions:

  • How could we deliver this new idea and stick to our business case principles? (when we know the idea will go outside of them)
  • How could we fund this marketing ask without going over budget or through our leadership approval framework?
  • How can we execute this new business idea and stick to our current resourcing framework? What would we reprioritise?

Effectively combining the right questions and frameworks takes practice, but over time you’ll see ‘No’s’ decrease and your influence increase.

I appreciate this is a nuanced topic – and from a short newsletter post might be a challenge to apply to your situation.

I talk about this more on my Measuring ROI and Influencing Strategic Planning courses. I also work with a number of my coaching clients 1:1 on this.

Get in touch if you’d like to think through this.

4. An extra Christmas P.S. on Microsoft Copilot

If I can’t get away with adding an extra ‘interesting thing’ at this time of year, when can I!?

So here’s a brief update on Microsoft Copilot (see my original article here).

It’s launched and it’s happening! However, Microsoft seems to have throttled early sign-ups to have a more test and learn approach to rollout.

Specifically, they have put in place a minimum purchase of 300 licenses. Which is $100k+ per year.

This minimum will undoubtedly reduce, but in the meantime I will still try to share capabilities and use cases so teams can prepare.

Have you used it yet? If so, please let me know how you’re finding it.


That’s all for now

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Oliver Deacon

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