The power of vision

And yet the very word ‘vision’ can present difficulties, particularly to a hard-headed finance professional. Visions are often seen as things that just come, unbidden. You either have them or you don’t.

Not true. Even the dictionary doesn’t agree. One definition of vision is ‘a thing held vividly in the imagination’. Just as, with the right starting materials, leaders can be ‘made’, so can visions.

Warren Bennis, professor of business administration and founding chairman of the Leadership Institute at the University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business, defines leadership as ‘mastery over present confusion’. Put in context, we might see a vision as being not a ‘gift from heaven’ but a product of clever and clear questions.

The following ideas are a good starting point for kick-starting that vision.

What are the organisation’s needs? Although there will be a core of applicable activities, all companies are different. Size, ownership structure, regulatory environment, stage of development and complexity of business are all contributory factors.

What is the organisation’s strategy? Again, this will be critical as one of the key contributions of finance is to support the strategy of the organisation.

What would the best possible service I can give the organisation look like? It might seem that this should come first, but you need to think about your organisation’s needs and strategy before you can start imagining the answers.

How would this best possible service meet the organisation’s needs? This question is crucial to ensure that all needs are met and in the best possible way.

How would this best possible service support the organisation’s strategy? Again, this is crucial to ensure that finance is supporting the wider organisation’s strategic aims.

With the answers to these questions the financial leader can start to see clearly what needs to be done and plan implementation.

Pat Scott is partner and executive coach with Woodbridge Partners

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