There’s a coffee on my desk. The rattle and tap of people working at their PC’s as overlaid by muffled conversations in the background. It’s overcast outside. If I look out the window I can see what looks like an Indian woman standing on the balcony of her flat, dressed in pale pink and eating a bowl of cereal. Before me my screen is bright. Outlook is open, a couple of spreadsheets, a browser displaying the Age homepage. Somewhere in this slim box is the work that must be done. For now I take a deep breath before hopping into it.

I’m frustrated and exasperated. I’m doing half a dozen different things and starting from scratch. Because of the inadequate systems and reporting I feel as if I must re-create the wheel each day. Half the data I want is not there, or is inaccessible. I don’t have the resources I need to dig as I would like, and the one measly resource I have is part time, based in Sydney, and good for only the most basic stuff. What it means is that I have to do everything myself.

I’ve only just come to this understanding. I’ve been asking for and expecting information that has not been forthcoming. In part that is due to the inadequacy of the financial systems, but it’s also because too many people are unable, or unwilling, to do the hard yakka, to get their hands dirty in the nitty gritty. It has to be done though, and in the absence of anyone else and with the buck stopping on my desk, I am the one doing it.

Hence the spreadsheets. I’m an expensive resource to be dabbling in raw numbers. Still it has to be. Nothing is easy and so I have to go back to first principles. To source the data and baseline it. To fitting a structure and imposing controls on them. To designing protocols and processes by which they can be managed and reported. To reviewing  the systems in which this data is held, the policies that shape how they get there and who is responsible for them. To finally slice and dice them in a meaningful way, and to embed that.

It is a slow process. I feel squeezed on both sides, by the people needing this information and by the people that allegedly own it. I have created a suite of reports to get greater visibility on expenditure; I have designed a whole new Capex process to implement some governance and facilitate reporting. I have poked and prodded Finance as if it is a slumbering bear in a cage – roused now it shambles around aimlessly, aware it must do something but unsure what, while it growls in my general direction. I manage multiple issues at once with little choice in the matter – they all need to be managed, and there is only one me.

Now I am looking at resource management and starting virtually at the rollcall: how many people work here? What do they do? How much are they costing us? Nobody can say with confidence. And so I build a spreadsheet…

I look at the accruals. How many are really legit? Are there duplicates? Have they been paid? What is the policy that governs them and why is the rampant non-compliance ignored?

I initiate a review of our forecast payment schedule. How should this be managed? Are all these costs still necessary? Are there other options?

I feel much like a sideshow performer spinning plates atop a cane, moving from one to the next as they begin to wobble and lose momentum, getting them going again before they crash down while peering to my audience wondering why they won’t hop in to help.

That’s how it feels right now. I am happy to be busy, happy to have challenges to conquer, but frustrated that I have to do it all myself, that I must begin from such a low base to please others who don’t care about anything other than the results. How I get them is my problem – as it is.

To a degree it is my fault. I can’t resist getting involved. I have to hold myself back from taking a leading role when I see things are not progressing as experience tells me they should. You can’t do everything I tell myself. You are but one man, and your plate is full.

It is what it is. I’ll get it all done. I’ll make the changes I need to and muscle through the inertia. Then I’ll go. I feel a bit sour. Not at the backward state of affairs. That’s frustrating, but end of the day just something I need to deal with. What makes me feel sour is the sense that I have been left dangling. The support I would like, if only moral, is long absent. For all their assumptions about my future role here I feel very much the hired hand.


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