Everything is freshly made, on location and there is a 5-minute window in which distribution to the students is ideally done.
Productivity is paramount.
To give you a sense of how well I went, I was greeted by my children at the end of the day with the statement: "You got my salad order wrong, and our lunches came out so late...that's never happened before so it's all because of you."
Clearly, I'd failed.
It felt like we'd worked really hard that day and been super productive in the canteen, but (at least according to my girls) we'd missed the mark and our productivity hadn't produced successful outcomes.
It got me thinking about productivity for CFOs.
The number one mistake I've observed that CFOs make when pursuing productivity is that in their planning of their calendar, they don't actually know the outcomes they are looking for, for their week or their month. That is why they can't get their productivity right. They haven't defined their outcome clearly enough.
The elements of productivity
Productivity is a function of output and time. So planning the time and creating the output is crucial.
In turn, output is a function of quality and scope, which together form a balanced triangle.
We all have the same amount of time each day, so if the time variable is fixed, then the way to increase productivity is to make sure you and your team are crystal clear on the scope of the task and the quality required.
However, sometimes CFOs don't know what the outcome looks like and therefore they can't determine the amount of time, what the scope of the project is or what the quality needs to be.
Is a soggy sandwich ok?
When it comes to the canteen lunches, the scope can't change - they've ordered and the scope is set. Regarding quality, we obviously want to serve them fresh, nutritious food that is still hot when they get it. The time variable is where we planning and preparing were paramount, as the kids need to get their lunch quickly so they can eat and still have time to play. I thought we'd done a good job. The problem was that we had given equal importance to quality and time.
The deflating feedback from my girls about my first canteen duty got me thinking, do our kids really need piping hot sausage rolls, or is warm good enough?
What's the priority? We tried to make scope, time and quality all equal, but clearly I'd failed.
From a quality perspective, do the sausage rolls need to be piping hot, or is warm good enough, for the sake of prioritising time? What's wrong with a soggy toasted sandwich for a kid?
What are you prioritising?
Back to our finance world. Productivity for CFOs is not about spending more time. It's about being intentional with your time, and genuinely investing your energy and effort during that time. When we obsess over time at the expense of all else, we drop other balls – the ones that determine the actual value of that time. When we are intentional about not just how much time we use but how we use it, we can focus on outcomes, results, and value – the things that (should!) matter most to CFOs.
Think about the hours your team works. Do you see a commensurate level of output? Do they work late hours? What does that say about you?
As a CFO, it's your responsibility to initiate a better mindset around productivity so that your team works smarter, not harder. It also needs to be a priority to provide your team with the clarity of what element of productivity is most important.