Ken Fick

As the founder of Pierce The Fog, Ken's mission is to help those in the world of corporate finance find answers, make decisions and move businesses forward.

With a background in accounting, management consulting, financial reporting, corporate finance and investing, Ken writes from the perspective of a battle tested corporate insider that utilizes the knowledge gained from years of experience working in the internal operations of various companies helping them turn their business ideas into reality in order to provide actionable insight to readers.

 

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FP&A’s Push to Transform from Cost to Collaborator

By Ken Fick, President and CEO at Pierce The Fog LLC

Defining exactly what Financial planning and analysis (FP&A) does has always been tough.  

Most people place FP&A in the Office of the CFO, and that makes sense, for many of us have certainly played the role of CFO a time or two, but as business partners, strategists and advisors, that is also not necessarily a perfect fit and as our roles continue to expand to become the central hub of corporate analytic and reporting this categorization may change.

According to the recent survey by the Argyle Forum, 40% of the companies that are looking to transform their FP&A model stated that increasing collaboration between the finance team and other departments is the most common end goal. Why is that? Is it because when Finance is involved, better decisions are made, costs are controlled and growth initiatives are enacted? Possibly?  

Below I have provided 3 common traps and 5 tips to help you increase collaboration between finance and other parts of your organization.  

3 Common Traps to Avoid When Collaborating Between Finance and Other Departments

  1. Being a team of experts is not, necessarily a good thing. According to authors Lynda Gratton and Tamara J. Erickson in their Harvard Business Review article: Eight Ways to Build Collaborative Teams, the greater a proportion of experts on a team the more likely it was to disintegrate. A key way to overcome this trap is to ensure each expert has his or her own area of specialization and/or focus on the team. 
  2. Can’t we all just disagree on something? Creative abrasion is part of the team process. If everyone agreed on everything then nothing new and creative would get accomplished. Heated, passionate discussion, as long as it is respectful, is not bad, in fact, is should be encouraged. We need more passionate people in organizations. If everyone is agreeing on everything on your team, you may have a problem.  
  3. Collaborate in moderation. Over collaboration is just as bad as too little collaboration. With the fast pace of business, many organizations see collaboration as a way to deal with insecurity and transition. Too many collaboration projects between Finance and business units or departments can also have a negative effect on productivity and slow business down, become hard to track and measure ROI. The lack of results will hurt Finance’s credibility with the organizations which could affect funding down the road.  

5 Tips to Increase Collaboration Between Finance And Other Departments

  1. Get executive buy-in and have them lead by example. If you have a project management system then they should be using it as well to communicate with the teams, get status updates and understand the flow of information within the organization. This may always be one of the hardest to implement as many at the executive level feel they are too busy to be bothered by this type of leadership but, if you can implement, it will have the greatest effect.  
  2. Adopt an open communication style. Knowledge is power and people hoard knowledge to increase their stature and control within an organizational hierarchy. This can be both a good and bad thing depending on the circumstance’s, but having a culture of open communication where every member can communicate with equality and authority will go a long way in promoting overall project ownership and collaboration.
  3. Share the tools you have and educate them on what else you can do. If you have cool tools, make sure they know how to use them to the fullest and what else you can do. If you utilize a Corporate Performance Management System, that captures data, make sure they know what it captures and how what they could do with it to help their business. In addition, and more importantly, create a tear sheet of all the other services you may be able to provide to them, decision support, benchmarking profit improvement, etc. Instead of them leveraging external consultants, many projects can be taken on using internal resources.  
  4. Recognize power users. The power user is your champion in the department, business unit or division. They can facilitate information flow between two parties that may not always speak the same language and can be the cornerstone to a successful collaborative effort. Treat them well.  
  5. Go beyond on-line tools and have a face to face contact. Conference calls are OK, video conferences are better but nothing beats a face to face meeting. In a world of virtual offices, nothing beats meeting people one on one. Make it a point to get together at least once or twice a year and break bread, have a team building exercise, just hang out, it will go a long way to building collaboration. 

The following article was originally published on FPAexperts.com and has been republished with permission. 

As the founder of Pierce The Fog, my mission is to help those in the world of corporate finance find answers, make decisions and move businesses forward.

With a background in accounting, management consulting, financial reporting, corporate finance and investing, I write from the perspective of a battle tested corporate insider that utilizes the knowledge gained from years of experience working in the internal operations of various companies helping them turn their business ideas into reality in order to provide actionable insight to readers.

Look for my commentary to be insightful and clear, helping readers decode the complex world of finance and distil it into readable, actionable knowledge.

The full text is available for registered users. Please register to view the rest of the article.
Determining Your Company’s Key Performance Indicators

By Ken Fick, President and CEO at Pierce The Fog LLC

A question frequently asked by businesses of all sizes is what should my Key-Performance-Indicators (KPIs) be and how many should I have? They often look to other companies in their industry including suppliers and customers to see what they may use to run their business. Frequently, they are fraught with frustration by the lack of data in the public domain.
  
Fortunately, you don’t need to look to outside data sources to determine the best KPIs for your business, division or department. The identification of KPI’s begins with defining the organization’s strategy. One of the most effective frameworks used in strategic planning is called Objective and Key Results (OKR). Using OKR you can ascertain what is most important to the organization and focus the energy on a handful of KPIs that you know will drive results.

What is The Objective and Key Results (OKR) Framework?

The origin of most modern management frameworks starts in the industrial revolution with the likes of Frederick Winslow Taylor, Henry Ford and Mary Parker Follet, where the focus was on the systematic measurement of output and how to get more out of workers. Standing on the shoulders of these great thinkers, in the 1950s, Peter Drucker developed the Management-By-Objective (MBO”) framework. MBO gained popularity in use through the 1960s and 70s. The OKR framework evolves the MBO methodology by combining traditional management and goal-setting approaches, like MBO, with the mnemonic SMART. Initially created in the 1970s by the leaders of Intel and Oracle, OKR gained significant popularity after it was introduced and adopted by Google through investor John Doerr, who still uses it today.  

The OKR framework is a collaborative framework that supports goal setting by encouraging focus, alignment, accountability and stretching throughout an organization. Working through the OKR framework an organization defines its Objectives, and the metrics in which the Objectives will be measured to determine if the Objective is meant. The OKR Framework is transparent and ensures alignment between the different functions of an enterprise.  

The OKR Formula

Starting at the top of the organization, Objectives are the desired goals of the company. It defines the direction in which the organization is headed so that all resources can be focused on their success. The senior executives of an organization need to answer the question: “What is most important for the next 3, 6 or 12 months?  A typical OKR framework has only 3-5 Objectives which are significant, concrete, action oriented and ideally inspirational. 

Key Results are how the Objectives are measured and are used to align resources during the journey to achieve the Objectives. Key Results must be SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-Based). A good way to think of which Key Results to use as to ask the question, “As measured by…” after stating the Objective. For example, the Objective may be for an organization to become a market leader within its industry. A Key Result of the Objective can be measured by hitting 10% sales growth per year for the next 5 years. 

Using OKRs to Derive an Organization’s KPIs

Armed with the knowledge of organization-wide Objectives and Key Results, the process can be cascaded down to departments and divisions who can set their own OKRs to meet or exceed those expectations. The KPI’s throughout the organization should cumulate in achieving the Key Results derived from the OKR Framework. Frequently the key results at the executive level become the Objectives at lower levels. 

Companies within the same industries may have similar or identical KPIs, but only looking externally to find appropriate KPIs for your organization will most often lead to misguided results. For example, what if the comparison organizations do not care about the environment and have a sole focus on bottom-line results? Adopting their KPIs could create unrealistic expectations and lead to burn-out and failure. 

As a rule of thumb, for any tier lower than the C-suite, about ½ of their Objectives should be cascaded down from above and ½ bubbled up from them or below. 

WARNING: Beware of Unintended Consequences and Stay Flexible

KPIs that are only chosen to increase volume or efficiency may increase the risk of adverse decision making in order to meet the metrics.  For example, in the 1970s Lee Iacocc, then the CEO of Ford, set out to challenge low-cost foreign rivals through the development of a new budget-priced subcompact. He set out the following Objectives for Ford’s engineers:

  1. Development of a true sub-compact platform in both size and weight (must be less than 2 thousand pounds)
  2. Have a low cost of ownership (price, fuel consumption, reliability, etc.)
  3. Have clear product superiority (appearance, comfort, features, etc.)

What can be clearly identified as missing above today, is the lack of a quality component such as safety. Because of that, the Ford Pinto went down in history as being known as a firetrap having killed hundreds of people. The flaw, the removal of a one-pound, one-dollar piece of plastic during the design phase that would have prevented the puncturing of the gas tank during a rear-end collision in order to meet the 2-thousand-pound weight limit requirement. To prevent a similar mistake in your organization, look to create matched pairs of both quantity and quality KPIs to provide guide rails throughout the organization. 

The speed of business is increasing, therefore, the importance of KPIs will change along with changes in the organization’s strategy. The OKR framework should be revisited quarterly to throw out KPIs that are no longer relevant, are not working or do not make sense anymore.  Frequently, an organization starts out with too many KPIs and then works that down over a 3-12-month period as they find what works best for them. 

Final Thought

By following the OKR framework an organization can set long-term Objectives that can be measured and tracked through its Key Results while focusing its resource to the areas that will likely ensure the greatest success. KPI’s derived from Key Results will ensure that when deviations from expectations occur, mitigating measures can be enacted.

The OKR Framework is fluid. At least quarterly, and during times of market stress or enhanced opportunity, organizational leaders should revisit the OKRs to ensure they are still relevant and update as necessary. By defining clear goals, every member of the organization can focus on, and work toward, the most important goals. OKRs keep everyone away from distraction and boost collaboration since every team member is well-informed and understands the priorities.

 


The following article was originally published on FPAexperts.com and has been republished with permission. 

The full text is available for registered users. Please register to view the rest of the article.

Author's Articles

September 2, 2019

A question frequently asked by businesses of all sizes is what should my Key-Performance-Indicators (KPIs) be and how many should I have? They often look to other companies in their industry including suppliers and customers to see what they may use to run their business. Frequently, they are fraught with frustration by the lack of data in the public domain.
 

May 1, 2019

Defining exactly what Financial planning and analysis (FP&A) does has always been tough. Most people place FP&A in the Office of the CFO, and that makes sense, for many of us have certainly played the role of CFO a time or two, but as business partners, strategists and advisors, that is also not necessarily a perfect fit and as our roles continue to expand to become the central hub of corporate analytic and reporting this categorization may change.