29th April 2024

Your new favourite frameworks for getting things done

My 3 interesting things for you this month…

1. Let’s get productive

I love productivity frameworks. I’ve talked about them in the past, and regularly work through them with my clients.

Today I’ve pulled together 5 of my favourites into a super productivity framework!

The challenge that teams and individuals continue to struggle with is to find time to make progress on their most important or exciting opportunities.

For example, kicking off process improvements, learning how AI could benefit them, integrating PowerBI, or even getting a CV ready to look for a new job.

Here are 5 steps on how we can think about this:

  1. Figure out the most important thing
  2. Work meaningfully on it
  3. Prioritise the most impactful thing you can do
  4. Ringfence your time
  5. Track success

So let’s get into them!

Step 1: Make progress against what matters most.

Back in January, we looked at how we make more progress by everyone focusing on one thing.

The principle being if 8 people are each spending X hours a week making progress on 1 thing, rather than everyone working on 8 different things – transformation happens much quicker.

Action: Either as a team, or just own on your own, figure out the most important thing that you should work towards.

2. Be really thoughtful about how you work on the big thing.

Switching between projects or tasks costs productivity. We looked at this back in May 2022 and it’s still as relevant as ever!

Here’s the maths again on this:

Action: Block out chunks of time to focus on just one thing at a time, no distractions.

3. Use aggressive prioritisation.

Be clear about what can and can’t get done. Only plan to use 60% of your available time because that is realistically what you will achieve (because things take longer than you think, unexpected work comes in etc.).

There are only 3 variables in this framework: what order do we do things, how long will it take, and what is the total time we are available to work (multiplied by 60%).

Action: Aggressively prioritise the essential and important, work hard to cut everything else. Remember that by doing 80/20 on 80/20 on 80/20, 1% of effort gives 50% of the impact.

4. Ringfence your time.

Use a combination of the Eisenhower Matrix and the 4Ds of Execution to ensure you spend your time on what matters most.

Action: Figure out what you can delegate and stop doing, apply this rigorously!

5. Measure your progress.

Set public accountability with someone else, then check in once or twice a month on how you’re getting on.

Action: Plan milestones on the path to ‘done’, share them, check in with someone fairly frequently on progress.

Hope this all helps in making progress with your big goals!

2. What makes a great team?

A few years ago, Google looked at what makes the best teams.

They have lots of great people, so they did a big piece of research covering executives, team leads, and team members from over 200 teams and leveraged 35+ statistical models.

What they found was surprising: the number of top performers on a team and the general intelligence of a team were poor indicators of a team’s effectiveness.

What shone through was psychological safety.

Psychological safety is about the team’s willingness to take risks and try new things, without feeling like they will be viewed negatively, blamed or shown up.

It is an environment where everyone can share openly and make progress.

Teams with psychological safety enable faster learning, better innovation and therefore more impact by accepting and understanding mistakes, and making progress against them.

They are more able to take advantage of opportunities.

Here are some example questions that demonstrate if you don’t have psychological safety:

  • Do team members sometimes feel judged and disrespected by each other?
  • Are team members afraid to deliver constructive feedback?
  • Are people worried about asking “silly” questions?
  • Does the team think they can’t make mistakes? (Not the same mistake over and over, but any new mistake?)
  • Are there a few main voices that drown out other’s point of view?
  • Is the team competitive with one another?

So, what can you do to improve the team’s psychological safety?

Here are a few really simple starting points for you:

  1. Explain this concept to the team, ask them if they would like to work in this environment and what might need to change. This gives you a starting point.
  2. Focus on forward looking progress instead of blame – when things go wrong, put energy into understanding how to be better in future rather than who is at fault.
  3. Use open questions without blame to understand what is going wrong and how – questions starting with ‘how’ and ‘what’ instead of ‘why’ help people to feel like you are learning and coaching instead of judging.
  4. If you are the manager or leader, model the behaviours you want to see. Show some level of vulnerability around mistakes and focusing on how to do things better.

If you’d like to spend more time thinking about how to apply this to your team, get in touch!

3. How can finance support a great scale-up business?

A bit of a niche one this week for my third point – specifically for those working in or interested in start-ups or scale-ups.

Building something out of nothing is really hard – especially when it comes to a business.

Finance’s role in supporting start-ups and scale-ups through rapid growth and development of a new organisation can be tricky. Often we don’t know what we don’t know.

I came across this fantastic resource on how to build a start-up and the various components involved.

This e-book Scaling Through Chaos from Index Ventures is geared towards founders, but incredibly useful for finance professionals (or anyone in the start-up world).

It is based on research of 230 scale-up organisations and what they found to work.

The final chapter covers how finance teams should be built out and the role of an FD. It summarises really nicely what I often guide my clients on.

But aside from the finance bit, I love how they talk through sales and engineering – 2 critical areas that finance often struggles to get their heads around, and therefore, impact.

If we want to have influence on an organisation, we need to develop our credibility. The foundation of that is being able to hold your own on a business partner’s area of focus.

This resource should really help with that.

If you would like to explore more of these topics in depth, and develop your own strategy of how you will support your organisation, get in touch.

I support a lot of my scale-up FDs with thinking through their influence, finance operating models and business partnering frameworks.

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Oliver Deacon

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