Awaiting the accounting revolution.

I’ve been twittering my frustrations today.  I have a fairly simple financial situation and have 2 companies that I process both Shawna’s and my work through.  There’s nothing complex with either of them so I’ve been filing the taxes and handling the bookkeeping myself since the beginning except for a short stint where I outsourced the annual filings. 

My frustration is that doing it myself is harder than it should be. Bookkeeping/accounting software is far more cumbersome and antequated than it should be, and it costs too much for things that should be free (tax table updates and payroll functionality).

Really, all that I need is a basic ability to track expenses to certain accounts, track taxes collected and paid, and as a bonus handle my payroll tax calculations.  The formulas, preferred account structures etc. are all available from the responsible jurisdictions.  I wouldn’t even use it anymore for invoicing or time-tracking (I’m already using FreshBooks and Toggl) and it wouldn’t even have to worry about importing bank info (I’m using Wesabe for that).  And as far as tax filings, governments are increasingly encouraging electronic filings so that shouldn’t even be a big hurdle.

I’m sure I’m not alone. The small business community is growing as we move into a more creative and entrepreneurial economy and established online tools and protocols make interfacing to things like Freshbooks and Wesabe easy.  And when it costs $200-$500 for basic software to cover the range of functions, plus at least $100 per year to keep tax tables updated it sounds like a very attractive online subscription opportunity and generally about $100 per annual return.  I’d easily pay $10-20 per month for something that integrated FreshBooks, Wesabe, and allowed for online tax filings.

With all that I wonder if a big Intuit (Quickbooks) upset is in the works.  With the speed that these services have been made available and they key building blocks in Wesabe and Freshbooks… I’m hoping it’s only a matter of months.  In fact, I’m hoping it’s before the start of the next fiscal year – even in beta – I’d love to be testing!

Blogged with Flock

Viable System Model – the second fulcrum.

The second fulcrum in transformative venturing is the way in which the venture is organized/organizes itself. I’ve recently been introduced into something that has come closest to describing what it means to build a successful organization. And it’s not about outcomes or results – those are simply that, outcomes – it’s about the way in which it’s done.

(Stafford Beer‘s) Viable Systems Model, or VSM is a model of the organisational structure of any viable or autonomous system. A viable system is any system organised in such a way as to meet the demands of surviving in the changing environment. One of the prime features of systems that survive is that they are adaptable. The VSM expresses a model for a viable system, which is an abstracted cybernetic description that is applicable to any organisation that is a viable system and capable of autonomy.

I also have the good fortune of being able to apply this model on a deeply transformative initiative with someone who has intimately been involved with application of the viable systems model for a couple of decades. The deeper I get into it the more it rings true — which shouldn’t be surprising considering it is ‘simply’ based on looking at how all life organizes itself in viable systems. Next time you’re faced with some organizational challenges or considering building a venture to tackle something deeply important, do everyone a favour and spend some time with this model and/or people who understand it.

Next post – venturing forward.

Twittering consiousness 2 (tracking)

Twitter just announced the ability to track words in the entire ‘twittersphere‘. I for example am now tracking:
– systemic
– intervention
– co-create
– venture
– Canada
– Byron

So when anyone does a post with any of those words in it I’ll see it. It’s interesting to me because I can in a way tap into a broad consciousness flow (comprised of small top-of-mind comments) to see what’s happening with these words. Will be interesting to see how this goes – I imagine at lease I’ll find some interesting new people to follow – and that so far has proven to be a good thing.

The two (or 3) fulcrums of transformative venturing.

A thought occured to me that there are in essence two fulcrums in the intentional creation of a transformative venture (a venture working on a systems-depth shift/consciousness change) – and those are the purpose and the business system. And perhaps these two fulcrums interplay through another fulcrum – the BHAG.

This is coming to me as I’m exploring the connection between the Venture Vortex model and Stafford Beer‘s Viable System Model. More posts on these later but this seems like it is starting to come together.

Twittering consciousness

I’ve been on Twitter for a few months – as well as facebook – and Twitter is the one that is holding my interest in terms of what I perceive as an interesting connection to the movement of consciousness.

People use it in different ways but what I find consistent is that I find myself feeling a deeper connection to the people I’m following. And this goes for my brother in Phoenix, a VC I’ve never met but that has similar interests, and a librarian that I simply found through Twitter because they live near me.

It has something to do with the small snipets of thought/consciousness being expressed generally several times a day. What’s interesting is how these snippets begin to weave into an expression of who that person is and I think it has a more authentic quality then more ‘intentional’ channels like blog posts simply because you are limited to 140 characters per post which seems to encourage more direct transmission of top-of mind thoughts and experiences that move the author at that moment.

There’s also the element that it’s always with me as sms updates on my phone – which also means I can share my thoughts when they happen.

I think there are some implications for the increasing fluidity of consciousness in the upcoming younger – connected generations. And fluidity in consciousness is what our society is calling for more than ever. If you haven’t tried it yourself, give the flow a try and sign-up, find a couple of friends how are actively using it, find someone that’s active from a field of interest, and find someone that you don’t know at all. Get it on your mobile if you can and start using it — don’t worry about what you are saying, just say something and see where it goes — and of course let me know and I’ll follow your ‘tweets’ and see where that takes this conversation.

Heavy load? Or not heavy enough?

I had my first chance to spend some time with Andres Dussan from Ashoka here in Canada. Just an introductory meeting from some mutual friends and it’s been a conversation that’s stuck with me a few days… deeper than I originally realized.

Andres talked passionately about the power of media in shifting the cultural mindset to place where balance between people and the planet can re-emerge. I’ve had this conversation a number of times over the past year but something in it reminded me of the responsibility I have as white guy with upper-middle class roots, living in an affluent city within Canada. This is something that I was really first awakened to when I met my wife Shawna years ago but somehow since getting married, having our two kids and moving into a comfortable house with a big yard and lots of family support around I’ve conveniently put that responsibility aside.

When I stop to think about the pervasiveness and persistence of messages that reinforce our society’s image of success (pick whichever one you want) and how that subtly makes it into my own images of what I want/need/should be it gets alarming. I know how it has impacted me in the past as one of those with the greatest of privilege and can only imagine the impact on those who do not fit the images we are constantly fed. And now extend that to the impact of extending those messages globally.

I’ve heard, and used at one time, all sorts of justifications for the messages are delivered and how marketers really care for their customers and those they want to be their customers, but when I now watch the green-wash frenzy marketers are gorging on I don’t really have much hope that the images will ever truly get past that which will sell more product. And that’s not to say this is the marketers responsibility to bear alone, or that it is the product manufacturers, or that it is anyone’s alone…

I’ve just really been reminded that it is everyone’s… starting with mine.

What’s got my attention.

This process all started with me trying to get a feeling for two things:
– what am I uniquely able to do?
– where do I want to focus my attention?

Of course those questions both prompt deeper questions – which have been a big part of my journey lately – but what I came up with that best captured it for me was the statement I’ve been sharing: co-creating entities and initiatives in service of restoring balance among people and the planet.

The first part is where this venturing approach that I’ve been developing came out of – a way of trying to capture my experiences into a repeatable process that would be able to achieve greater results/impact.

The second part was a little trickier because it implied that I had a vision of what balance looked like. If not, then how would I know what would help achieve that. Well that posed a tricky problem because well… who can predict the future – really?

In asking those questions though, and going through the desire to start a company to do this to just getting a couple of sample projects going to finding myself in the middle of an example unexpectedly, what I find myself left with are two things that seem to be holding my attention. And those are:

– in what way could people individually be opened to more positive change?
– what is it in the entrepreneurial approach that brings people together for positive change?

For me these are deeper than my attachments to specific models or viewpoints and are opening up a new avenues of exploring them. In a way, I don’t even have to worry about what I ‘do’ anymore, my collective experiences and ability naturally informs the choices I’m making and the opportunities that are arising.

Funny… I’ve gone from vowing not to start a company, to trying to get one going, and am back to not having anything to start. And in all of it, I am actually doing a project that’s an example of the model I was so attached to, and am having more and more fun every day.

Let’s see what tomorrow brings.

The future of organizations.

I just read a very interesting paper called “The Future of Global Action Networks” (look for the document link a little ways down the page). What was interesting, was not necessarily the discussion of “Global Action Networks” but the underlying observations on how they operate and are setup. From my perspective, these approaches to organizations are going to be fundamentally important to the most relevant organizations of tomorrow.

If anyone has done or wants to do a summary of this document please let me know. I’d love to post it here.

This has been one of those rare reads for me… something I’m sure I’ll be referencing for many years to come.

It’s just money.

Well, I’m back.

It’s been an interesting start to the year and I’m starting to test some of the examples of this ‘model’ I’ve been developing and have actually, unbeknown to me, wound up in a project that actually represents the model I’m developing (funny how that happens). I guess that’s partly because, as with most things, the model isn’t really new. It’s essentially just an intentional version of the common entrepreneurial approach. What seems to strike people most however is not the approach but the idea that the seed financing happens before there’s even an idea… where there is only an intention for some sort of result or impact.

It’s amazing to watch the resistance come around that one aspect in particular. So much seems to be bundled around money and the power the holder of it can have over those that want it. Mess with money and you mess with control… or so it’s perceived. Really they are separate issues.

In my experience actually, only once money and control are dealt with separately does the ability to set the most helpful controls in place emerge. In a way it serves as a useful test in getting to know a partner. If the conversation gets into the ways of setting up the controls, I know we’re on the same page. If it’s stuck on returns and percentages we’re in opposite ends of the bookstore.

Am curious to see what resistance emerges next. For now back into crafting the docs.