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Becoming a value-adding CFO takes integrative thinking, says new ACCA guide

CFOs need to change their mode of operation to successfully navigate complex multidimensional problems according to new research by ACCA

Chief financial officers (CFOs) have an immense responsibility and career-defining challenge in helping their organisations navigate complex multidimensional problems.

Businesses and other organisations face significant challenges in introducing sustainability into their business models and strategies. They also face increased sustainability reporting and assurance requirements. Their processes and systems will need to be updated and transformed to manage these.

These challenges arise against a backdrop of limited financial resources as well as human and natural resources. The long-term survival and success of business can no longer be assured with a narrow focus on financial return alone.

Today’s CFOs and senior business professionals require a combination of skills, behaviours and mindset, described as ‘integrative-thinking capabilities’, according to ACCA’s latest research ‘Integrative thinking: the guide to becoming a value-adding CFO’.

Report author Sharon Machado, head of sustainable business at ACCA said: “CFOs and professionals who are ultimately accountable for well-informed decision making must be integrative in their own thinking. They need to consider the balance across the resources and meeting of differing stakeholder needs. Often, this will be in the face of incomplete, complex, uncertain or ambiguous information. CFOs need to act without being able to reliably predict the outcomes. In a fast-changing world, the organisation’s purpose and strategy may need to change, either incrementally, or sometimes, fundamentally.”

What are the integrative-thinking capabilities required by CFOs?

 This guide explains the CFO’s five must-have integrative-thinking capabilities, and details how they are required for impact in navigating complex multidimensional problems, which are also explained.

  • Continually becoming – constantly evolving through nurturing personal capabilities.
  • Empathising – understanding other viewpoints and perspectives.
  • Exploring – searching out unfamiliar territory.
  • Co-creating – seizing the opportunities that arise from collaborating with others.
  • Empowering – enabling colleagues and stakeholders to take actions.

The guide also outlines development needed for integrative thinking by providing insight on six approaches professionals should take to develop their integrative-thinking capabilities.


Lloyd Powell, head of ACCA Cymru/Wales, commented: “This guide is both a call to action and a support to all finance professionals as they embrace complicated problems, and add broader than financial value to their organisations, society and the planet. It will help CFOs of today and of the future serve their purpose better.”

Being a successful CFO is not a static end-state. Continual learning, reflection and engagement with other people, are key to being the CFO that the organisation and the world needs.


For more information, read the guide on ACCA’s website.


Posted in Accountancy & Accounts, Finance and Banking, News