Optimising financial processes

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Resilience & Purpose

It has been a fascinating few days. 

I have been listening to, and sharing experiences with, leaders in specific financial process operations (P2P & Accounts Payable – O2C, Credit & Collections) as well as those leading the global common services units, variously named as Global Business Services, Business Solutions, Shared Services et al . .

It got me thinking . . . 

There is a big discussion right now about the need for businesses to be resilient. The past 2 and half years have demonstrated that resilience is key. 

But what is resilience?

I read that it is the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties. Maybe, more specifically it is a combination of stability (the ability to keep going amid the storm) and agility (the ability to change direction deftly in the face of changing conditions).

But resilience does not succeed in isolation. It needs purpose.

We had a purpose in March 2020. Some called it a “burning platform”.

As we grow up in the land of opportunity that is youth, there are many struggles, but we aspire to doing something significant in the world, fulfilling a purpose. Becoming a designer, a surgeon, an architect, a musician, an eco-saviour, a tech innovator, someone who will change things. 

The reality for most of us is that we end up working in fields that we never explicitly chose and that may not reflect those early lofty goals.

The real world is 99% perspiration and 1% inspiration.

Global Business Services and the world of streamlined transactional activity is NOT a world of unbridled fun and excitement.

So, I was absorbed by discussions on “purpose”, where the GBS leadership at a number of global brands shared how they try to connect themselves and their teams to the raison d’etre of the work of their organization.

I spent last Wednesday morning with one of our customers who is a non-profit, funded entirely by donations, whose purpose is to protect the most disadvantaged children in the world’s toughest places.

We discussed the challenges of motivating peak performance in the “back office” of any business. It struck me then, as now, that we sometimes need reminding of the impact of what we do. I observed that they had a special power, a resource that few had. The ability to connect to their direct impact to society. Their purpose.

Sure, it is easier to build passion around saving people in crisis or providing life-saving therapies than the manufacture of automobile tires, for example.

But it is more nuanced than that. The leaders in this field are working hard at it, as I saw this week.

I appreciate  that in many businesses it is hard to see the higher purpose. And, in those situations, perhaps leaders need to work harder to find or create that purpose.

“Life is too short not to make a difference”.

I was mesmerised by a talk by Liz & Eilish McColgan, mother and daughter Olympic long distance running champions. They discussed, with undisguised emotion and appreciation for each other, about the long road to performance and achievement, the necessary grit and determination, the role of coaching and mentoring, surviving success and failure, navigating the highs and lows.

It was a humbling experience.

There are no quick wins or easy hacks, “success is about making a hundred small steps go right– one after the other, no slip-ups, no goofs, everyone pitching in”

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal, it is the courage to continue that counts . .”

I apologise if I am a little bit philosophical today.

Thanks for reading.