The Finance Organization of a Fortune 100 Company needed to re-invent its culture and its ways of working from being accountants, focused on the necessary reporting, to being business partners, giving financial advice and producing ad-hoc reports to assist decision-making.
The CFO was clear there was a long way to go to for the leadership team to embody and live the values, and develop the ways of being and working that would make them valuable partners.
The CFO had three main objectives:
- To have the Finance Group become “partners” with its clients rather than “number crunchers" - providers of data that clients rework to suit their needs. To have the Finance Group do what it takes to have clients perceive them, and treat them, as trusted advisers
- To design the Finance Group to be fully supportive of the corporate financial objectives, and instrumental in having them being met.
- To have the Fincance Group live the values express in the vision statement. In particular:
- To have the leadership embody and model the values
- To have the members of the organization fully expressed, contributing to the organization and to each other, treating each other with respect, and experiencing making a difference
- To have “straight talk” in all interactions.
The CFO had personally communicated the vision for the Finance Group in a series of small team meetings. Participants had had an opportunity to discuss the behaviors that were consistent with the values and give feedback on how well they saw the leadership live these values:
In some areas the prevailing culture was nearly the opposite of what the vision called for. In particular:
- Although the leadership team was working on a “leaderless” model of management, the organization, for the most part, operated in the traditional hierarchical and authoritarian mode. People did not naturally look to participate, generate ideas, and take the lead on issues. They expected to be told what to do by their bosses. The CFO saw the same problem in his relationship to his leadership team
- People felt that they were not treated with respect, rather who they were in this organization were “work horses”. Respect was a function of the job level rather than a value from which to interact with each other
- There was little emphasis on contributing to each other, sharing knowledge, or acknowledging each other for the contribution made. What was important was who got to take the credit for an accomplishment - and the person who took the credit was typically the boss rather than the person who did the work
- People did not speak out regarding issues. There was undermining gossip regarding how bad things/people were that was circulating in the organization at all levels
- The restructuring had exacerbated feelings of insecurity, even fear, inside the organization and morale was low. Attempts to intervene were viewed as more “flavors of the day”, doomed to fail or at the very least to be thrown out before anything could get accomplished.
There were a number of initiatives already underway with existing teams and team leaders. It was important to fold these into the change effort with minimum disruption and to establish clear priorities
In particular, there were two large business re-engineering efforts whose successful and timely completion was essential for the Finance Group’s ability to provide what partners badly needed to run their businesses. The current assessment was that these projects were failing. Furthermore, there was a great deal of mis-alignment about what they were supposed to accomplish and in what time frame, and strong doubts as to whether the desired results were even possible.
The engagement with the Finance Group was designed to create an “organizational condition” in which the desired results could take place and be sustainable, as well as insure that the key initiatives delivered the needed breakthroughs on time.
The “future” the leadership team invented and took on exceeded the CFO’s expectations. Although the realization was not complete at the end of LPR’s engagement, there were substantial foundations put in place and “momentum” taking place, whereby the organization was starting to self-generate the change. The CFO was very satisfied with the results produced, many of which he had previously thought could not be accomplished in that magnitude and in that time frame.
The following is an overview of what he saw were the most significant results.
A considerable improvement in the alignment of his team - a commitment to the desired change was achieved and not lip service as he often felt in the past. Also, a significant change in the way his leadership team members related to each other and to himself: much more communication and teaming up; much more leadership being taken on by individual members - people not looking to him as much to decide how to go forward. More commitment and “passion” being expressed, and more ideas being offered
A significant and noticeable improvement of morale, associate involvement and individual leadership was emerging throughout the organization. Gossip substantially stopped. Issues were brought-up and dealt with. Constructive “straight talk” was becoming a foundation of the new culture
Key re-engineering efforts on track and with clear objectives, while previously lagging behind and with insufficient leadership
There were a number of breakthroughs in partnering with client organizations. Clear and well-prioritized objectives being worked on
A creative, responsive and faster-to-action culture beginning to emerge in the organization. Less hidden complaints, more action
Values “ignited” throughout the organization with clear aligned upon behaviors. The leadership taking on the stewardship of living the values
The CFO’s own understanding, capacity and skills in leading change in difficult conditions had substantially expanded. Prior to his assignment with the Finance Group, he had always hand-picked his leadership team, and therefore had a team that was by definition ready and fully supportive of his change efforts. In the Finance Group he found that the low morale, the insufficient alignment of his team, and their lack of taking on leadership on some of the difficult cultural issues made change much more difficult. He was getting a sense of hopelessness about the possibility of doing anything of any consequence.