CFOs today face two realities: a high turnover rate and the call to play a more strategic role in the business. So it’s necessary for CFOs to make their strategic mark on the business in a relatively short period of time. The question is: How? It’s one thing to tell CFOs they need to be strategic and another thing for CFOs to execute on that mandate – particularly if the workplace culture is not conducive to this style of working.
According to a Deloitte CFO Insights article on CFO Innovation, “Making these [strategic] decisions effectively, however, isn’t particularly suited for today’s frequently overstructured meeting formats. Instead, as outlined in Moments of Impact: How to Design Strategic Conversations that Accelerate Change co-authored by Deloitte Consulting LLP’s Chris Ertel, the process calls for a more thoughtful approach, with the right input, players, and environment.”
Strategic conversations differ from traditional meetings in the sense that multiple people contribute their expertise and perspectives. These types of conversations are key to solving adaptive challenges that “involve situations where the question is complicated or open-ended, and multiple perspectives are needed to gain real insight,” reports Deloitte.
The fact that so many workers are either remote, on the road or located in another office, perhaps half way around the world adds another layer of complexity to strategic conversations. Getting everyone together in person can be cost-prohibitive. Video conferencing as it has traditionally been implemented helps – but only up to a certain point.
“To date, the group video conferencing experience—that is, people sitting at a table and looking in one direction at a screen displaying one or more people at a far site—has had its issues. One being that individuals in the back of a far site group can disappear off in the distance. It doesn’t have an effect on board meetings and presentations, but it’s not conducive to the free-flow of ideas that you’re looking for in a collaborative gathering,” writes Ryan Murphy for Pragmatic.
According to Deloitte, “when faced with an adaptive challenge, you should get creative and engage people in ways that are more likely to generate breakthrough insights than your standard meeting … strategic conversations should be held in an environment that fosters creative collaboration – and an experience should be created for the participants that is both powerful and shared.”
For this, CFOs and their teams need to think beyond the traditional video conferencing solution to one that brings people together in a naturally intimate manner. “True collaboration happens when there are no barriers to human interaction and presence. When people gather in a circle, are supported in comfortable seating and have a clear line of sight and sound to every person on the team – whether sitting next to you or on screens,” Murphy writes.
This is why CFOs must consider innovative collaboration solutions like Polycom’s RealPresence Centro, a video conferencing solution that allows teams to sit in a circle and converse as if they are sitting around a campfire. Everyone can see each other because the RealPresence Centro has four monitors, one on each side, to display far-end participants. The monitors are also low enough that everyone can see across them.
The result is a level playing field for people in the room and across the room, where participants feel comfortable having the candid conversations that are necessary to solve adaptive challenges. “RealPresence Centro changes the way we meet and collaborate so that the technology is no longer a distraction to engagement and interaction, but a seamless, empowering experience that defies distance,” Murphy writes.
With RealPresence Centro, participants are more likely to be engaged and participate in the conversation because everyone is on equal footing. No one gets lost in the back of the room, for example. If one person is dominating the conversation, and it’s obvious that someone else has something to say, the call leader can interrupt the speaker and give the “floor” to the other employee. These types of non-verbal cues are easier to notice with Centro because everyone can see each other. Content can also be pushed to Centro for everyone to see, thereby facilitating efficiency and engagement.
Of course, who you invite to these strategic conversations is also important. Deloitte advises CFOs to “take a step back and consider who could really make a difference in understanding this challenge and in making progress against it. That may include customers and subject-matter specialists. Then invite only those folks—or figure out how their perspectives can be represented.”
The wide deployment of simple-to-use video collaboration solutions means face-to-face interaction can happen quickly, easily and ad hoc, regardless of where employees are located.
Facilitating strategic conversations may necessitate changing how meetings are typically conducted in your organization. But the need to be strategic and collaborate across departmental lines inherently touches every part of the business, allowing CFOs to quickly make their mark, while helping their companies as a whole move forward.