BusinessCorporate FinanceChallenge the sacred cows

Challenge the sacred cows

Asking customer-related questions is a good way for any leader of a finance function to develop a vision of the best possible service it could provide to its customers - both internal and external.

In a highly competitive environment, all functions have to pull their weight and contribute to business performance. An effective finance function can add critical value, not just in terms of providing management information, but also by oiling the wheels with slick cash management and transaction processing.

The leader of the function, and that includes departmental and team leaders, must continually ensure the service meets genuine needs and is improving in quality.

Leadership involves bringing about big changes. It means never being satisfied with a simple OK. It involves challenging the sacred cows, repairing the dysfunctional, improving the functional, with a relentless campaign to drive the team towards excellence.

Leaders transform things, while managers maintain the status quo. To bring about transformation, leaders need to work on their vision. But it doesn’t stop there. To bring about successful transformation, the leader also needs to be a strategist and a manager. Influence and communication skills are key, as you will have to explain that vision and persuade others that change is not only necessary but beneficial.

And that’s not all – the changes will need to be planned, organised, and measured to ensure they deliver the anticipated improvements.

It’s not too late to make some resolutions for change, and for leaders of finance functions to dust off their visions and see how they could be transformed during 2005.

Just bear in mind the following questions: who are the customers of finance and, of those, which are most important? What do your customers need and are there any services that finance could provide to help them to perform their own responsibilities more effectively?

Finally, what do your customers think they need from finance? It may be time for you to educate your customers to have more challenging or more realistic expectations of what you can achieve.

Pat Scott is partner and executive coach at Woodbridge Partners.

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