Are We Strategic Yet?

Early in a CFO's tenure, the things that matter most often get the least attention.

Talk about an expectations gap: When McKinsey & Co. set out to study what happens in the critical first months of a CFO’s tenure, they found that CFOs spend plenty of time on everything except the things that would seem to matter most. While the 164 CFOs surveyed by McKinsey say that the most critical need is to grasp the drivers of the business, provide input into corporate strategy, and build the finance team, few were able to devote much attention to those areas during their first 100 days on the job (see chart). “It points to the very demanding role a new CFO is assuming; there are a lot of competing priorities,” says Bertil Chappuis, a director in Silicon Valley for McKinsey. “It’s frequently a fire drill, so it’s very easy to get tactical very quickly.” McKinsey hopes its research will help CFOs learn how to rapidly “take stock of the quality of the people and processes,” Chappuis says, so they can “spend less time on low-value activities and help finance move the business forward.”

Activities CFOs would like to spend time on, versus what they actually spend time on.

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