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How would you describe the "back office" functions at your company (finance, procurement, legal, HR, etc.)?

SmartPulse -- our weekly nonscientific reader poll in SmartBrief on Leadership -- tracks feedback from 250,000 business leaders. We run the poll question each week in our newsletter.

 How would you describe the "back office" functions at your company (finance, procurement, legal, HR, etc.)?

  • They occasionally add value and respond in a reasonable time.  29.78%
  • They add value in every interaction and are highly responsive. 25.56%
  • They are extremely frustrating and overly bureaucratic.  19.38%
  • They rarely add value and tend to slow things down.  17.98%
  • They make my life a nightmare, and I can't get anything done.  7.3%

Improving the back office. Eighty percent of you report your back office functions like procurement, finance, legal and HR only occasionally add value (30%) or even worse, rarely add value or make your life extremely difficult (55%). That's alarming. But blame resides in two places. One place is with the back office. If you're in one of these functions, remember these other groups are your customers. While policy and procedure has a place, responsiveness to their needs helps business performance. If you're more interested in process and bureaucracy than you are in getting things done, it's time to rethink your priorities. The other half of the blame is with those who consume back office services. Going to them with short timelines, ill-formed requests and excessive requests for exemptions doesn't make their lives easier. You need to plan your requests better. Give them time to respond (they have a lot of customers!). Respect their rules and processes. The answer lies somewhere in the middle here (and 26% of you have found that sweet spot). It's a partnership -- treat it as such.

Mike Figliuolo is managing director of thoughtLEADERS. Before launching his own company, he worked at McKinsey & Co., Capital One and Scotts Miracle-Gro. He is a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. He's the author of three leadership books: "One Piece of Paper," "Lead Inside the Box" and "The Elegant Pitch."