Chief Finance Officers Group: Values-based Leadership & Cultural Change

Finance Skilling & Professionalisation, Yr 1 Department of Defence, AUS

Defence & Emergency Service

Chief Finance Officers Group: Values-based Leadership & Cultural Change

Finance Skilling & Professionalisation, Yr 1 Department of Defence, AUS

Defence & Emergency Service

Australian GovernmentBackground

The Australian Department of Defence Chief Finance Officers Group is addressing large budget cuts. Part of their strategy is to realise savings without impacting service quality. With this in mind, the Chief Financial Officer built on existing achievements & started championing ‘Finance Skilling & Professionalisation’. The first initiative moved from a distributed to a centralised model to deliver 24 shared services. Synergy Global was selected as the sole provider to create a Values-based Leadership & Cultural Change Program (CCP) to further skill senior finance managers & engage them in role-modeling eight new leadership behaviours.


The primary focus of the program was to further the professional growth & success of the Finance Officers through skills enhancement; increasing awareness of strategic issues also effecting large Private Corporations.

The CFO Group was clear on what needed to happen but was somewhat sceptical about change programs in that various ones had been tried before, & had not been successful. They are certainly now ‘on board’ with this program (2013-15).


The Cultural Change Program (CCP) was designed around the CFO’s 3 Key Messages:
1) To give the CFO Exec Leadership Team (ELT) an opportunity to shine, with leadership clarity & career enhancement;
2) Leverage individual & team contributions – specifically around professional accountability & performance; plus
3) Improve effectiveness/productivity by identifying & practicing better ways for people to ‘Work Smarter not Harder’.

An Executive Steering Team (EST) was established to oversee program delivery for the Executive Leadership Team (ELT). The program’s 3 parts:
black Quarterly Change Leadership Workshops (CLWs) to identify & resolve issues as well as building more team spirit;
black Underpinned by Executive Coaching which is comprised of 1:1 sessions to develop agile leadership skills; &
black Private Firm Visits (PFV) to recognise what’s being done well & exchange ideas on what could be improved.


Foundational Psychometrics: Individual &team values were identified plus unique strengths, exploring how they relate to: Australian Public Service (APS) Values; Team Ground rules & Business Challenges. This value & strengths-based approach led to using the Life Styles Inventory (LSI)® psychometric instrument for more detailed baseline information on the Executive’s leadership styles/behavioural preferences – raising individual/team awareness & readiness for change.

Change Leadership Workshop (CLW1) Outcomes: Quantitative & qualitative measures/metrics of both the current culture (‘As Is’) & the preferred culture to be worked towards (‘To Be’). The Executive Leadership Team’s ‘Cultural Change Wish List’ was categorised into 4 topics: 1) Shared Vision/Purpose 2) Working Together 3) Behavioural/Cultural Change & 4) Growing Capability. Each category was split into 3 questions 1) What cultural aspect at work would you like to change? 2) What’s stopped you changing this to date? & 3) What will have to be different for you to achieve this goal?

CLW2 Outcomes: Executive Steering Team (EST) established a Culture Change Program (CCP) Roadmap of Outcomes mapped to the Kotter Change Model. The Executive Leadership Team (ELT) identified what they would like to include in each change step, then agreed an Action Plan with clear Professional Accountability for delivery. Other outcomes included a list of Elephants in the Room’, & how these would be addressed. An exercise to improve more open/honest communication was also designed including requests for ‘More of … & Less of’… plus specific behaviours from both the ELT & the CFO, before developing a clear set of CCP Behavioural Groundrules – under 3 sub-headings – which have now successfully been used by the CFO in a national roll out of the 2013/14 Finance Domain Business Strategy & Initiatives.

CLW3 Outcomes: Building on momentum, 9 tangible outcomes were achieved: 1) Clear Exec Leadership Team (ELT) expectations of the Exec Steering Team (EST); 2) How to get ‘Biggest Bang for Buck’ (ROI); 3) Strategic Integration & Performance Management; 4) How ELT recognises CCP Success; 5) Questions to CFO & EST from ELT; 6) Fire Fighting vs Igniting Brilliance; 7) Updated Action Plan (with EST Wkly Updates); 8) Key Learnings & 9) Individual Behavioural Pledges.

CLW4 Outcomes: 4-D Systems: How NASA Builds High Performing Teams – Team Development Assessment (TDA1) & Individual Development Assessment (IDA1) results, plus identification of leader’s Innate Preferences; 1) An understanding of WHY the team is working as it is; 2) Tools/Techniques/Mindsets – HOW to change Team Dynamics; 3) Practicing alternative approaches to achieve ‘To Be’ Culture; & 4) Individual/Team Action Plans to address the 8 behaviours at work.

CLW5 (Feb 2014): Cascading CCP to next level down – another 60 people (EL2s)…engaging the ‘Top 75’ Key Leaders.

Executive Coaching Program (ECP) Outcomes: Executive Coaching Agreements (ECAs) are an integral part of this.

They include goals under the Australian Public Service (APS) Integrated Leadership System (ILS) & behaviours in the Senior Executive Leadership Capability Framework (SELCF): Strategic Thinking; Achieving Results; Working Relationships; Personal Drive; Integrity & Influence – they will also yield quantitative & qualitative results which are tracked bi-monthly.

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