Since taking over the reins as CEO of Deloitte Australia, Cindy Hook has led an organisation which is growing a couple of percentage points ahead of its major rivals which is testament to both strategy and execution.
She believes that there are five keys to achieving and sustaining that sort of momentum that should resonate both for captains of industry, and leaders of the finance function.
Speaking at a recent FEI event in Sydney, Hook said that success demands organisations are purpose led, customer focused, globally minded and develop both a bold strategy and inspiring culture.
Organisations need to put purpose beyond profit. Standard & Poor’s 500 companies which are purpose led outperformed rivals ten-fold said Hook. However she stressed that success demanded that every individual in the company understood the enterprise purpose and felt empowered to work towards it.
That she said applied equally to finance teams. "Sometimes finance teams think 'I am back office’ - but this has got to be translated to every person in the organisation," including finance, said Hook.
True leaders need to balance between the need to deliver results today while investing to transform the business to make sure it's future-ready said Hook as "business as usual" strategies are unlikely to succeed long term. At Deloitte this had required the organisation to codify, standardise and automate what it could, and then to create new value streams not tied to existing business operations.
She recommended that chief strategy officers and chief financial officers work more closely together, creating a framework that measured enterprise success in delivering against strategy.
Organisations must be client centric, flexible with service delivery and pricing, and break down traditional silos where required to better meet the needs of the customer. Hook said that finance needed to work with the business to identify changing trends and client needs and then "Help put in the incentives to make sure business teams are doing the right thing across the business."
Taking a global focus expands the range of business opportunity and also opens access to an international talent pool. For finance professionals, the ability to tap a global market of experience and capability was important, she said, especially for organisations seeking diverse workforces and insights regarding emerging markets such as China and South East Asia.
Hook, who spends 20 per cent of her time outside Australia, said; “The best economies are those that are outwardly focussed - and enterprise, mini-multinationals and medium sized business are all increasingly looking at opportunities outside Australia.”
“Great strategy without a culture that is right will never get executed - but the best culture without direction will get nowhere,” warned Hook, stressing the need for a symbiotic relationship between strategy and culture.
Key to that are three elements; innovation, inclusion and well-being.
Hook said that innovation needed to be baked into culture with an expectation that every person felt the responsibility to remake themselves, change and innovate – and that applied equally in finance as any other business unit. Inclusion meanwhile, was about more than diversity, and instead reflected a genuine willingness to hear everyone’s voice.
Finally, she said that wellbeing was critical in ensuring maximum impact. “When your employees are well they perform better and if everyone performs better there are better outcome for the business.”
Hook stressed that finance teams played a pivotal role in setting the right ‘tone’ for the organisation which had a strong cultural impact across the enterprise.