CFOs Vs. Company Culture: How to Strike A Balance

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While the organization and company culture are not issues that the CFO is responsible for, those patterns of behavior within a company can greatly affect the CFO and his team. New CFOs are especially vulnerable to company culture since they’re expected to make improvements in limited time. Whether you’re the new chief financial officer of a company or have been there for years, it’s important to realize the impact of organizational culture and how it affects your effectiveness to help drive financial growth.

Though CFOs aren’t known for designing organizational structure and driving cultural change, they do need to drive change in order to succeed. For instance, an organization that isn’t functioning well will be counterproductive to the CFOs goals. If this is the case, the CFO must pinpoint the undesirable outcome and lead a discussion about what can be done to change those behaviors. By identifying prevailing company actions that result in undesirable outcomes, CFOs will be able to disaffirm those habits and drive desired behaviors.

For example, if company employees wait until the last minute to begin a project because of the fear that tomorrow is unpredictable, they’re hindering the progress of the CFO. By discussing the various possibilities of stability or volatility, the CFO and company employees can plan for those scenarios. This leads to more productive work with alternative backup plans instead of complete inaction.

To drive cultural change in a company, CFOs must remember:

  • To communicate with other leaders. Many CFOs are apprehensive about challenging company culture, even if it’s for everyone’s benefit. Why? Because CFOs are trained in accounting or finance and typically don’t study organizational behavior. By pinpointing key leaders such as the CEO and other key management figures to drive cultural change, the CFO is more likely to succeed.
  • To identify exactly what needs to change. Before campaigning for organizational overhaul, CFOs must pinpoint the exact beliefs or practices within the organization that become a hindrance to financial goals. Being specific with issues makes others more likely to get on board.
  • To harness hard data. One of the strengths that CFOs have is the ability to collect and organize data. Do this to provide hard data to the company’s leadership team that change is needed and that existing beliefs and practices no longer benefit the company. By providing hard data and showing the benefits that making changes would bring, the CFO will have an easier time garnering support.