During the 2021 Summer Olympics, I drew a parallel about developing a mindset of continuous improvement to the Olympic Motto:
Citius, Altius, Fortius – which translates to Faster, Higher, Stronger.
Olympians have a mindset of continuous improvement. They constantly want to do a little better. That same type of mindset can be very helpful to companies. It starts with evaluating where you are.
In our businesses, we need to do the same. At Verbeck Associates, several times a year, companies hire me to do a business assessment. Look under the hood. Review the financial statements. Look at the accounting processes and make recommendations for improvement. I look at all the business systems, the accounting procedures and controls, and the processes/duties assigned to each member of the accounting team. This generally leads to additional work aimed at resolving issues discovered during assessments.
I love doing these assessments, and I find any company that wants to do them regularly impressive. Why? Because the desire to assess a situation shows me that the organization has a mindset of continuous improvement. Companies that don’t care to be evaluated don’t care to improve.
Assessments: The First Step in A Mindset of Continuous Improvement
One of my team members put it this way. We are called upon to come into an organization and clean things up. It’s as if we are janitors – we walk in and see a running faucet in the break room. The employees are busy mopping the floor from the overflow, but never turn the faucet off.
Sometimes it takes an outside, objective view of your business to see that the faucet is still running.
In the case of accounting processes, we focus so much on ensuring that books have closed and the reconciliations finished that we fail to see there’s a better way. If the current process grows outdated, it leads to stress and overwhelm, and takes us far longer than it needs to.
Generally, the leadership of a company wants to improve (turn off the faucet) but that doesn’t mean individuals within the company do – some are more comfortable continuing to mop.
I’ve seen this phenomenon several times in my career. One example – some clients stand months behind in reconciling their cash accounts, resulting in financials that haven’t been closed all year. This causes the owner to operate with a blindfold on.
The team is dedicated, but they can’t catch up with the day-to-day, perhaps because they are more comfortable using a mop than a wet vac to “clean up the mess.” Taking advantage of simple automated processes such as downloading transactions and sales information rather than entering data by hand would help them a lot, but they can’t get past the ingrained routine or fears of technology. Insisting on making paper copies and printing out every transaction rather than having a solid backup system adds hours to their week, when a simple scanner at the desk could be a workable compromise.
Dissipate the Fear of Change
It seems that sometimes a team is afraid that efficient systems will eliminate their jobs. It’s simply not true. While some may be ready to move to another better-fitting position or company, team members who choose to learn and grow then reap the benefits of professional development. They can be part of the exciting increase of value-add activities the organization can offer when not bogged down with outdated processes.
Like Olympians, we always need to continue to improve our business. Our team needs to embrace technology and efficiency solutions to increase capabilities. New technology, new processes, and in some cases, new people, will help us get better at what we are doing.
Do you and your company have a mindset of continuous improvement?
Contact me for an assessment of your organization.