Sunday, December 23, 2012

Get Closer to Innovation With These 5 Questions

Project teams are formed within organizations for a variety of reasons. Sometimes it’s for new software, sometimes for process improvement, and sometimes the reasons are not obvious to anyone.
Once formed, there is often a management structure put into place. This usually involves higher level folks within the organization who form an ad hoc Board of Directors if you will, often called a “Steering Committee”.
One of the difficulties with this structure is that those performing the tasks on the project know more of what’s going on than the Steering Committee.
Unfortunately, this can lead to unintended consequences. There is opportunity for the project team to “steer” their governance structure towards the desired solutions by way of omitting financial cost or benefit information, restricting the scope of the project or defining it in one way or another.
The best way to overcome this potential is to make sure you are able to ask questions that get to the heart of the matter. With that in mind, if you answered “yes” to our last Treasury Café post, “Are You Sure You Want to Innovate?”, then arming yourself with the following questions can help ensure your project runs on the right track.

This blog post took over 10 hours to research and write. If you have enjoyed this post and are able, please consider a donation to the Salvation Army during this holoday season via my Online Red Kettle. Thank you!

1. How Does This Fit In With Our Other Projects and Initiatives?
Innovation is not a serial activity. While prioritization may occur, there are going to be multiple efforts going on simultaneously within your organization. The Tax area is developing a more efficient unitary calculation process, the Accounting folks are looking to enhance utilization of the ERP platform, and the Finance group is digging into forecasting.
Research reported in the May 2012 edition of the Harvard Business Review ( “Managing Your Innovation Portfolio” ) suggests that your “innovation portfolio” encompass several different levels – core, incremental, and transformational – and that the percentages involved in each should be in a 70-20-10 ratio.
With awareness of other initiatives, it is possible to make sure the project is “slotted” correctly. If all you have going on are core projects, perhaps this one needs to move further afield into the incremental or transformational category.
Given that the research also indicated that the value of initiatives is inversely distributed (i.e. although only 10% of projects are transformational, they deliver 70% of the benefits), you certainly want to ensure there is something potentially transformational going on somewhere!
By viewing things from a portfolio vantage point, you might avoid the situation of the company that was in the process of outsourcing elements in one of its functions while simultaneously insourcing activities within another. Imagine how they looked to those on the outside looking in!
2. Has Anyone Experienced the Customer’s Side?
Every organizational process has a customer. It might be the company’s actual customer, or it might be an “internal customer”. Either way, much of the innovation process is to make things better for them. It might be something that is more useful to them or less costly due to efficiency improvements.
What usually seems to occur though is that people in the group talk about the customer and assume they know what they want. Others might ask customers what they want and duly note the things they say.
However, these tactics generally fail to deliver the desired outcome for two reasons.
First, customers are not always aware of the possibilities. As Henry Ford famously said: “If I asked my customers what they wanted they would say a faster horse”.
Second, human nature intervenes. Consider the following case from “The Art of Innovation” by IDEO’s Tom Kelley:
“This [Why it is not enough to ask people] is particularly true of new -to -the -world products or services. A user of a new type of remote control may not be able to recognize that it has too many buttons. Inexperienced computer users may not be able to explain that your website lacks navigational cues. And they shouldn't have to. We saw this firsthand when a software company asked us to find out how users would react to one of their new applications. We set up a few computers and observed people struggling with the program. More than a couple were having a terrible time, grimacing and sighing audibly as they fumbled with the keyboard and mouse. But in exit interviews, the software company was given a different story. Those same people swore that they had no trouble with the new application and couldn't imagine a single improvement.”
For these reasons, it is incumbent on the innovation team to observe customers, walk in their shoes, and as much as possible “get inside their skin”. If the team’s answer to your question is “short on experience and feeling” and “long on intellectual description”, an important step towards innovation might have been skipped.

This blog post took over 10 hours to research and write. If you have enjoyed this post and are able, please consider a donation to the Salvation Army during this holoday season via my Online Red Kettle. Thank you!

3. What alternatives did you consider?
The standard advice for someone who has a “pet solution” or “hidden agenda” they are seeking approval for is to provide 3 alternatives, with the favored item being in the middle between a more comprehensive item that costs a whole heckuva lot more and one that does not go far enough. We can call it the Goldilocks approach to change proposals, making the favored one appear neither too hot nor too cold, but “just right”.
However, the process of innovation is one of divergent thinking followed by convergent thinking. During the divergent phase, many options that run far afield may be examined for relevance or to generate ideas for the project from a completely different angle. Only once the many options have been generated does the process of narrowing down the field begin.
The divergent process utilizes what Dyer, Gergersen and Christensen term in their Harvard Working Knowledge article “Five Discovery Skills that Distinguish Great Innovators” as associational thinking:
“First and foremost, innovators count on a cognitive skill that we call "associational thinking" or simply "associating." Associating happens as the brain tries to synthesize and make sense of novel inputs. It helps innovators discover new directions by making connections across seemingly unrelated questions, problems, or ideas. Innovative breakthroughs often happen at the intersection of diverse disciplines and fields.”   
Thus, if our team were truly working towards an innovative solution, the list of alternatives should be long, and include items that are bizarre, tangential, or seemingly irrelevant - a strange brew of eclectic and diverse ingredients.
4. Who Was On The Team?
When considering something new, it is often useful from a morale and change management standpoint to get the involvement of those who are most affected. Folks who feel they “have a say” have a heightened sense of empowerment, which assists with engagement during the process and acceptance of the result.
However, given that there is an organizational tendency to maintain the status quo (discussed in our last post “Are You Sure You Want to Innovate” ), a project team composed solely of these individuals is somewhat akin to allowing the “inmates to run the asylum”.
Unfortunately, when this occurs, all the sacred cows remain sacred. The daring new possibilities, if they are ever even surfaced, are run under with “we tried that once” or “that won’t work here because…”. This should not be surprising. The current process was their creation, changing it implies a criticism that they were “wrong”, and truly dramatic improvements could lead to disastrous consequences, such as unemployment.
Therefore, in order to achieve a truly innovative solution, the project team must contain enough folks who feel free to run the gamut of possibilities, are unfettered by pride in the past, and will not lose out should change and innovation be implemented.
In addition, given that we need to exercise divergent, associated thinking that combines a wide variety of fields and perspective in our search for a solution, the project team should reflect an eclectic mix of folks. Someone from engineering or marketing might be just the one to bring in something from their disciplines that provides the key to closing the books faster.
5. How Did the Team Work Together?
Teams need to work together in order to achieve their objective, otherwise there would be no need to combine the efforts of individuals in the first place.
However, during the formation of a group there sometimes occurs the tendency to “get along”  and “avoid conflict” on the part of its members. If it cannot get past this “social nicety” stage, it is unlikely to be a truly productive unit.
High performing groups generally get that way by going through four stages identified by Tuckman as “Forming, Storming, Norming, and Performing”.  
While the “Storming” stage appears to be the exact opposite of what we want our group to be, it is a necessary prerequisite to achieving cohesiveness. It is during this stage that open communication occurs, and if the group is able to tolerate different points of view and unpleasant emotions, the “storm” can be worked through.
The result of this phase is that openness and trust are developed, and it is these traits that are critical to achieving innovation capacity. If one is not trusting, or if others are in fact untrustworthy, then the individual will withhold the more “dangerous” ideas and thoughts. However, these are exactly the ideas and thoughts that need to be contributed and put into the mix in order for something original to pop out.
In addition to this, the roles people play within the team need to be diverse. We need someone to be a Devil’s Advocate during parts of the process, or the recalcitrant idealist who is unwilling to compromise at times. These different roles need to be tolerated and appreciated and encouraged in order to achieve a robust solution.
If the team’s answer to our question is that everyone got along, and lacks vivid war-stories of crisis and conflict, then we can be fairly assured that the team did not do the work necessary to scrape away the veneer and become truly productive working together.
Key Takeaways
Leaders must be able to ask intelligent and probing questions to gain the required information that allows them to make sense of those doing work who know more than them. In the innovation context, questions about the portfolio, the customer experience, the alternatives that were generated, the team’s composition and how they worked together will generate useful insights as to whether innovation truly had a chance.
·         Which of the 5 questions is your favorite and why?
·         Do you have any stories related to these 5 questions that you can share?
·         If one more question were to be added, what would you ask?
Add to the discussion with your thoughts, comments, questions and feedback! Please share Treasury Café with others. Thank you!

This blog post took over 10 hours to research and write. If you have enjoyed this post and are able, please consider a donation to the Salvation Army during this holoday season via my Online Red Kettle. Thank you!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Are You Sure You Want to Innovate?

If you read the business magazine articles, search the Twitter hash tags, check in to your LinkedIn discussion groups, and follow the viral blog postings, you will find countless numbers of items covering the topic of innovation.
Harvard Business Review’s lead article in their May 2012 “Innovation for the 21st Century” series states “Management knows it and so does Wall Street. The year to year viability of a company depends on its ability to innovate”.
Yet, when people think about a finance organization, I am willing to wager that the term “innovation” rarely comes immediately to mind. But wouldn’t an innovation competence be required there as well for the sake of the company’s “viability”? Surely all must play a part? And if it is so vital, can any business support function truly be able to describe itself as “world-class” without it?
As one who is skeptical of things that trigger the “lemming tendency” in human nature, I hesitate to answer our innovation questions without looking at the topic a little more closely.
What Do We Mean By Innovation?
In order to accomplish this task, we must first consider what exactly we mean by the term “innovation”.
The Merriam-Websterdictionary defines innovation as “the introduction of something new”. Wikipedia differentiates innovation from both invention and improvement as follows:
“Innovation differs from invention in that innovation refers to the use of a better and, as a result, novel idea or method, whereas invention refers more directly to the creation of the idea or method itself. Innovation differs from improvement in that innovation refers to the notion of doing something different (Lat. innovare: "to change") rather than doing the same thing better.”
These new and different things come about in varying degrees. In the same HBR article noted in the last section, the authors cite different levels of innovation as being “core”, “adjacent” or “transformational” to the company’s current products and assets.
Creative Realities, an “Innovation Management Collaborative”, distinguishes three levels of innovation as well, labeling them “incremental“, “breakthrough”, and “transformational”. Meanwhile, the CEOforum, a “peer group briefing and network services organization”, define the three levels as “incremental”, “substantial”, and “radical”.
There are many more ways to depict these stages. The Innovation Excellence website, billing themselves as “the online home of the global innovation community”, has identified 14 ways to discuss the three levels (shown in Figure A).
Figure A
At this point it seems that we can safely conclude that innovation is something that in varying degrees is new and different.
The Context of Innovation
This sounds simple enough.
So why is it that innovation is often portrayed as something lacking within organizations? Why can we not just get our team together tomorrow morning and say “it would be good to do some things differently around here, let’s figure out what those are and then do it”?
The central issue is that our group does not exist in a vacuum. We are part of an organization. And what we do impacts others. And others impact us.
The purpose of an organization is to achieve collectively something that an individual cannot do on their own, or is inefficient for them to do so. That “something” might be building a car, cooking and serving meals to a large number of people, or implementing world peace. However, it is also important to consider that an organization can only do this if it preserves its own existence. If we allow it to unravel tomorrow and come unglued then no cars get built, no lunch gets served, and world peace is not maintained.
To these ends, an organization creates rules, structures, processes, and cultures for the dual purpose of coordinating its activities to make or do things today and ensuring it can continue to do so tomorrow.
While our team meeting may result in lots of ideas for new practices, procedures, and impacts, these must be implemented within the organizational context. If our innovation disrupts others “down the line”, or requires inputs never-before-delivered from our “suppliers”, our innovation is essentially dead in the water and cannot proceed.
Innovations act like a disruptive chain of dominoes inside an organization.
Because of this, organizations are inhibiting environments for innovation. It’s in their nature.
Ted Levitt, former long-time Harvard Business Review editor, states: ”Organizations, by their very nature are designed to promote order and routine. They are inhospitable environments for innovation. Tim Brown, CEO of IDEO, one of the leading design firms in the world, agrees, stating “Most of the extinctions that happen in the innovation ecosystem happen inside the organization…The antibodies that organizations naturally have to fight new ideas win out.
Vijay Govindarajan, author of The Other Side of Innovation: Solving the Execution Challenge, in a Strategy and Business interview tells us that:
“Every organization has a core business, which we call its performance engine. Its main job is efficiency: By making every task repeatable and predictable, the core business obtains scale and makes a lot of money. Innovation is just the opposite. It is nonroutine and unpredictable. Therefore, there is an inherent and fundamental inconsistency between what companies do to pursue scale and what they need to do to execute on innovation. It is not that people are doing the wrong things and killing innovation. In fact, people are doing exactly what they should be doing to keep the performance engine running – and that is killing innovation.“
All this is nothing new, of course. Reinforcing Govindrajan’s  inconsistency point, Peters and Waterman in their 1982 book In Search of Excellence note that "the most discouraging fact of big corporate life is the loss of what got them big in the first place: innovation"
Yet, given this reality, if we want to push forward with an innovation agenda, we are choosing to: a) disrupt the organization’s valued “order and routine” and b) fight the “antibodies” driving us to extinction, in order to achieve it.
Creating the Innovation Foundation
What does the organization require in order to achieve innovation?
Michael Winston’s Hard BallInnovation Blog notes that an organizations needs to “Give them [idea generators] freedom to pursue new ideas or improve on old ones”. Peters and Waterman note that excellent companies “were creating almost radical decentralization and autonomy”. Gary Hamel, in McKinsey’s Innovative management: A conversationwith Gary Hamel and Lowell Bryan tells us: “Decision-making will be more peer based; the tools of creativity will be widely distributed in organizations”
Different Thought Processes
Innovation requires a different way of thinking about the organization and its activities. According to IDEO’s Brown:
“The biggest barrier is needing to know the answer before you get started. This often manifests itself as a desire to have proof that your idea is worthwhile before you actually start the project. You can understand this, of course, because it’s an attempt to mitigate risk. But wanting to know whether you’ve to the right idea – or the assumption that you’ve got to have a business case – before beginning to explore something kills a lot of innovation.”
 The innovation process is a series of divergent and then convergent activities – a very simple concept, but one that a lot of leaders used to managing efficient processes in their businesses struggle with. By ‘divergence’, I mean a willingness to explore things that seem far away from where you think your business is today. The discomfort that a lot of business leaders have with innovation is with divergence. They think that it’s divergent forever and that they’ll never be able to focus on something that makes business sense. If you understand that convergence follows divergence, and that it’s really hard to converge without first diverging, maybe that’s a bit comforting.”
In Business Model Generation, a book with 470 “strategy practitioner co-creators”, the authors state that:
“The challenge, though, is that business model innovation remains messy and unpredictable, despite attempts to implement a process. It requires the ability to deal with ambiguity and uncertainty until a good solution emerges. This takes time. Participants must be willing to invest significant time and energy exploring many possibilities without jumping too quickly to adopt one solution. The reward for time invested will likely be a powerful new business model that assures future growth.”
“We call this approach design attitude, which differs sharply from the decision attitude that dominates traditional business management…The decision attitude assumes that it is easy to come up with alternatives but difficult to choose between them. The design attitude, in contrast, assumes that it is difficult to design an outstanding alternative, but once you have, the decision about which alternative to select becomes trivial.”
“This distinction is particularly applicable to business model innovation. You can do as much analysis as you want yet still fail to develop a satisfactory new business model. The world is so full of ambiguity and uncertainty that the design attitude of exploring and prototyping multiple possibilities is most likely to lead to a powerful new business model. Such exploration involves messy, opportunistic bouncing back and forth between market research, analysis, business model prototyping, and idea generation. Design attitude is far less linear and uncertain than decision attitude, which focuses on analysis, decision, and optimization. Yet  a purposeful quest for new and competitive growth models demands the design approach.”
Different Organizational Customs
Innovation requires the organizational setting to be conducive. Peters and Waterman say:
“They make presentations, and then the screaming and shouting begins. The questions are unabashed; the flow is free; everyone is involved. Nobody hesitates to cut off the chairman, the president, the board member.”
“And how that contrasts with the behavior of most companies we encounter. Senior people, who have sometimes worked together for twenty years or more, won’t attend gatherings unless there are formal agendas. They can’t seem to do anything other than watch presentations and then politely comment on the contents. “
“…open, confrontation-oriented management style in which people go after issues bluntly, straightforwardly. The main reason people need not hide is that they talk all the time.”
Antti Paananen , in “Improving the Front End Practices ofInnovation Processdescribes the following from research:
“…the five most important factors shaping the environment of innovation:
·                     People emotionally committed to the project
·                     Environment that allows risk taking
·                     Environment of trust and openness
·                     Time for free thinking
·                     Funding for new ideas”
Different types of people
In order for innovation to succeed, a firm needs different types of individuals to compose its collaborative innovation teams. From Paananen:
An organization full of creative people does not necessarily make the organization creative. Organizational creativity requires a creative culture and tools for creative collaboration. Collaboration is an essential element of organizational creativity and innovation. A cross-functional team of creative people with different backgrounds and expertise can potentially be much more creative than any individual member…
This diverse group of individuals needs to managed and supported even though they may fly in face of “the norm”. Peters and Waterman, noting the role of innovation champion: the “champion’s working style is at odds with the way most businesses are managed.” “Obnoxious, egotistical, embarrassing, disruptive” are some of the adjectives Peter’s then uses.
Tom Kelly, Creative Director at IDEO, in his book “The Art of Innovation, devotes some pages to discussing the following “Eight Crazy Characters for Hot Groups”:
The Visionary – asks, what’s next?
The Troubleshooter – cuts to the chase, not always PC.
The Iconoclast – challenges status quo (even at IDEO).
The Pulse Taker – the heart, insightful in human factors.
The Craftsman – “magic elves”, always making.
The Technologist – resident geek, full of raw resources.
The Entrepreneur – innovative without a niche, master of process.
The Cross-Dresser – self-educated and motivated, works beyond formal training.
Treading the Dangerous Path
Having reviewed the organizational context and some of the elements required to get innovation to flourish, we are faced with the realization that this juxtaposition creates an environment that might be harmful to your career for a number of reasons.
First, given that coordination is a critical factor to organizational success, teamwork is a valued trait within organizations. Since our innovation push will require “disruption” and “fighting”, other’s perception of our “team player” abilities is likely to be lower than their perception of our “conforming comrades”. If “others” includes our boss, our bosses’ boss, and people who influence either of those, it is entirely possible that promotions, bonuses, and even employability may be impacted by this portrait.
Second, for innovation to take root we need to be comfortable with different thought processes, such as “divergent thinking” and “exploring many possibilities without jumping too quickly”.  It is quite common, however, for organizations to be led by those who are “results driven” and “efficient”. How is our status then harmed when others in the organization, looking to further their own cause, begin whispering into the ears of those leaders things like “I’m not sure what they’re doing over there, really. What does planetary rotation have to do with budget closing processes, anyway?”
Third, for innovation to occur we have found that it requires “time for free thinking” and “funding”. If the firm, midway through the year, is in a situation where it has begun looking for ways to ensure it hits this year’s numbers, FTE reductions and budget cutbacks can become regarded as “low hanging fruit” towards that cause. To fight this, in order to preserve the innovation capacity, creates the impression that you are “not aligned” with the organization’s objectives.
Fourth, there is a lot more work involved in managing an innovative organization. Who, after all, craves leading folks who are “obnoxious”, “disruptive”, or bluntly “tell it like it is”?
Finally, any innovation processes will generate its share of failures. There are those in the organization who will benefit by calling attention to these when they occur, along with a compelling 20/20 hindsight observation as to why these initiatives should never have been undertaken in the first place. Suddenly professional competence is called into question.
What Can We Do?
There are some actions we can take to mitigate the risks identified above, such as:
Start at Incremental – innovation efforts aimed at the current product/service, asset and process mix is less threatening and can be done without the entire list of fundamental requirements.
Generate some quick wins – select some initiatives with a high degree of probable success. This can create a “halo” which will help “inoculate” you against some of the risks driven by perception.
Keep Way Undercover – Lockheed’s famed “Skunk Works” succeeded in part because they were “out of sight, out of mind” from the rest of the organization. Outside of their group, nobody knew enough of what was going on to say anything or understand how to use it to their advantage.
Be A Well-Known Champion of the “Apple Pie” parts – Transparency, Growth, and Collaboration are not only trendy words but few can disagree or find fault with their premise. “Own” these words within your company and constantly talk about how your activities contribute to these ideals.
Make Sure Your Team is Solid – select your team well and maintain the team emphasis. Groups that are “rock-solid” are more difficult to attack or undermine.
Key Takeaways
Innovation is required if a firm is to remain relevant, even though it is fundamentally at odds with much of the organization’s activity. Those seeking to blaze new trails need to be careful they do not risk more than they are able to manage and should adopt what preventative practices that they can.
·         How innovation friendly is your organization?
·         What are the positive and negative factors that influenced your answer?
Add to the discussion with your thoughts, comments, questions and feedback! Please share Treasury Café with others. Thank you!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

A Blogful of Thanks - 2012

This is the 2nd year that Treasury Café has been in existence at Thanksgiving time. While regular readers know that while I might mention a personal experience here and there, for the most part I focus on topic and try hard to deliver useful, informative, and empowering content .
However, in keeping with the tradition started last year, for today we make an exception with respect to topic, though our content objectives remain the same.
For Those Who May Not Know
In the US, the fourth Thursday in November is called Thanksgiving, and it is one of the national holidays. Wikipedia can explain its history better than I, but essentially its roots are in harvest festivals that many cultures hold.
Nowadays it is a holiday where families get together, often traveling in order to do so (in many US airports the busiest travel day is today), eat a large meal, watch football, and in general just hang out together.
I like Thanksgiving because of the low-key nature of it. Unlike other holidays, stores do not have rows and rows of merchandise to sell, and there is not the same advertising blitz that occurs. You might find that grocery stores play it up a bit, stocking up on turkeys, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, and pumpkin pie along with other things, but that’s about it. It’s all about the people.
A Time For Gratitude
The primary emotion of Thanksgiving is gratitude. During the hustle and bustle of everyday life, we often get caught up in the pressures of too-long to-do lists, the various frustrations that arise and need to be dealt with, etc.
However, after taking a deep breath or two, and focusing our attention on higher order matters, we often realize that despite all that stuff going on we actually have a lot to be grateful for. It is important to remember this, as it keeps us humble and open to what the world has to offer.
This is no less true with respect to Treasury Café. Please allow me to tell you all about it.
Inside the Mind of a Blogger
A new blogger’s primary fear is that we will write it and no one will come. Writing that first post takes a lot of time, effort and thought, for several reasons. First, we haven’t done it before, so it is more conscious. Second, we don’t entirely know what we are doing, so it involves a lot of concentration (think babies walking for the first time). Third, there is the technology aspect, which is all new as well.
So once the “Publish” button is hit, we kick back for a second and go “ahhh, I did it”. That gratifying feeling lasts all of about two seconds, and is then swiftly replaced by a nagging question – “Is anyone going to read this?”
All of a sudden we are no longer in control. Some of us might call friends, or post on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, etc. But the ball has been passed, it is in the potential reader’s power at that point. We are at the mercy of the audience.
One of the most comforting things to a blogger, then, is to find out real people in real places are reading what we have posted. There’s someone out there!
Comments Hall of Fame
The most noticeable way this occurs is when someone leaves a comment on your blog. This not only lets you know someone has read it, you also get to take the blog topic to a new level because there is another perspective now in the mix!
For this reason, my sincere appreciation goes out to the following:
Mandy Kilinskis‏ (@ImAmandaJulius, and I got to know each other via comments on someone else’s blog. Ironically, it was after that we realized that we were both in the Chicago Most Valuable Blogger contest, which her Quality Logo site won. I don’t feel too bad about that, since they have something like 10 zillion people who write posts for that, and when they are not writing posts all 10 zillion comment on the other’s posts. Given that I am only 1, that’s the breaks of being an independent blog. Being a good sport about it, she has stopped by on several occasions to put in her 2 cents.
Samuel Dergel (@DergelCFO, and I connected after I relentlessly commented on his each and every blog post for a month or more, and he decided that if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em and came over to Treasury Café to give me a dose of my own medicine. While he hasn’t found that great CFO job for me, he certainly is successful in matching the right talent with the right company when it comes to the executive suite.
Samantha Gluck (@texascopywriter, and I first met each other on Twitter, and after trading re-tweets and mentions I made my way to her blog and she made her way to mine for a little comment exchange. This is the classic maneuver that all those social media advisors keep telling you to do – build blog traffic and relationships by commenting on other people’s blogs. In this case it worked (I will tell you more often than not it does not work). However, in our exchange I got the better end of the deal, because Samantha is a real live actual writer, and so my comments section benefits from her excellent craftsmanship.
Scott Pezza (@scottpezza, came to Treasury Café during the enormously popular Cash Conversion Cycle and Working Capital Series of posts. As his focus at the time was payments and the order to cash cycle, this was no accident, but rather a result of his resourcefulness and expertise in the ways of social media and the internet in general. He discussed his own research findings in the comments, thus making that post particularly enlightening.
Rachel Kaberon (@rkaberon, is someone I met at a monthly discussion group sponsored by my school’s alumni association. She has got to be one of the most intellectually curious people I have ever met and is someone who is continuously learning more and more, soaking it all up like a sponge. Hopefully her head does not explode from all the knowledge contained within! She is a great source for interesting perspectives and has a knack for finding the perfect reading material to incite a passionate discussion.
Mark McCarthy ( is a real, live, actual Treasury person (from the bank side) and also someone I first met in person and only thereafter engaged over the social media platforms. He is an innovative thinker and is interested in driving change within his and his client’s organizations. This is not the easiest thing to do from the banking side of things, so we know that Mark does not shy away from a challenge.
Sudhir Saran Singh (@sss_stratandops, and I met via a Twitter discussion I was having with someone else and from there started following each other. I then happened to write the “In Search of the Talent Equation”, which is a topic right up his alley, as he has expertise in the HR world. In fact, in his comment he shared his own firm’s version of the talent equation, adding valuable additional information to that topic.
Denisha Lacey ( and I met through her Treasury Café comments, and from there we have connected on other networks. She is an up and comer with a lot of fire in her belly and a desire to continue learning, improving and growing. For these reasons, there are probably no limits to what her future holds and the leadership roles she will fulfill in that future. Good luck on the CTP!
Brett Bauer (@DoubleB72) is someone I have known for over a decade, and whether or not that qualifies as pre-dating the social media age it certainly pre-dates my active involvement. He knows a ton of things about sports and tons more about beer, wine and spirits, as that is his profession. A true relationship sales and marketing pro! I would not be surprised to find a blog by Brett sometime in the future.
Faye Oney’s (@FayeinCbus, ) main line of work is social media management, and as you all know mine is finance and strategy, so there is something “social-media symbolic” to the fact that we met via the geocaching hash tag of all things! Since then we have expanded the engagement, which obviously includes the occasional blog comment from time to time. Her blog is a great resource for pointers on using the various Social Media channels (Linked In, Twitter, etc.) as well as interesting perspectives on other business and life-in—general topics.
Barbara Swafford (@BSwafford, has a blog site that is a shining example of community creation within the blog space. Her blog is in my RSS Reader and within hours it will have 20+ comments on it – simply amazing. Unfortunately, simply reading her blog does not make the “secret sauce” to getting that kind of engagement, but us mere mortals can only keep trying!
Also thanks to:
Errin (@PuzzledTweeter),
Mike Hewitt and
Stephanie Connolly.
By this time next year perhaps we will know each other better and I can write a paragraph about you too!
Finally, the first blog comment after last Thanksgiving was from maddie, who was my first real social media friend. Here is what I said about her last year, when talking about my “firsts”:
“My first E-mail dialogue was with maddie. However, to say that she was my first blog-generated e-mail correspondence really does her a disservice, because no matter what happens - in all the rest of my life - I will always have a special place in my heart for maddie.
I ran into maddie by way of another blog. Through that blog, she reached out to me with the wisdom and advice of someone who has “been there, done that” and really took me “under her wing”. maddie is really the first one, and to some extent the only one, who provided the “somebody believes in me” feeling with respect to Treasury Café. And I tell you what, during the first couple months of blogging, you need that feeling! Thank you, maddie!”
Unfortunately for me, maddie dropped out of social media right after her post-Thanksgiving comment on Treasury Café. Her blog site won’t even pull up anymore (yet I cannot bear to take it off my blogroll!), there are no tweets since late November, no emails… I miss her.
Shout Out Hall of Fame
The other big way for a blogger to know that others are reading is when people mention your blog in their blog, or in other social media settings. This has the added touch of attracting new readers to your site, who might come back in the future and/or leave comments.
For this reason, my sincere appreciation goes out to the following:
Wally Bock (@WallyBock, , ) is someone who connected with me after I commented on his blog. He has had a longtime focus on leadership which I covered here on Treasury Café in “A Life’s Worth of Leadership Lessons”. Since a lot of the posts we cover here are about case studies of statistical distributions and financial strategies, replete with formulas, spreadsheet images and R output, mentioning Treasury Café would not seem to be a particular fit for his topic areas. However, on occasion we do cover issues with respect to managing the team, or being a valued partner, or working within the organization, and these have often been included in his “Midweek Look at the Independent Business Blogs” posts every Wednesday. Always willing to accept a challenge, he also found a way to work the Working Capital series into his Zero Draft blog about writing.
Rene Michau (@renemichau, ) , from ANZ Bank, found me very early on in the life of Treasury Café. He was the first blogsite “member” and the first to include Treasury Café on a blogroll (which is yet another way of saying, “I read this and you should too”). He will often include Treasury Café posts in his newspaper ( ). You may have noticed that most of the connections I have made were through blog comments and Twitter, but early on Rene found me “out of the blue” somehow and thought I was worth staying in touch with.
Stephen Gill (@sjgill, ) picked up the “5 Reasons NOT to use the Olympics for Business Lessons” Treasury Café post as a perfect segue into a post he was writing which covered the reasons and motivations underlying why people look to sports for analogies.
And Finally
Thank you for reading this blog! One of the things that I have been most proud is the fact that Treasury Café has been read on every continent except Antartica (if you know someone there, please get them to visit!). It is amazing to me that we can reach out anywhere in the world, form connections and work together like we can these days.
I am very grateful for your visit, and the fact that you come back. I am very lucky to have you and to be living in these times.
Thank you!
·         What are you grateful for today?
Add to the discussion with your thoughts, comments, questions and feedback! Please share Treasury Café with others. Thank you!