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Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Non-Musical Performances

In the musical world, performers tend to work from a chart (a written or unwritten piece of music). In many forms of music, the performers' improvisation augments the chart. In blues and jazz, the chart is often a sideshow; the improvisation is the main event. This is true in other types of performances, too.

As an investment banker, I listen to lots of presentations. Today, I listened to Carol Tome', Chief Financial Officer of The Home Depot, present to a large group of Chicago business people. She had a "chart" -- the ubiquitous Power Point pitch. She managed the pitch quite well. She also was a great improvisor; she added lots of spur-of-the-moment comments and handled some fairly pointed questions with aplomb. And she drew in the audience. She established a pattern of tension and release that is the hallmark of good music (and good speeches).

Carol Tome' is in her late 40's and she has a lot of youthful exuberence. She joined The Home Depot is 1995, so she lived through the company's difficult transition from a decentralized entrepreneurial shop to a centralized professionally-managed place (with an ex-GE guy, Bob Nardelli, as CEO). I think she is the only senior executive that survived Nardelli's purge of the organization in 2001-2002. Chief financial officers can be a pretty dour bunch. Carol Tome' is the opposite of dour. She is a performer and she can improvise. I have a feeling that this woman will be CEO of a large organization someday.

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