Habits are the enemy of progress. In this era of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, you cannot afford to halt progress as an accountant. You do not have time for habits that slow your path to growth. Yet time and again, I hear of accounting professionals trying to shoehorn transformation and innovation into their existing methodology in an effort not to rock the boat with their team and their clients.
Three critical questions can help you change the right things to get the right results in your transformation journey and be summed up in three words: Start, Stop, and Continue.
- What should we START doing to achieve our desired result?
This is usually the most straightforward question to start with that most professionals do not have trouble answering. Accountants are great at thinking through possibilities, making plans, and of course, adding things to our to-do lists. True transformation should change the way the majority of your firm operates, not just production staff. If your value proposition is changing, the way you market your business needs to change, how you sell your services needs to change, and so on. Be sure to consider every function in your business, internal and external. The following two questions are a little more challenging.
- What should we STOP doing to achieve our desired result?
This is probably the most challenging question to work through as it deals with your professional nemesis, habits. How many things do you do without genuinely knowing why? And no, “because that is what I have always done” is not an acceptable answer. The SALY Method (Same As Last Year) is not a logical methodology if you intend to move forward. The reason this is the most challenging is that it involves deeply entrenched habits and mindset. It is not task-based like the START question, and it is not results-based like the CONTINUE question. It depends entirely on being willing to make some tough decisions and working with colleagues who can turn their backs on old habits and train their brains into a new mindset.
It may be a challenge to genuinely assess your processes to determine if they should STOP or CONTINUE. To maintain objectivity, I recommend you not let the person who owns the process be the decider of which bucket it belongs to. If you select staff to test each other’s processes or methodologies, they do not need any experience in the field they are assessing. Having experience can lead them to make assumptions or leaps of logic that one less experienced would challenge. At this point, the more that is challenged, the better.
- What should we CONTINUE doing to achieve our desired result?
To be clear, not everything you are currently doing in your organization needs to change. But not everything you are doing will actively contribute to your goal. You have already determined what you need to stop doing. The remaining processes can be continued for a short time or until further notice. During the assessment process above, I encourage you to note those processes that are neutral compared to active. Neutral processes will neither hinder nor advance your progress. Active process will either hinder or advance your progress. Since you have already stopped the things that hinder your progress, we are left with the ones that actively contribute. This also means that they should be visible and measurable as active contributions will result in momentum for your change project. Where you see positive results, you may want not only to continue those processes but find ways to increase their effectiveness.
I am sure you have heard the Marshall Goldsmith quote, “what got you here won’t get you there,” and I wholeheartedly agree. Working your way through these three questions just might.