Written by Mark Verbeck | 
April 9th, 2012
 | Making Cents

The Accountable Organization

A blog from a CFO about the accountable organization might immediately make you think of T accounts and general ledgers but I have something else entirely in mind. In many organizations the finance team and its often related functions like human resources, procurement and information technology take on an enforcement role – the corporate police enforcing policy, procedure and good hygiene. I don’t believe this is an efficient or productive way to run these organizations or a company. Burden smart productive employees with unnecessary rules and you end up with lowest common denominator behavior - hotel costs that approach the city limit, purchases that conform to policy but not philosophy, and creative work-around to deal with IT policies. We can and should expect more from our co-workers.


An important factor in my decision to join Coupa was alignment with our CEO on this topic. As Coupa has grown from a handful of employees to approaching 100 the ability to rely on the tribal knowledge of how things are done here and the inherent trust that your co-workers are behaving correctly and the employees’ sense of ownership of the company’s bottom line all diminish. The natural response to this for many organizations is to create process and rules to ensure conformity and reduce risks. We are taking a different approach and in fact in some areas are even going the other direction.


The first change we made was to grant unlimited vacation and eliminate the accrual and tracking of time off. Employees are still responsible for getting their job done and for communicating planned time off to make sure their absence doesn’t impact the business, but otherwise are free to take as much time off as they would like. When I presented this idea to our executive team, I was surprised that a couple of our executives were concerned that people would abuse this policy and spend an excessive amount of time not working. This kind of thinking generates all of the rules that companies put in place. We would rather deal with an individual who isn’t interested in performing their job rather than subject the rest of our team to onerous rules that are designed to prevent behavior that doesn’t further our mission.


We announced this change at our all hands meeting at it was very well received. We are also encouraging our executives to lead by example, taking big vacations, and returning energized to get back to the demanding task of building this great company. I look forward to sharing more of our efforts in this area of building our company’s culture and the results.

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