We've all met him. You know him. He might be a friend. He's not alone. He might even be you.
He's the guy (sometimes gal, but she's more rare) who walks around and talks about how many people need to get canned if the enterprise is ever going to really start moving. Accountability is his creed (or at least your accountability is).
Through a Glass Darkly
He thinks his intentions are pure. He thinks that the slackers are winning. He thinks that they just don't get it and they never will. He thinks they're holding us all back and that if someone smart enough had the authority to can them all today that it would be the best thing for not only the company, but also for the people who remain. After all, he thinks, we all know who "the incompetent and overpaid slackers are." Who would have a problem letting them go? If they did, they should probably be gone too.
It sounds so seductive, this idea of the CFO. No silly rabbit! Not the Chief Financial Officer. It's the mythical role that every frustrated corporate Sisyphus longs to see or inhabit -- the Chief Firing Officer!
Most of the people who fantasize about this role fall into the gifted but frustrated category (i.e., Sisyphus). What is strange to me is that these intellectually gifted individuals have spent very little, if any, thought on either what sort of world would be required for the CFO to exist or what sorts of consequences are likely to follow if such a role existed in their enterprise.
C'mon along with me fellow traveller, as long as we are on this particular version of fantasy island, let's take a look around and see the sights.
Be Careful What You Wish For
First, what world would we have to live in for the role of the CFO to exist? In order for the CFO to have the power to fire people at will one or more of the following items must be true for your enterprise:
- Due process in personnel reductions must die as a concept -- Yep, that’s right! In order for the CFO to be effective in “living the dream" as it is envisioned, the decisions of the CFO must be final and not subject to either due process or investigation. Fire after approval from a governing body does not equal fire at will.
- All consensus based decisions must be viewed with scorn -- If an enterprise is going to make rapid decisions without checks and balances when actual individuals will pay the price, the enterprise cannot suffer consensus processes and mindsets for decisions where human beings are not impacted. One person's subjective view (the CFO’s) of another person's (not the CFO’s) value must be the viewed as beyond question and it's tough to defend that firing decisions should have less process and debate than non firing decisions.