If not me, who? If not now, when?

There are reasons why we stay stuck with a bad process. There are other priorities. Resources are scarce. There’s no time. The dog ate my homework.

When you interview CFOs that have successfully risen through the ranks… who competed with others for coveted promotions and won… you find they have three things in common.

First, they all had a bias toward action. Meaning, they wanted to see things get done rather than sitting around talking about getting them done. Second, they learned how to manage multiple priorities, keeping various efforts moving forward at the same time. The fact they could make progress on multiple goals at once proved their leadership and management skills. And finally, they knew how to marshal resources in their organizations to make things happen.

So if you want to succeed… A) You need to put your ideas into action, and B) not be afraid of tackling more than one goal at a time. But both of those require C) you know how obtain the organizational resources you need. So let’s talk a little more about that.

For any truly worthwhile project, you need executive level sponsorship. This is the single most important key to unlocking organizational recourses. In order to win their support, you need to build a solid business case for change. The most common mistake I see is when a Finance professional pitches a project to an executive in a way that trivializes the benefits and misses the bigger picture.

For example, let’s say you’re pitching a new budgeting system. It would be a mistake to focus only on how it will improve life for the Finance department, “It will reduce excel errors and make roll ups and consolidation faster and less manual.” While that is true, I don’t know a CFO who would want to invest in a system just to save time and aggravation in the Finance department.

What the CFO wants to hear is that your proposal will make the organization as a whole more effective. Decision making in the budget process will be improved… your project will drive more accountability for the numbers… it will increase transparency… the organization will be able to ensure its strategies are funded at the right levels.

These can’t be empty words. If the system won’t produce these results, it’s a mistake to claim they will just because it sounds good. So when you begin a project like this, you need to be thinking about strategic, organization wide goals right from the start, and then drive to a solution that achieves them. Don’t wait until then end and then try to figure out why your project is strategic.

And that brings us back to the start. Right back to leadership, the type of leadership that refuses to live with broken processes, the type of leadership that gets people promoted.

Your thoughts and comments are welcomed.

 

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