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Adopting Performance Management by Cynthia Bassett Hartwig, CPA

In previous posts, we have gone through several ways to measure performance, how to select key performance indicators, and how to create a dashboard. Today, we are going to address implementing this in the company that you work for.

Most CFOs report to the CEO, so in this post I'm assuming that you are the CFO and you are reporting to the CEO. Feel free to switch out the titles of the roles to better match the reporting hierarchy of your specific organization.

It's important that the CEO understands that the reason you are implementing this process is to support him or her. Therefore, one of the first steps to implementing this process would be to sit down in their office and get their feedback. What are they working on right now? What are the challenges? How can you be of assistance in that process? What information would be the most helpful? How often would they like that information? When you understand what their priorities are more thoroughly, you can then design the reports to address those.

The CEO may actually already be tracking this information, but perhaps they would like more detailed and timely reports. Or, perhaps they have a specific project that they are working on that would be enhanced by better information.

Ask the CEO if you can schedule either monthly or quarterly meetings to go over their plans, objectives and challenges, and to discuss what information you can provide to assist - and how to improve or adjust the information you have been providing so far.

During these meetings, you may go over many topics. Try to steer the conversation towards what information could be the most useful in addressing the issues that come up. You can also bring up any limitations you have due to the software you are using or the number of personnel on your team. Try to get an idea of what experience the CEO has and any additional information you might need to provide to help them utilize the information most effectively. CEOs can have all sorts of backgrounds and experience, and may be experts in a variety of different topics that got them where they are today, but that doesn't mean they are a financial expert. It is your job to be the financial expert that they can depend on. Get to know your CEOs strengths and weaknesses so that you help them do their job most effectively.

Board meetings are another effective way of finding out what information would be most helpful to the company. Get to know each of the board members if you can, their backgrounds, their strengths and weaknesses, and what information each of them would find most helpful. And, be prepared! The information that they request may be difficult for you to aggregate. However, with ongoing communication and feedback, you will be able to provide this information and also communicate the limitations of the tools that you have available to you.

Be sure that after you have met to discuss the information that they would like to see - deliver! Make sure that you haven't just asked them, but that you follow through with what you started, and that you deliver it in a understandable format. Make it clear, make it concise, make it easy to read. The more quickly they can interpret the data the better. Graphs and charts are the best way to show large amounts of data quickly - they can always ask for more detailed information after you have shown them the summarized information. As you make your graphs and presentation, before presenting them, ask yourself "If I were seeing this for the first time, what questions would I have?", and try to predict what might happen in the meeting.

Also understand that with all of the information you provide, the CEO and the Board of Directors may look at all of the information you have provided and make completely different decisions than what you would advise - they may be relying on intuition or past experiences. Be open to how they are interpreting the information, and provide additional relevant information if appropriate.

Implementing these performance measures will be an ongoing process, and adjusting to changing needs will be the only constant.

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