Monday, August 17, 2009

Promoting the bean counter

Today's Wall St Journal has a piece entitled "Move over, CEO: The Time is Right for the Chief Financial Officer to be a Co-Leader". Written by Philip Tulimera and Moshe Banai, both professors of management.
Real companies manufacture and sell products. Success of the company depends upon economical and high quality manufacturing, effective advertising and sales, and brilliant engineering that produces new products. The head of a real company ought to have experience in all four key activities.
Chief Financial Officers are staff, who keep the books and borrow money. They may know Excel spreadsheets backward and forward, and may be buddy-buddy with the banker, but they are totally ignorant of the key operations, manufacturing, advertising, sales, and engineering. No way should a bean counter (aka CFO) be in a position to call the shots or veto the decisions of the CEO. He just doesn't know enough about the real operations of the company.
Successful companies are run by CEO's who have a clear vision of the company's business and its customers. They make the key decisions about where company resources are invested. They make the projections of return on investment and weight the risks involved in each move. The bean counter only knows the costs, he has no idea of the potential return from the move, or the risk of the move failing.
GM and Chrysler had internally promoted bean counters as CEO's. Ford had a real executive from Boeing. Look who went bankrupt and who didn't.
Leave corporate management in the hands of the CEO.

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