CFOs aren’t involved in strategic planning as much as they would like to be

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The vast majority of CFOs feel that they should play a bigger role in their company’s strategic planning process, according to a recent GrowCFO community survey.

Only 17 per cent of the finance chiefs surveyed said they are “driving” strategic planning at their organisations, while another 38 per cent said they are “very involved.” The rest (45 per cent) said they have either “some involvement” or are “hardly involved or not at all involved”.

Why aren’t CFOs more involved in strategic planning?

There are a few possible explanations.

First, it could be that other members of the C-suite, like the CEO and COO, are more involved in the strategic planning process and see it as their domain. The CFO, while being a finance expert, may not have the same deep industry experience as the other members of the C-suite.

Second, CFOs may not feel they have the necessary skills to contribute to strategic planning. After all, strategic planning is all about looking into the future and making decisions based on what you think is going to happen. That can be a difficult task for anyone, let alone someone who is used to dealing with numbers and financial data.

Finally, CFOs may simply not be allowed to get involved in strategic planning. If the CEO and other members of the C-suite are making all the decisions about strategy, then there may not be much room for CFOs to have a say.

Whatever the reason may be, it’s clear that most CFOs would like to be more involved in strategic planning. And there are a few things they can do to make that happen.

How to become more involved in strategic planning

First, CFOs need to ensure they have a seat at the table. If you’re not being invited to strategic planning meetings, then you need to speak up and ask why.

Second, CFOs need to brush up on their skills. If you don’t feel confident about your ability to contribute to strategic planning, then take some time to learn more about it. There are plenty of resources in GrowCFO that can help you get up to speed.

Finally, CFOs need to be willing to put in the work. Strategic planning is not something that happens overnight. It’s a long-term process that requires input from all members of the C-suite. So, if you’re serious about playing a bigger role in strategic planning, be prepared to put in the time and effort required to make it happen. 

You are ideally placed to provide a unique insight into the strategic choices faced by the business. The insights you bring to the table will, over time, build your reputation. That enhanced reputation will give you the level of involvement you desire. 

The four levels of involvement

There are four levels of involvement that you can have in strategy. You need to understand which level you are currently operating on and aim to move to the next level.

Level 1: Informing strategy

Most CFOs and their finance teams will provide analysis that supports strategy. Your financial skills will be needed to provide data and build financial models that support the strategy. 

Level 2: Challenging strategy

Beyond supplying analysis, you should have a key role in challenging strategy. Your finance skills make you best placed to review the risk attached to various strategic alternatives and take a view on which alternatives provide the best value for money.

You will need a good understanding of both customer and product profitability and should form views on which customers and products should be pursued versus which should be dropped. You can act as a key advisor to the rest of the leadership team by providing your unique financial viewpoint.

Level 3: Architect of strategy

You aren’t simply the finance expert; you are a business leader who happens to have a finance background. You are well placed to be a key member of the team that designs the strategy with at least an equal seat at the table. Your role as co-pilot to the CEO should mean you are actively involved in deciding the future direction of the business.

You have an important leadership role in communicating the strategy and making sure it is understood by everyone. This means you must make sure the strategy is clear and properly documented in sufficient detail. Beyond this, you need to lead the process that converts the strategic plan into budgets and targets and hold the organisation to account.

Level 4: Business transformation champion

In many organisations, there is a big gap between the design of the strategy and its execution. You should aim to play a key role in its implementation. You are a catalyst of change. This means taking the strategic plan and communicating it both internally and externally, achieving buy-in, and driving the initiatives that will produce results.

Develop your strategy skills

We hope you find this article helpful in assessing your role in your company’s strategic planning. If you would like additional support, we recommend GrowCFO’s Strategy Programme.

The GrowCFO Strategy Programme

The GrowCFO Strategy Programme offers all the resources that most CFOs would need to take a leading role in strategy:

  • Market-leading strategy software to document and communicate your strategy.
  • Templates to help you build strategies for growth, internationalization and majority shareholder exit planning.
  • Online training covering the design, build and implementation of a comprehensive strategic plan.
  • Practical workshops that lead you through a six-step strategic planning methodology.
Free Strategy Workshops

We are also offering two free strategy workshops for finance leaders on May 16 and May 19 2022 from 2:00 – 3:00 pm BST. Hosted by GrowCFO strategy mentor, Kevin Appleby, and Lucidity Co-Founder, Tom Ricca-McCarthy, we’ll cover exactly what you need to do to meet your potential as a strategic leader, and outline best practices for leading strategy formation and managing execution. View more details and RSVP here.

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