The McCracken Institute For Advanced Learning in Finance
Guiding Next Generation Finance Executives

What is the McCracken Institute?

Our mission is to guide finance professionals through a career-shaping process that directs their educational, training and project choices and measures their progress toward their long-term goal of becoming an executive.


The McCracken Institute is the first independent organization to build a system that provides an independent measure for advance learning achievements beyond the college and graduate degree level to support career-long growth in finance. By registering with the Institute and periodically reporting learning and performance accomplishments in the broad areas of responsibility of the office of the CFO, Members receive recognition for their achievement and career growth.


We help support the development of your own unique Career Development Plan to maximize the place where your functional knowledge, experience, and leadership skills intersect. You will be instructed that your personal plan must align with the possibilities emanating from your current employment circumstances, and that over time you should identify ways to elevate your involvement in efforts that advance your current station.


Appropriate to your personal circumstances, the MI Guidance System helps you understand the areas of expertise that encompass the overall Office of the CFO responsibilities. As one’s career progresses, this helps guide decisions about targeting areas where additional expertise and experience can better positioned you for long-term career growth.

The MI Guidance System begins with a framework of knowledge of the broad areas of responsibility of the CFO, which we refer to as the Pillars of Finance. Using this framework, professionals can shape their career paths by focusing on training and projects that over time better position them for higher levels of responsibilities in the finance function.

As with any developmental framework, a commitment to excellence in every endeavor, to ethics and honesty in your professional responsibilities, to seeking broad professional experiences and a personal drive to succeed are critical to advancement. Professional assignments and roles will change over time, sometimes requiring lateral moves before being considered for a higher level position. Success will require a combination of achievement, competency, continuous learning and broad experience while serving in various finance and non-financial roles along the way. Plus, being a CFO or high level finance executive is not a short-term goal; it requires years of experience to gain the insights and wisdom that only come from immersion in the business.


Why do I need advanced learning in finance?

Without diverse training and experience, over time, a professional will find his or her opportunities limited by his or her current assignment. We help shape career paths by recommending customized personal growth plans to better prepare professionals for all aspects of executive leadership.

Historically, the approach to career progression of finance executives was typically structured to fulfill the current needs of a particular business. This approach is consistent with the employment model in business, which allocates resources to the most significant and pressing demands that confronts a business. In larger businesses, the advancement process is often more formal and driven by projects, assignments and training. If not managed or guided this may become “function based” and can lead to a specialization in a narrow set of tasks and responsibilities.

At the same time, we recognize that companies have cost constraints, time constraints to assure the normal business gets done first, and constraints on the availability of projects important to the employer. Employee learning has to take place within those natural limitation within the company life-cycle and circumstances. This is a key reason the MI Guidance System takes a long-term time horizon and provides professionals with ample flexibility that aligns with their particular career path. The progression path to high level finance roles is not a “degree program” but a combination of education, experiences and proven leadership.

According to a 2016 survey published by McKinsey Research, 90% of CEOs are planning to increase investment in leadership development because they see it as the single most important issue facing their human capital needs. Those who take in-classroom programs retain only 10% of what they hear while they retain nearly two-thirds when actually doing the work. Overall, 34% of the knowledge learned in development courses is actually transferred into the work place.

This evidences the high value of designing a pedagogy that incorporates actual job-related work experiences along with educational learning as part of leadership development. This is a primary reason that MI Guidance System Credits (GSC’s) weight project work more heavily than classroom education. Getting the proper balance encompasses both knowledge and experience at the right leadership level.

How will the McCracken Institute benefit me?

Becoming a CFO is a marathon, not a sprint; so, we help position you for making the most of your career path choices by helping you identify personal goals and providing visibility to your efforts. As you gain professional experience, we help you identify potential training and other projects that align with the objectives set by your employer that can support your growth as a professional.

Institutional learning is generally limited to the classroom or online exposure to knowledge and ideas. However, there is a growing trend for universities to encourage and allow on-the-job experiences to qualify for certain educational credits toward a degree.

Regardless, there is overwhelming evidence that experiential training is more productive than limiting one’s learning to the classroom. Executable learning is reinforced and reaffirmed in the field through practice. Today, virtually every college and university encourages internships, and many masters degrees have as a prerequisite on-the-job experience before entering their programs. After all, business colleges are built on the premise that students are primarily educated for the purpose of creating productive business graduates.

We also know that professionals learn best when they are:
  • In charge of an assignment
  • Pushed to expand their comfort zone
  • Challenged by the experience
  • Involved in a real-life situation
  • Supported by peers and mentors/coaches

So, why not encourage and measure progress in professional education that is aligned with this learning phenomenon?
Much has been written about the mid-career crisis. Early in one’s professional career, mid-career is a long way away, but let’s face it, there are a limited number of CFO positions within the company where you are or will be working — with the exception of larger multi-entity companies — the answer is ONE! In the business world, this means that most CFOs will have achieved their role after several transitions between different companies.

This is not to say that you should not live every day with aspirations of achieving a high-level finance role or even being the CFO one day at your current employer. In fact, an energetic desire and attitude to advance will definitely help create greater success for you along the way, regardless of whether a job change occurs.

Mid-career crisis should not be mistaken for mid-life crisis, but it can be a major contributor to it. So, we encourage reflection and finding the purpose behind all that you do, including your service to any employer.

We believe that the best way to position yourself for minimizing transitional crisis during periods of career advancement are as follows:

- Position yourself to embrace continual change. Be agile in your approach to your career; change, even lateral change can be good for the long run.
- Always be the best you can be. Find your passion in whatever career you choose and pursue it.
- Develop an insatiable curiosity to learning new and better ways of doing things.
- Identify a mentor and/or a coach and someone who will hold you accountable.
- Seek guidance if nothing more than a framework to benchmark your progress.

The Institute’s Guidance System anticipates all of the above in its design and evaluation processes and in the manner that it recognizes accomplishments. However, even with this guidance, the ultimate accountability comes from YOU.
Regardless of professional preparation and skill, unique company circumstances still play a key role in identifying the right person for a given CFO or high level finance role. The selection process often includes demonstrated achievement, varied experience, formal and informal training, leadership characteristics and cultural fit. In addition, industry, geographic footprint, business life cycle stage, stakeholder’s objectives and other unique circumstances impact the selection. French scientist Louis Pasteur observed “fortune favors the prepared mind”. At The Institute we completely agree that planned, thorough, and thoughtful preparation is an imperative element in positioning for a successful career as a leader in finance and accounting. We believe that preparation for advancement must start immediately upon entering the workforce.

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