Your Cancer Is Called a Timesheet

Dividing cancer cells
Timesheets: the cancer of the professions

I stood silently among a group of a dozen managing partners of regional firms as I hooked up my MacBook to the projector to begin my talk about becoming a firm of the future.

They had just been presented a state-of-the-profession address by an MP of a Top 100 firm. I have heard much of the content of the presentation before at other gatherings of professional accountants.

The litany of “challenges” repeated the narrative that has been well documented and continues to grow for over the last decade:

  • While there are more people graduating with degrees in accounting, fewer of them are sitting for the CPA exam. This is leading to fewer new hires for firms.
  • The new hires they do have are “millennials” who desire a challenge and think they should be made partner sooner rather than later.
  • Attrition, especially at the mid-career level, is over 10 percent and is mostly initiated by the professional, not the firm.
  • The loss of people in the middle and bottom of the pyramid is eroding the traditional economic model. Non-equity partners are increasing and funding for partner buyouts is disappearing.
  • Cries of “We must become more efficient,” and/or, “We must embrace new technology,” and/or “We must hold people more accountable,” reverberate in meetings.
  • Compliance work continues to flat line and while new offerings are growing revenue, they are not growing fast enough. Worse still those that do this work are often not even CPAs!

After my presentation was successfully displaying on the projector – the modern equivalent of the campfire in this narrative. I paused to get their full attention.

“Here is what I heard,” I began.

“Our profession is sick, even dying. We might have cancer. We really don’t know, but it is bad.”

After another pause and with no one disputing my summary, I continued, “I think you are right. I think you do have cancer. The good news is, I believe I know the cause and it is curable.”

They all looked at me in hopeful, but suspect anticipation.

“Your cancer is called ‘a timesheet’ and you must cut it out completely before it kills you.”

There were a few barely perceptible nods and even some smiles and hushed chuckles from the two “younger” people in the room. The chuckles quickly morphed into coughs as they remembered their MP was seated among them.

I proceeded to dismantle all the arguments (there are only four) in favor of the timesheet before anyone else could say anything. I even went so far as to do something I rarely do in a public live event. In fact, I call it the nuclear option.

The brief exercise is so stinging, so devastating to the timesheet argument that I fear that it could cause emotional damage to everyone in the room. Because of this I usually reserve it for online anonymous events so that folks have some time to themselves to recover.

“How many of you have ever filled out a timesheet?” I boomed as I raised my hand in the air. All hands joined mine in pointing heavenward.

raised hands“How many of you have put down on your timesheet the incorrect number of hours you worked on something, be that too many hours or too few hours with full knowledge that it was incorrect?” As is the case everywhere I have done this exercise, all hands remained with mine in the air. One participant, I do not know who, meekly mumbled, “Every week,” under his breath but audible to all.

I paused again, then quipped softly, my hand still in the air, “The ethics session begins later today,” trying to make a bit of joke to relieve their inner guilt.

Why is this? Why, in one of the most ethical and honored of professions, is this not only the norm, but ubiquitous? Why are these good people, moral and upright members of the community, whose commission is, in part, to identify, correct, and in some cases, prosecute financial wrongdoing (aka, getting the numbers right) sitting before me all guilty of that same crime?

The answer, again, is the timesheet.

In my session on Trashing the Timesheet, I speak mostly of how the timesheet is suboptimal as a pricing mechanism. There is no doubt about this, it is beyond dispute. However, my argument goes beyond this mere deficiency in pricing. The timesheet, not the people who fill them out, is immoral and unethical.

Why? Because it – the idea of a timesheet – is based on a falsified idea known as the labor theory of value which was developed in part by Karl Marx. Time/value equivalency is a false notion that causes bad things to happen. As explained by my “nuclear” exercise, it is the timesheet causes otherwise moral people to do immoral things; it is the timesheet causes people in a highly ethical profession to do unethical things.

I realize this is a dramatic statement, but it is nonetheless true. Think about it no one has ever said they have behaved completely honestly. In addition to this reason, my distain for the timesheet and belief it is immoral expands when it is applied inside the organization to judge individuals.

People come to believe that their worth is actually in their hours they “bill.” They start to believe their hours have a specific “worth” not only to the firm but to them as if hours “spent” with children or aging parents must be evaluated against the hours “spent” at work.

Country singer Jamey Johnson recorded a great song a few years back entitled The Dollar. In the video for the song, scenes cut back and forth between a little boy and his father. When the boy asks his mother, “Why does Daddy go to work?” the mom replies, “Your Daddy’s got a job, and when he goes to work they pay him for his time.” The child then goes to his piggy bank and returns to his mom and in the chorus of the song asks:

How much time with this buy me?

Is it enough to take me camping in a tent down by the stream?

If I’m a little short, then how much more does Daddy need,

To spend some time with me?

Cue weeping.

It is my contention that this song illustrates what happens to people who record their time. Over years indeed decades it affects their internal belief system about who they are in essence as people. It robs them of their humanity. This is evil and it must be destroyed.

It is time the profession rid itself of this meddlesome method of malevolence.

Lesson from the Salon

I have often spoken about the parallels between software implementation consultants and salon owners. For example, both revenue models have about 50 percent coming from the sale of product (including renewals for software) and about 50 percent coming from service provided.

This morning, this “Suggested post” was in my Facebook stream:

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Notice that it mentions that Julie is salon owner, but what is to stop individual stylists from creating their own App. This way if they leave the salon of their current employ, their clientele can easily track them down and bypass what I understand from my wife and other female colleagues as “the hunt” that takes place when this occurs now.

Of course, the jump to software implementation consulting is easy to see. Individual consultants can set up Apps and away they go.

This enforces the great idea from Peter Drucker that, “In a knowledge society, the most probable assumption for an organization to make is that they need the knowledge workers far more than the knowledge workers need them.”

What are you doing to make you organization a place where knowledge worker thrive and get their knowledge dividend?

A Response to The End of Capitalism

In a Facebook forum that I frequent, one of the members posted this article by Klaus Schwab in the Huffington Post entitled The End of Capitalism – So What is Next?

Here is my response to both the post and the article itself.

If by capitalism he means the system we have in place today. I agree. However, the term for what we have today is not "capitalism" is the true sense. It is "cronyism" or what I call "handicapitalism."

Most truly understood we have a system where the elites in big government and big business have combined to control the resources of production. Including, BTW, the currency itself.

The most accurate term from an economic standpoint is fascism. (Note not NAZISM.) Fascism, from an economic perspective is control of the resources, but not means of production. This latter state is called communism.

Please note I am not a Republican or a Democrat and I am not calling Bush or Obama fascists. I am saying the the policies of the US government have become increasingly fascistic over the year no matter who has been in the White House.

Now that said, what Mr. Schwab is describing as the replacement of this so-called “capitalism” is really just the market responding to the idea of knowledge workers. He calls this idea “talentism,” but is really nothing more than a meritocracy based on knowledge.

Sesame Street for Knowledge Workers

Last Sunday, my wife and I brought my son, Sean, and daughter, Cara, to the Imagination Movers concert at the Verizon Center just outside Dallas. To coin a phrase, a good time was had by all.

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For those of you not familiar with the “Movers” (as we in the hip-in-the-know-‘cause-we-have-a-five-year-old crowd like to them) let me give you some quick background. The Imagination Movers are a kid-focused rock band that began when a group of four friends in New Orleans discovered they shared a similar distain for music groups oriented for children. (With this I agree with them. Barney, Teletubbies and especially The Wiggles are downright creepy.)

They achieved significant regional success, selling over 100,000 copies of their independently produced CDs. In 2006, they inked a deal with Disney and for the past three years have been one of the top-rated shows on the Disney Channel.

Aside from being a pretty darn good writers and performers, the messages they convey in their music and on their show is spot on for their audience of future knowledge workers.

Each show centers around a different customer (yes, they call them customers not clients) coming into their Idea Warehouse with a problem that needs solving. The four Movers than ask some diagnostic questions (notice they do not jump to a solution!) until they decide that they do, in fact, have an Idea Emergency (I love this term). This phrase always trips an alarm and begins the song called Brainstorming which is sung in every show.

Because there are “no bad ideas when you’re brainstorming,” the Movers always end up solving the problem for their customer. Now the exchange of money is never talked about, but a few of the shows have focused around the guys solving some of their own problems, including one episode in which they record a TV commercial to attract more customers. In another episode, Bad Hair Day (one of my son’s, OK, one of my favorites), they need to help Mover Scott get his hair under control so they can take a picture for the newspaper.

In the first season, there was a neighbor called Knit-Knots who always wore beige, played only one note on his tuba (b-flat because, “the b stood for boring and the flat made it extra boring”), and did nothing in his office but “staple, stamp and stack” papers. While I rather enjoyed this slam at the monotony of the office service worker, it was clear that after season one, the gag had played itself out and Knit-Knots is not in season two or three.

Knit-Knots’ niece, Nina, however, has continued on the show in part to bring some female presence, but mostly because the actress that plays Nina, Wendy Calio is quite a talent herself.  The live concert featured her in a cover of The Black-Eyed Peas’ I’ve Got a Feeling. Dare I say, she has a much better voice than Fergie.

 

I strongly recommend the Imagination Movers to any of you with children or grandchildren. Heck, maybe it should be required viewing for all current knowledge workers.