I had the opportunity this week to fly on Virgin America for the first time. Everything about this flight experience is different from the norm. The safety video is a cartoon that manages to amuse while still communicating the key points. People can watch what they want while the plane taxies for takeoff. You can order meals and drinks right from your seat. They are disrupting the way people fly, while still adhering to the many regulations that govern aviation. They’ve taken the “next step” in flight experience – and made everyone else look antiquated by comparison.
In a similar vein, the theme of the upcoming Proformative CFO Dimensions Conference in New York is Strategic Leadership in Finance: The Next Step. This theme is exactly inline with what I am hearing from finance executives on a regular basis. They are actively looking to lead their finance organization to the next step, but many are stuck: what is the next step?
There are a lot of possible next steps, yet not all of them move the organization forward. So maybe the better question is: what is the right next step?
For finance to move to a more strategic position within the business, they have to be willing to take a bold next step toward driving a culture of performance throughout the organization. A culture of performance is achieved when all departments and levels of decision makers are taking an active role in the planning process and striving to make more strategic, performance-driven decisions.
Of course, this is an effort that requires everyone to be involved. Finance can’t create a culture of performance all on its own – but it can foster the right environment for it to flourish. By pushing beyond the “norm” of its traditional role as data gatekeeper, finance can begin to facilitate the organization-wide collaboration necessary to create transparency across the business. Shifting their focus from crunching numbers and compiling data to increasing visibility and nurturing decision making puts the business on the path toward the type of goal-focused planning that drives a culture of performance.
Ashley Johnson, CFO of ServiceSource is a pioneer of this approach. She is transforming the core finance processes at ServiceSource, determined to drive actionability throughout the organization to help the company gain visibility and predictability. Johnson describes how this transformation manifested in the company’s planning process in a recent interview with CFO Magazine.
“Rather than [planning] simply being an FP&A (financial planning and analysis) process, it is brought down to the level of people, making everyone feel ownership of the plan. We needed to break free of the past, and change the process completely, where the executives were leveraging tools and running the scenarios themselves, not just FP&A.”
That seems like the kind of bold next step that just might lead to a more strategic finance team – leaving everyone else looking antiquated by comparison.