A statement that still sticks in my memory from the training to become a registered controller is: “An ounce of practice is generally worth more than a ton of theory”. This statement has not only stayed with me, in the period after the training I regularly ran into this phenomenon. With every big (and small) change, with all new developments, it is a law that recurs. It makes practice an important learning experience, as the English often say: “the proof of the pudding is in the eating”.
When theory meets practice, friction occurs
Think back to any organizational change you have experienced. Theory books have a lot to say about change and change management. That’s the reason why you have to plan a change very carefully. You need to think about communication, have the story behind the change well in order and have an idea about how to get people on board. Because resistance is also part of the change. To deal with it, you plan a kick-off and interventions, organize meetings and workshops. Therefore, a good plan is very essential. And based on the theory, you initiate the change. And then it really starts. Despite careful planning, resistance turns out to be greater than expected and the need arises to make further adjustments or revise the plans. Deviate from the plan and improvise. To adjust and to persevere. Changes fail regularly for a reason.
New technology and practice
Also when adopting new technology, practice is often a hard lesson. Assumptions may not be correct, and people may have difficulty with the new technology and processes run slightly differently than they should on paper. New challenges appear on the horizon and require new solutions. Let’s take the implementation of ERP systems as an example. In theory, this is a streamlined process, defined with clear steps and milestones. In practice, organizations often run into challenges they had not anticipated before. Exceptions are raised when the process encounters an error during its execution. They disrupt the normal flow of the program and usually end it abruptly. To avoid this, people have to work differently and handle them appropriately. And not to forget, data definitions differ throughout the organization. Valuable data is not stored or turns out not to be in the systems. It is the practice that ultimately defines the success of the implementation.
Learning from practice
Of course, an unruly practice is not a reason not to initiate a change or embrace a new technology. Change is necessary, and new technology provides opportunities that make organizations function better. But what can you do to increase your chances of success? Learn from practice! Actively seek out case histories and success stories. But also look at failures, why did things go wrong? And learning from practice can be done well by exchanging experiences. Look at what others are up against and look at the solutions they choose. This will give you valuable insights that will help you in your own practice. They will sharpen your plan in advance in terms of pitfalls and success factors. Others have gone before you in implementing new technology, harmonizing data definitions and streamlining processes. What steps did they take, what did they encounter and which way forward did they choose?
Digital Finance, a course that combines theory and practice
Finance on a Mission as an answer to this field of tension, in collaboration with Next Level Academy and Transformation Forums, developed a masterclass series that brings theory and practice together in a unique way. In five days, we combine theory with respect to digitization of Finance with experiences from the daily practice of organizations that are actively working with digitization. We do this with a nice mix of speakers who combine theory and practice. Frieda van Belle is the core lecturer during this series. She has a wealth of experience in advising organizations on digital transformation. Kees Veraart, a seasoned Finance Director, acts as moderator and discussion leader. Haroon Sheikh, Professor of Strategic Governance of Global Technologies at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, will interpret the trends in digital technology in the organization’s environment. Koen Vink, Head of Accounting Operations at AkzoNobel builds an effective and efficient Finance operation. Matthijs Pouwer, Business Navigation Business Partner at Ingka Group Digital | IKEA, is already fulfilling the digital business navigator role that is so crucial for the future of Finance. And Lodewijk Lockefeer, CFO of Royal Zeelandia is leading the transformation of Finance from a clear vision and approach. This masterclass series empowers the Finance Professional who wants to learn how digitization can increase her or his impact in the organization.
More information about the course can be found here.