“Let’s change the way we do things” is arguably the least favorite directive we can hear. The reason? By definition, something has gone wrong. You never hear this from an American football player after winning the Super Bowl, the coach of a national soccer team after winning the World Cup, or a tennis player after winning Wimbledon. No, this is something the losers would say because they failed at reaching their goal.
Humans, in general, resist change. We prefer consistency because, for most of us, it’s a more comfortable state of being. Yet in business today, the velocity and magnitude of change is constantly increasing. Standing still is no longer an option. The organizations that embrace change, and actually refine their ability to react to change for competitive advantage, will the ones that thrive in the 21st century.
Anytime your organization needs to initiate a change or transformation, especially a finance transformation, I cannot stress how important it is to break out your copy of Spencer Johnson’s “Who Moved My Cheese.” For a finance transformation to succeed, you must have buy-in from all the affected stakeholders. Stakeholders include individuals, groups, partners, sponsors, and resources that are impacted. Success demands more than excellent strategic and tactical plans; it requires an intimate understanding of the company’s culture, values, people, and behaviors that must be changed to deliver the desired result.
There are many ways of increasing the probability of gaining buy-in:
Identifying your key stakeholders may seem obvious, but it is often much easier said than done. It takes time to identify all the pertinent players that will be affected by the finance transformation, so it’s important to execute an in-depth analysis of the stakeholders to identify their needs and requirements. Keep in mind that the stakeholders may have different and sometimes conflicting priorities. You need to spend the time to determine the baseline “buy-in level” required of the stakeholders. This exercise will help you understand the concerns of the stakeholders as well as identify areas of resistance, which might develop into roadblocks down the road.
You should always engage the stakeholders on different levels and through various stages. The head: With communications that are explicit and inclusive, you can help them understand why the finance transformation is necessary and what the benefits will be. The heart: Stakeholders will come to believe that finance transformation is the right action for the organization to take. Also, if they can see how the finance transformation will benefit the organization and themselves, the more likely they are to accept the finance transformation. The hands: Stakeholders and support teams must be competent to bring the finance transformation into being.
Lack of buy-in from senior management is one of the main reasons finance transformations fail, so making sure they are on board is critical.
To see what is working and what is not working, establish robust feedback loops throughout the course of the finance transformation and adjust along the way. Sharing feedback and progress with the stakeholders and addressing any issues that might arise will help keep the finance transformation on track and help to maintain the buy-in.
We will be addressing these issues and more at the many FP&A roundtables and conferences we will be hosting in 2018.
Brian is Founder and Principal at Kalish Consulting. He is Former Executive Director – Global FP&A Practice at AFP. He has over 20 years of experience in Finance, FP&A, Treasury and Investor Relations. He previously held a number of treasury and finance positions with the FHLB, Washington Mutual/JP Morgan, NRUCFC, Fifth Third and Fannie Mae. He has spoken all over the world to audiences both large and small hosting FP&A Roundtable meetings in North America, Europe, Asia and soon South America. Brian attended Georgia Tech, in Atlanta, GA for his undergraduate studies in Business and the Pamplin College of Business at Virginia Tech for his graduate work. In 2014, Brian was awarded the Global Certified Corporate FP&A Professional designation.