Who really runs an organisation?

We quite often see that people at the head of organisation talk about having to run these large ecosystems of physical resources, financial resource and people (I will never refer to people as a resource, they are people, full stop). Let’s pause for a moment, though. Do the heads of organisations really run the business? Do they really run it?

I contend (and so does my father, after having this very conversation decades ago with a sycophantical underling who tried to defend an absent CEO by suggesting that it was hard work to run the organisation) that it is the people, not the head/s of the organisation/business who run it. The people run the organisation and the managers make decisions which affect those people. The entire body politic of the business is responsible for the effective running of the enterprise but it is not the Executive (CEO, CFO, COO, CIO, CTO, etc, etc, etc) who do the running. They affect the running. The people will always perform based on the decisions of the Executive but the Executive never runs the business.

I think the sooner this is known, understood and accepted by those in power, the better.

We see plenty of examples of this in good businesses. Richard Branson suggests that Clients do not come first. Employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of the clients. In other words, if you let the people run the organisation the organisation will prosper.

Which leads me to the point of this blog. With so much importance placed on fiscal judiciousness these days, the constant needs to attain KPIs and financial goals, the direction of organisations seems to be constantly focused on saving money, quite often at the expense of the people in the organisation.

So I began to ask the question, is it CFOs who are the real CEOs in organisations? A CFO lacking in an understanding of people and the entrepreneurial concept of business will only ever focus on the saving and not making of money or increasing the value proposition of the business.

Should CFOs make decisions regarding other executive areas once a budget has been determined? If this is the case then what is the point of financial delegation to these executive positions. Where is the freedom to drive their arm of the organisation? Where is the ability for these officers to make creative decisions, to take calculated risks?

An old boss of mine once advised a financial controller that they were paid to give advice and not make decisions. If more CFOs and those in organisations that managed a business’s finances provided sound financial advice and allowed the various arms of an organisation to operate within their own budgets to create things. to take risks, maybe these businesses would flourish with an entrepreneurial spirit and not simply ‘balance the books’. If each area of a business (both hierarchically speaking and technically speaking) could focus on their own strengths rather than wading into areas where their decisions could be to the detriment of the organisation, then that’s business reason for existence and most importantly, its people would benefit individually, but most importantly as a whole. A holistic approach where everyone, runs the business.


Shane Mallory

Shane is a performer, emcee, host, communicator, creative, mentor and innovative theatre director. He lives in Ipswich, Queensland with his wife Natalie, who are almost 'empty nesters' providing a home for their two daughters' dog and two cats.

1 Comment

Story Power - Shane Mallory · October 29, 2018 at 12:14 pm

[…] The art of storytelling still exists in society, however, the compelling and persuasive nature of our stories have in many instances lost their strength. Their raison d’etre. It is the financially powerful amongst us who tell stories about why they deserve their position in society, primarily for their own justification. Similarly so, the powerless in society tell stories too that only vindicate their position in society. This creates a divergence of influence and a broadening gap between those at the top of the tree and those the provide the tree with its foundation (a point quite often lost on those at the top). […]

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