Blog of Strategic,General and Financial Management (English/Spanish)

Strategycorner is now expanding its content to include posts about General Management, Financial Management, Finance Transformation, Marketing and HR Management. Posts will be published in English or Spanish.

At the end of the blog there are different charts about Strategic Management in Spanish. In the archive area you could find a lot of posts about strategy and its execution in English/Spanish.

Jesús Peral
Executive MBA IE Business School, Madrid,Spain

Master in Strategic Management
IDE-CESEM Business School, Madrid, Spain

Find at the end of blog all charts related to Strategic Management topics commented in the posts

Mapa Estratégico Genérico/Strategy Map

Mapa Estratégico Genérico/Strategy Map
Mapa Estratégico Completo

Modelo de Dirección Estratégica/Strategic Management Model

Modelo de Dirección Estratégica/Strategic Management Model
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jueves, 21 de julio de 2016


One of the main activities within the finance function is the controlling area. In the current scenario of uncertainty it is even more important to focus on the effective control.

In this post I would like to share some practical elements I have applied in my finance managerial roles so far.

First of all, what do we need to control? Basically, we are seeking to control two things, inputs and outputs and the relationship between them, in other words, the productivity or performance.

Let´s remember the well -known Murphy´s two laws:  if anything can go wrong it will, and of the things that can´t go wrong some will.

The aim of good control is to protect your plans from the operation of these laws as far as possible, to detect trouble spots before they appear, to prevent those accidents which are just waiting to happen. As we know, prevention is better than cure.

Control is relative. It does not deal with absolutes, only with the difference between good and not so good performance. The basis of control is measurement. It depends on accurate information about what is being achieved. This is then compared with what should have been achieved and with what has been achieved in the past. But that is only the starting point. Good control also identifies responsibility and points the way to action.

In my experience if you want to exercise good control you need to:

·         Plan what you aim to achieve

·         Measure regularly what has been achieved

·         Compare actual achievements with the plan

·         Take action to exploit opportunities revealed by this information or to correct deviations from the plan

On the other hand control is not only a matter of putting things right. It also has a positive side, for example, getting more or better things done on the basis of the information received.

A good control system is not easy to set up. Let me comment two essentials as follows:

·         To set appropriate and fair targets, standards and budgets. In my experience this may be difficult where the scope for quantification is limited or if the circumstances make forecasts unreliable.

·         To decide what information is crucial for control purposes and design reports which clearly convey that information to the rest of departments and can use it to point the way to action. This also produces problems. Too many control systems generate a surfeit of indigestible data which go to the wrong people and are not acted upon. We can have too little information but there is also such a thing as information overkill. There is a tendency for some people to report good results and cover up poor results. In any case, the figures may not tell the whole story. Is this familiar for you? For sure !!

There are in my opinion some steps to be followed if you want to achieve good control. Every organization or manager may have their own but for me are critical:

·         Decide what you want to control

·         Decide how you are going to measure and review performance

·         Use ratio analysis or other analysis you consider appropriate to make comparisons and to identify variations and problems

·         Set up a control system

·         Manage by exception.

For me the control system is one of the most critical. So, the question is, what do we need from a control system? The basic requirement is reports that clearly identify areas of good and bad performance so that appropriate action can be taken. At higher levels exception reporting can be adopted so that significant deviations can be highlighted. Overall summaries of performance against the plan and trends will also be necessary at this level, but these could disguise significant underlying deviations which would be pointed out in an exception report.

So what should the reports contain?

·         Measurements which are accurate, valid and reliable. Permit a direct and easy comparison between planned and actual performance

·         Analyze trends, comparing one period´s performance with that of the previous period or of the same period the previous year and where appropriate, summarizing the year to date position. We are familiar with this as it is very common in the multinational environment.

·         Be given to the person who is responsible for the activity concerned

·         Arrive promptly, in time to allow the necessary action to be taken

·         Provide succinct explanations of any deviations from plan.

 What about the measurements?

Measurement is a good thing but all figures need to be treated with caution. They may conceal more that they reveal.

See below the most common weaknesses you need to look for:

·         Non-representative reporting, for example, data selected which don’t cover the key issues, disguise unfavourable results or over emphasize favourable performance

·         Not comparing like with like, the typical apples and pears syndrome. For example, a trend or projection which does not take account of changing or new factors which have altered or will alter the situation since the base data were collected.

·         Misleading averages, averages do not always tell the whole story. They may conceal extremes in performance which are significant

·         Unintentional errors, for example, simple mistakes in calculation, presentation or even observation.

·         Measurements out of context, as almost any single measure is influenced by other measures. Figures in isolation may not mean very much. You have to know about relationships and the underlying influence.

Finally I would like to comment on the management by exception. Management by exception frees you to concentrate on the things that matter.

Deciding what constitutes an exception is a useful exercise in itself. It means selecting the key events and measures which will show up good, bad or indifferent results and indicate whether or not performance is going according to plan. The chosen indicators or ratios can be studied so that the significance of the changes or trends is readily understood. More important, the possible causes of deviations can be analyzed and kept in mind.

Most of us have come across your boss or senior management members who seem to have the almost magic facility for studying a mass of figures and immediately spotting the one really important deviation or the item that does not ring true. It sometimes seems to be pure instinct but of course, in the vast majority of occasions, it is not. This is based in practice of the management by exception discipline. Your experience and analytical skills will help you to find out what actually constitutes the normal performance to know key indicators and look for them.

I recommend you to develop this skill as the effort of acquiring it is well worthwhile.

As a summary of all the above mentioned just to comment that in controlling the input and output and hence productivity, an overview is essential. It is not good concentrating on inputs, mainly expressed as costs unless you look at the benefits arising from these expenditures and the effectiveness with which the costs have been incurred. Cost benefit and cost effectiveness studies are an essential part of the control process as well.

lunes, 4 de julio de 2016

Managing your boss

I write this post with a profound respect for all the bosses I have had in my career so far. Some of them were very good, good, bad and even very bad. But from all of them I have learnt a lot of things that have contributed to my management style.

This post is about sharing my experience to manage your boss. If you want to achieve results, innovate and get on you have to learn how to manage your boss. If you really believe something needs to be done and you cannot do it without the consent of your boss you have to work out how you are going to manage him.

So what do you need to know?  For example:

·         Get agreement from him on what you want to do

·         Deal with him over problems

·         Impress him so that he is more likely to accept your proposals and to place his trust in you.

The above is not exact science but will help you in the vast majority of situations.

Getting agreement from your boss is in many ways like getting agreement from anyone else. You need to be good at case presentation and at, let´s say, persuasion. To put some examples of the things you would need to do (everyone could have a personal list based on his/her own experience, of course):

·         Find out what he expects

·         Establish how he likes things presented to him. For example, does he like long written reports? Or does he prefer a succinct proposal on one side of one sheet of paper?

·         Get to know how he likes things done. How? By observation and by asking other people. If something goes wrong, choose the right moment and ask him/her advice on how to do it better next time (just a comment, most people love being asked of their advice!!)

·         Find out the right time to approach him. For example, some people are at their best first thing. Others take time to warm up!! Check of his mood in advance, very important indeed. His/her assistant can help.

·         Decide whether you want support. For example, you may be able to make a better case on a one for one basis.

·         Don’t go in for open confrontation if you cannot get your own way at first. For example, get your boss to agree with what he is prepared to agree and then turn to the problem areas. Emphasize joint responsibility.

·         Leave him an escape route, in other words, a way open to consent without his having to climb down. Don’t beat him into the ground, you know why? You might win this one but what about the next time?

·         Don’t overwhelm him with your ideas. For example, don’t expect to achieve everything at once. Tackle one important thing at a time.

·         If your boss comes up with a better idea than yours, recognize and accept it. Everybody likes recognition!!

·         If you cannot convince him first time remember that he/she is the boss. He/she makes the ultimate decisions.

On the second thing, how we could deal with problems? For example, things are going wrong or you have made a mistake. You need the help of your boss in sorting out a problem. What approach should you adopt? Some ideas:

·         Keep him informed. Never let him be taken by surprise. For example, prepare him in advance for the bad news. Give him hope!!

·         If something has gone wrong explain what has happened, why it has happened (but, very important, with no excuses) and would you like to do about it. Emphasize you are seeking his views on what you propose as well as his agreement.

·         If you think he is to blame, “never say” I told you so. If you do, you will probably make an enemy for life!!

·         If you admit responsibility try to stop your boss keeping on at you. For example, steer him away from recriminations into a positive attitude on what you can together do to solve the problem.

Your purpose is not solely to impress your boss. But you will get more done and get on better if you impress him. Your boss needs to trust you, to rely upon you and to believe in your capacity to come up with good ideas and to make things happen. So what to do to succeed in impressing your boss? Do something as follows:

·         Always be frank and open. Admit mistakes. Never lie or even shade the truth.

·         Aim to help your boss to be right. Recognize that you exist to give him support.

·         Don’t trouble him unnecessarily with your problems.

·         Provide him with protection when required!! Loyalty can be an old fashioned virtue, but you owe it to your boss. Because if you cannot be loyal to him you should be out from under as quick as you can.

Conclusion could be to come up with solutions not problems. Your boss, normally, wants answers not questions and think in something very important, why make an enemy of your boss when you could have him as friend? Sometimes is really difficult depending on the situations, own personalities, working environment, corporate culture etc but remember, for me, success is the happiness of your boss!!!

Good luck !!!!