June 8, 2017
10 Rules for CFOs, From the Fog of War
by Craig Lack
CFOs have limited awareness of the unnecessary risks and poor strategies deployed by the people they think are managing their healthcare spending.
The fog of war can be an excellent metaphor for the CFO in today’s rapidly changing business environment. Nowhere is change more frantic than trying to manage multiple financial battlefronts: profit margins, SG&A, FP&A, EBITDA and free cash flow. One of the largest battles in business today is the war between organizations and the healthcare supply chain that their employees and team members access for medical treatment.
Investing millions of dollars in accessing the healthcare supply chain without actually knowing in advance the cost of almost all the services might as well be war, because it darn sure kills the income statements of companies and the standard of living for employees and families across America.
See also: Where Are All Our Thought Leaders?
The recently released book titled “Extreme Ownership” delivers a how-to on managing multiple simultaneous risks across the organization. The lessons in the book provide a strategy outline on how to execute and eliminate risk when you have leaders and team members operating in hostile environments.
For instance, ask your internal healthcare manager what the mission of your healthcare program is and see if it matches your goals and intentions. Have you communicated to the healthcare manager and his operations team the “why” of the investment in healthcare, or is health care just OpEx?
As hard as it is to believe, some organizations allow non-P&L managers, or worse, operations-level administrators to dictate policy and strategy, and their decision supersedes the mission.
The annual renewal process can be very reactive, and not enough effort is applied to identifying priorities. The result is the equivalent of friendly fire because the tactical plan focuses on the wrong targets and has minor impact. The enemy, the healthcare supply chain, reverse-engineers every government regulation change and cost-shifts to private employers. Not understanding this fundamental principle loses you the war in the long run and the battle every renewal.
CFOs need to make sure they are not in a position where they are merely informed and not actually involved in healthcare strategy, because they will have limited situational awareness. Is there a formal process in place that requires the operations level staff to report all strategic and tactical options up to the C-suite and not just cherry pick what is disclosed? Is innovation preached but status quo and incrementalism actually reinforced? Are rate increases tolerated because they are lower than budgeted increases? CFOs need to honestly assess whether they abdicate their leadership role by avoiding the forced execution of strategic healthcare options, instead choosing to take the path of least resistance and defaulting to the ground forces that you pay to handle the details.
After all that, is the question ever asked, “What is the best way to execute the mission?”
Failed execution and badly supervised risk management can lose an organization millions of dollars, and now CFOs risk personal liability by not knowing the best way to execute the mission. There is a consequence for gambling with employee contributions in an ERISA plan, and not knowing with certainty that the organization’s healthcare claims will go down this year is the proof.
See also: A Simple Model to Assess Insurtechs
CFOs have limited situational awareness of the unnecessary risks and poorly performing strategies being deployed by the people they believe they are paying to manage their healthcare investment. The C-suite must gain a new situational awareness of the healthcare budget risks, and ERISA compliance exposure facing the organization and potentially themselves individually.
My book notes that soldiers died because of mistakes. In business, healthcare strategy mistakes crush the employees’ standard of living, waste millions in lost profits and expose the CFO to fiduciary risk because of a lack of situational awareness, the conviction of forced execution and extreme ownership.