How do you make sure you are getting good information? And how do you make good decisions, especially when faced with conflicting data or forecasts?
You need three things:
- Business literacy. A common language and common understanding of finance, because Finance is the language of Business. If you want to communicate a business idea, you have to be able to express it in numbers for everyone to understand its importance.
- A holistic view of business. This allows everyone to understand the work they do in the context of the needs of the whole company, makes them more able to provide useful and accurate information, and encourages them to be rapid in responding to requests.
- A culture of decision-making. Authority to make decisions, responsibility for results, and an inclusive relationship with the people who will have to implement the decisions – they’re your reality check.
Not everyone likes providing information. Non-finance managers may have a tendency to think, “Oh that’s just Joe in Finance again, he wants more numbers from me… but does he ever use the numbers I give him? No! Anyway, the hell with him, I don’t have time today.”
So in Income/Outcome we put everyone into a simulation where they run all aspects of a business – they make decisions about how much to borrow, whether to expand capacity or make other improvements, which customers to target, what prices to set, and so on. This allows them to see that not only does every decision affect the bottom line, every decision they make in one department affects their ability to make good decisions in all other departments.
As a simple example, if as the Finance Department I decide not to borrow money, then as Head of Operations I can’t expand capacity, which means that as a Sales person I can’t go after the largest prospects… and I have to abandon them to my competitors in the room. As in the real world, it’s a head-to-head competition.
This is not to say the Finance Department decision was necessarily wrong – but we all need to understand the constraints that every decision imposes on others, if the company as a whole is going to have strong results.