If I Could Do It All Again... (12: Kathleen Bishop)

SSON News and Analysis
Posted: 07/09/2012

If I could do it all again... I would not let go – perhaps ever - of the governance and oversight from the executive suite. I would still be hosting meetings (quarterly??) with the top leaders, and my boss, also a corporate officer at the time, to discuss how the SS is doing, excerpts of performance measures, challenges, opportunities and successes. This would keep the executives informed, using data and fact-based metrics. Further, my experience is that they hear things, often based only on emotion or things that are not fully baked or even true. They may hear items from their respected inner-circles - and, lo and behold, they are "true" – when in fact they are not.

We started with monthly review meetings with the COO, CFO, CIO and CPO; occasionally, depending on agenda topics, one or more of the Business Unit Presidents were also present. It was great! We got decisions made quickly and they typically (although not always), went back and told their respective teams what direction we were headed in. They supported the cause, situation, actions and results. It worked. But after a while, and when people felt we were marching on our own, slowly, we were not a hot ticket anymore, and the meetings stopped. Instead, the top management told us to meet with their teams/direct reports. We held meetings: people would accept, but usually only the business unit finance person would show up - not the operations person, or other leaders we needed to present to. And eventually even that stopped. Next, we just sent out our key performance indicators and metrics and SLA’s electronically. "Let me know if you want more detail". Guess what? We never heard anything from anyone; who knows if they even read it? Disaster. We lost our ability to get attention on things we needed to get done, we lost our avenue to share successes and all the good things we were doing. And when we hit a bump in the road, we had no way of communicating our plans to navigate around it. If they heard about that bump from another source, it was a ditch or a mountain we fell off, not just a bump. Don’t let your review process be your annual budget review with the CEO. Request an Operations Review with the top brass if you have to. Back to basics…….No pain, no gain. 

Looking back, it felt good not to have people examining your every move. But the trade-off hurt too much, because I now realize the SS team could not introduce major cultural change or real hearty business transformation into the mix without the commitment and buy-in from the top. We need to continue to ask for their guidance, to assure them they are not losing control, to let them know we will work with their people, and most importantly that we continue to add value to the top line, bottom line, or both. I fully know that running a shared service is running a business! And with that comes many obligations. Deliver the results, get noticed, get respected, and get it at the right level, just like operating business unit leaders do! Don’t feel like you are a back-office corporate function that can exist silently off to the side. No way. Get in front, get the seat at the table, take the sugar or the lumps, just like everyone else. Communicate, communicate, communicate, often, early, sideways, down and up!!! Don’t forget the up, as time-consuming or hard as it is. The execs are your customers too, you know. And they are also your regulator, your mentor, and your friend. So, when their people say something to them about the allocation methodology, how something did not work, or won’t work, or how things were better when they were doing it themselves, our respected leaders have the facts – they are informed and are therefore best prepared to support the decision that after all, they helped make – to go into SS to begin with. They can explain why as a corporation, we will stay the course!

(If there's something you'd do differently if you could do it all again, why not let us know?   Email the editor  with your thoughts - anonymity will be respected upon request!)

SSON News and Analysis
Posted: 07/09/2012


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