Downtime (+A) refers to the nine categories of waste:

Defects - Following the 80-20 principle, by identifying and focusing on the 20% of mistakes that generated the most delays, 80% of the time the reviewer and tax preparer needed to make corrections before completing the return was reduced.

Overproduction - Jobs were ineffectively prioritized. Excessive time and resources were used during the heart of busy season to work on clients that file extensions every year. Instead of focusing on what needed to be done at that moment—to effectively take care of the client from an extension and estimated payment standpoint—more work was being done on the return. Meanwhile, other clients waited.

Waiting - Wait times, a symptom of bottlenecks, were found at several steps, including first review. A “learning curve” was identified—the longer something stayed in the review queue, the more time the preparer needed to become reacquainted with the client and the thought process that took place during the previous touch.

Not utilizing people/talent - Partners did too many administrative activities, did too much project management, and spent too much time in the minutiae. They weren’t staying at a high level and focusing on ways to better serve clients. Younger team members weren’t being developed, stretched and trusted.

Transporting - Too many paper folders were being transferred throughout offices, resulting in time delays. Individuals weren’t optimally located to work with their primary teams.

Inventory - Excess work in process occurred. This led to a lot of started and partially completed work, but fewer finished products getting out the door to clients. Bottlenecks and delays in client service were also created.

Motion - Hard copies and electronic copies of documents were not being filed properly. This led to “Easter egg hunts” in which time was wasted searching for certain pieces of information or communication.

Excess Processing - Time was spent outside the scope of the engagement on things such as cleaning up bookkeeping and fixing mistakes. People didn’t realize the scope of an engagement and performed more work than the client engaged the firm to do—and was willing to pay for. Put simply, the firm wasn’t matching client expectations of the scope of the engagement.


Attitude - If each office developed its own process, consistency would not be viewed as important. By unveiling a consistent, firm-wide process, everyone understood the benefits of Lean Six Sigma, such as improving profitability and work/life balance. Attitudes changed and individual employees adopted a one-process mindset regardless of location.

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