Nurturing an inclusive workplace culture where everyone feels safe to challenge management decisions is critical for corporate success, a premier finance industry event has heard.
Nova Systems CEO Jim McDowell told a captive audience of finance leaders and professionals at the William Buck 2022 CFO Summit that culture was a key component in strategy development and execution.
Drawing on his 25 years’ experience in CEO positions in the private and public sector, Mr McDowell said the successful roll out of any business plan and strategy ultimately depended on the key people within the organisation.
“There’s no point in having a good strategy and plan if you don’t have a motivated team to execute it,” he said.
“You have to get people aligned and you have to give them purpose.”
In his address, Mr. McDowell said creating a culture where contrasting views were encouraged during the decision-making process was essential.
“Uncontested decisions are rarely good decisions,” he said.
“People need to be comfortable to say something is a load of bollocks.
“One decision can kill you. It’s almost always about over-reach and over confidence.”
As a highly experienced business leader, Mr. McDowell has worked closely with CFOs in Australia and overseas within defence, aerospace and the public sector.
His career has afforded him unique insight into what makes for a successful CEO/CFO relationship.
“For me, the CFO is not the second-in-command,” he said.
“They are no more important than the Chief Marketing Officer or the Chief People Officer. Everyone is in the cockpit and has an equal contribution to make.”
“The CFO should be one step ahead and identify risk, provide reliable and robust financial information and be prepared to challenge the CEO if they feel plans are over conservative or optimistic.
“You want your CFO to provide good financial data, data with integrity that can be relied upon for making decisions,” he said.
“As a CEO, if you want to test your CFO, just keep asking about the cash.”
Mr McDowell said it was important that current and aspiring business leaders understand the unique relationship between strategy and planning.
“You need to have a plan as well as a strategy. The plan executes the strategy,” he said.
“If the strategy is good, the plan has a chance. If the strategy is bad, the plan doesn’t matter.
“You also need to regularly conduct a cleansing review of your strategy to ensure your assumptions are still current.”
According to William Buck Adelaide Managing Director Jamie McKeough, such reviews should take into account short and long-term considerations of the organisation.
“This includes carrying out key customer and market assessments to identify opportunities or emerging issues,” Mr McKeough said.
“It also involves analysing your organisation’s financial facilities, workforce requirements, business development initiatives and approach to technology and innovation. Review performance across these key areas and consider if you need to reassess and reset your objectives given changing market conditions.
“Business leaders need to constantly be thinking about the triple-bottom line and how to improve environmental, social and governance practices.
“This is an important consideration for any business, large or small. The underlying premise is accountability and transparency.”