Deloitte's Ajit Kambil: Changing culture is key to being a successful CFO - #findaba16

“The culture of an organisation, our mindset and how we do things can constrain the growth of a company,” said Deloitte’s Global Research Director Dr Ajit Kambil during a talk titled Leading with Insight: Are you a strategic CFO? at Finance Indaba Africa 2016 on 13 October 2016 at the Sandton Convention Centre.

By Tiisetso Tlelima

Ajit told a room chock full of finance professionals that the success of a business has a lot to do with how the company operates and how it is able to control change. He advised attendees to identify the dominant business constraints and work tirelessly to fix them. Every CFO should develop a key list of changes that need to be effected every six months and make sure that they are prepared to implement these changes. CFOs may have to transform the business to get better results.

"Very few CFOs get the opportunity to be transformative," explained Ajit. "You may need to repurpose the business to get the most out of it. From a product performance point of view for instance, there may be a need for a restructuring of the product to do well."

CFOs often have to deal with change and driving performance through culture change. They have to be strategic in how they drive and influence change in an organisation through behavioural change. Ajit advised CFOs to take an existing belief system and maximise on it.

"Ask yourself this question: what are the outcomes of the company and what is the belief system that drives this outcome," said Ajit adding that CFOs are key in driving the narrative around culture change in an organisation. He made an example that if for instance a department thinks that it is special, the role of a CFO is to find out what it is employees think is special about their unit and how this fits into the broader culture of the organisation.

"Every unit is asking themselves where they fit in, in the solution for clients. Every company is confronted with this question. Be more strategic and focus on broadening skills and mindsets."

CFOs also have to identify areas that can really change a business. Oftentimes, what undermines the success of a business is that there isn't enough capacity built to effect change. That means CFOs may not have the right sponsors or people behind them to effect change. Sometimes there's isn't infrastructure put in place to deal with change, for example a new IT system.

It is imperative that CFOs get consent from their managers about their strategies so they are able to effect change, adds Ajit.

CFOs must be innovative in the way that they engage with their strategy and frame projects that could be the greens for profitability. Doing a project in stages helps to make it more viable.

"Define who you are and how you're going to be," says Ajit. "There SWAT analysis will only come after. Don't risk putting barriers before you have even defined yourself."

Key questions that CFOs have to ask themselves before developing any strategy and effecting change include finding your inspiration and how you're going to make profit; what are your capabilities; how you will influence your organisation to come up with the best solutionyou're your customers and what makes you different from other companies.

"You have to make deliberate choices otherwise you will sink," concludes Ajit.