A Bandage Can't Fix Your Processes

A Bandage Can't Fix Your Processes

You need to pick apart the process and build it to fit

By Kyle Stemple, CPA, Lean Six Sigma Green Belt

Recently, I was watching a home improvement show on TV and my mind turned to efficiency. You see, there was a couple that had the most ridiculous kitchen set up ever.

To open the oven, they needed to move their island workspace. Worse yet, the oven didn't shut. So the couple used a broom handle to prop it closed. Whenever either of them walked by the oven, they hit the broom handle causing the door to crash into the island. I actually screamed at the television, "just fix the darn latch."

I cannot believe the steps these two people took to keep the oven closed. The bandage they used to "fix" the problem actually made the situation worse. Unfortunately, we in CPA firms use bandages rather than fixing our problems, too.

Technical Training Isn't Enough

You dedicate resources to train your people on all the technical aspects they need to know to be good accountants, but that's not good enough. The best technical expertise in the world won't result in your firm being efficient and effective. You need good processes.

There are people in you firm who manage staff, clients, firm resources and even their own time. Unfortunately, they have probably never received training on managing people and projects. As a result, members of your team focus on performing their duties, without ever considering how the direction they give others will impact the firm.  

Who is responsible for managing your overall processes? In most firms, the answer is "no one."  

Pick Apart Your Processes

To really be effective, you need to look at your processes. You need to tear them apart. You need to look at them from the eyes of your clients. You need to solicit input from your team.

Lean Six Sigma is a team-based problem-solving approach. Starting with a thorough measurement and analysis of all the current steps in the process, your team, along with a skilled facilitator, identifies where efficiencies are being lost and uses Lean techniques to improve those processes. Your team should look to define, measure, analyze, improve and control the process:

  1. Define your project. Determine who's on the team and their roles, list objectives and define the scope of the project.
  2. Measure how the work currently flows through the process. This helps to identify the preliminary sources of waste.
  3. Analyze the current state. Put the steps under the microscope and zoom in on your wastes and inefficiencies.
  4. Improve the process only after thorough analysisImplement simple, targeted solutions to eliminate waste and improve effectiveness. Keep in mind your top priority – to better serve client needs, both your internal and external clients.
  5. Control the process by documenting the procedures, providing training and getting everyone on board with the new process.
Improve Your Effectiveness

By first identifying the steps in your processes that don't add value to your clients or the firm, you can implement simple solutions to drastically improve your effectiveness and experience real results. For example, if you become more effective at getting work in, completing and delivering it, the more quickly it can be billed – leading to increased cash receipts. Or with less chaos you can actually work fewer hours, have less stress and make more money – and your employees experience the same.

At the end of the home improvement show I watched, the couple had a new kitchen. The designer looked at the need, reconfigured the layout and fixed the root cause of the problem. Now, they have an oven door that can be opened and closed with ease...no bandage needed.

Before you attempt to throw a bandage on your next process flaw, think about the havoc the quick fix is making on the rest of your team. Then, decide to take the time to tear apart your processes and rebuild them from scratch so they meet the needs of your clients, your staff and your firm.

Process improvement will help your firm succeed.

Lean CPA
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