Leadership and transformation – an inside look at the Finance Leadership Programme 2023

Our Finance Leadership Programme, delivered in partnership with our friends at Grant Thornton, took place last October. Don’t worry if you weren’t able to go – in this blog we’re going to tell you about the presentation on leadership and transformation.

How it works

The Finance Leadership Programme is a virtual event which gives finance professionals a unique opportunity to learn from and share experiences with their peers, and develop new skills. They also get the chance to spend time on personal and professional development, all in a relaxed and informal environment. It’s made up of two parts:

  • a presentation from Grant Thornton, a professional services firm
  • ‘tales from the top’, stories from local finance leaders.

The presentation: ‘Leadership and transformation’

Carolyn Hicks, Grant Thornton

This year’s presentation from Grant Thornton was run by Carolyn Hicks, Partner, Consulting, and Camilla Williams, Associate Director, Consulting. Carolyn and Camilla started by discussing how transformation can look and feel different depending on the organisation, which were explored through the presentation and included:

  • risk appetite – different organisations have varying capacity for driving and delivering change based on how risk seeking or averse they are (e.g. is keing the lights on more important than investing cash in transformation?)
  • governance and controls – these can dictate how easy or difficult it is to make transformation happen with the right level of senior sponsorship
  • Camilla Williams, Grant Thorntonfunctional vs business partnering – the maturity of an organisation in functional and business partnering can impact the degree of success you see from transformation. Businesses that are more mature in these areas are more likely to join the dots between the business and transformation to drive outcomes
  • competitors – e.g. transforming to keep up with competition and keep the competitive advantage (like digital transformations for consumer-focused businesses)
  • operating environments – if your organisation is regulated or affected by changing legislation, this is likely to drive parts of your transformation agenda.

They then told us about some of the best ways to understand the cost of transformation with business planning cycles, defined benefits and costs, and by tracking success.

After this Carolyn and Camilla discussed how to land successful transformation:

  • consider leadership and delivery capability
  • track and deliver value
  • win hearts and minds
  • gain insights and make decisions.

‘Coalescing around one culture’One of the major points of the presentation was how mergers and acquisitions can succeed or fail on the basis of cultural alignment i.e. making sure the organisation’s values, beliefs and behaviours are in harmony with the goals and objectives of the transformation. Here’s what Carolyn had to say about that:

‘Whether they’ve been consciously designed or not, every organisation has a culture, and a set of sub-cultures. Integrating these cultures as part of a merger or acquisition, and even thinking about culture as part of a separation, is a critical aspect of the process.’

She then gave us three steps to think about when managing cultural integration.

  • Diagnose how you’ll do the work: It’s essential to understand the culture of each company involved. Although at one level these elements are ‘easy’ to change (i.e. they don’t require large tech investment, for example), human behaviour is notoriously difficult to alter. You only need think of the number of new year’s resolutions that we break because of human behaviour and our failure to make these the new norm.
  • Set priorities: Prioritise the key cultural attributes you need to preserve or align for a successful integration. This involves identifying the ‘secret sauce’ that’s intrinsic to your organisation, and prioritising that. There’s no single, perfect culture – it must be bespoke to your organisation.
  • Hard-wire and support change: Actively support and reinforce the cultural changes you want. This includes not only telling colleagues about it, but also showing them – to enable the cultural shift, you need to put in place both carrots and sticks.

Consider people and the human aspect of transformation. To avoid the feeling that change is being done to people, it’s important to get buy-in. Running transformation alongside business-as-usual means you may need to get external support to help you through your transformation project.’

Camilla added:

‘Part of a transformation project is managing cultural shift and people change. It’s important not to think about transformation as just technology or cost cutting. Think about the people impact – look for the sticking points, and think about how to win hearts and minds. Make sure people are on the journey and have a seat at the table. Keep excitement around change to avoid those sticking points.’

The breakout

After the main presentation our attendees split into groups to discuss the points Carolyn and Camilla had made. Some of their comments and ideas included:

  • ‘give people tools to integrate new colleagues’
  • ‘consider different working patterns, particularly in different time zones’
  • ‘make sure your people are well equipped to participate and have a voice’
  • ‘get sponsorship for transformation projects at all levels in the organisation’
  • ‘set goals’
  • ‘get buy-in’.

Tales from the top

Have a look at this article to find out what happened in the second half of the event – ‘tales from the top’, a story from two local finance leaders.

Find out more

If you’d like more information about the Finance Leadership Programme, head to the website.

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Written by

Mark Wishart

Mark is a Senior Manager who manages our Cambridge office. He specialises in permanent finance recruitment for jobs with salaries of between £60,000 and £80,000. Mark started his recruitment career in 2002, and joined Pure because of our reputation for offering an honest and professional recruitment service.

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