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  • Writer's pictureShannon West

Disrupting Efficiency

Disrupting efficiency? What the heck is that now!?

My background is as a CPA, well a CGA first, but to all of you in the accounting profession, you know what I mean. I don’t often choose to add the CGA after my name anymore. Maybe that’s a great example of what I mean by disrupting efficiency, as you’ll see. I have been in the Accounting field since I was 18 years old, albeit I have been lucky enough to have a career that has spanned many different industries and processes as a result. Yes, I started out BEFORE there were widely used Accounting Software programs; it was green boxed and lined ledger sheets and books, typewriters, ink POSTED stamps, calculators and the ever-important calculator tape!

I’ve been part of many, many programs and initiatives. I’ve taken a company from those ledger sheets to an accounting software package and then to an MRP and finally to an ERP. I’ve been involved in too many TQM (Total Quality Management) programs to even remember all their names and goals. I’ve been involved in Lean, 5S, and Kaizen events. And, of course, the more recently popular, culture/mission statement/values statement creation. Some of the time, the Management decided to create these programs in-house, sometimes they hired external consultants, and sometimes they had ‘experts’ come in from another company location. But one consistent theme was there with all the quality, process improvement, software implementations, and whatever other category of efficiency program that there was. And it was endless meetings and documentation! And rarely stuck!

Now, don’t get me wrong, you need some meetings and you may even need some documentation, but those are exactly what I’m referring to when I want to Disrupt Efficiency, or maybe I should say ‘so-called efficiency’. Now there are some personality types that love order. Love making order out of chaos and part of that process for them is the documentation. That’s where this falls apart for me. While I do enjoy making order out of chaos, I do not enjoy spending time on documentation! And so, I ask, what is really required? I know a large part of the Consulting industry has been based on earning income creating all that documentation, but I can tell you as one of the Managers on the receiving end of that documentation, it was rarely, if ever referenced or used again once the Consultant’s gig was over. Who has time to or even wants to, read through all of that?! And a better question is, who enjoys creating all of that?! Ok, ok – I know there are people who do enjoy creating it, but I’m not one of them!

So that brings us to meetings. You know which ones I mean, those big, all consuming, long, very long meetings. Sometimes they’re even off-site to ensure creativity and focus. In my experience, that usually just promoted longer bouts of boredom! To clarify, the meetings that are coming to mind specifically are the yearly Business Planning meetings where Senior Executives tried to make you feel as if you were contributing to the plan for the next year ahead when, in reality, they had already made all of those decisions and Budget had already been approved by the higher ups. The meetings that particularly come to mind were the culture/mission/value statement creation meetings. Those were the worst! There typically would be some Consultant hired to get our creative juices flowing with some silly exercises that no one wanted to participate in that I could tell. And typically, this Consultant would be paid handsomely for their service (one of the perks – or is it? – of being the Controller, you see all the bills). The end result of these 2-day long meetings was generally some revision of the existing company statements that the company then paid a great deal to frame, post on the walls, and inform the rest of the staff of the new culture. Haha. This really does make me chuckle now. Culture comes from within and a company’s real culture is what the employees, at all levels, really believe is the reason the company is in business. It is not what’s captured on a plaque on the wall.

In recent years, I have added to my knowledge and skill base by becoming certified in Change Management and Emotional Intelligence EQ-i/EQ360 assessments and coaching. I’ve even taken a full-time job doing only Change Management. Talk about a career change! From numbers focused to people focused. However, the one underlying theme in both career choices is results. Both are results focused – just from different angles. One of the greatest learnings I’ve enjoyed from my career change to Organizational Development was the concept of Agile. In an IT project focused environment, Agile is a project methodology and not an adjective. But what I realized was that the Agile methodology was really the gold for me in that experience. I love it! It’s simplicity and effectiveness combined. It’s a perfect way to make order out of chaos without all the unnecessary documentation and time wasted in big, often unproductive meetings. I can hear the Angels singing now! This is it; this is the concept that all my future business offerings will be centered around. This………. this is my value proposition. Being agile is the value-add I’ve always been interested in being.

How does this apply to my examples above? Well, in a few ways. Sometimes an insider can’t see the forest for the trees and an outside perspective can be very helpful. To that outsider, the solution often seems like common sense. And you know what? There’s nothing wrong with that. A solution doesn’t have to have a trendy label to be the right solution. In my experience, the solutions the Executive team are looking for are typically right under their noses within their own employee groups who truly know that company best. An 'agile' consultant can help them tap into the resources they already have (thank you Change Management and EQ experience!). As for the documentation, really, what is it you really need? Do you want the change to be imbedded in how your company runs or do you want it to be documentation people have to know to reference to know what to do better? Take it one step further – don’t forget to imbed it in your new employee training. In my opinion, these are where your documentation dollars should be spent. I’m a practical person, I actually don’t believe in the need for a culture, mission and vision statement and honestly, I get them confused all the time anyway! I really think here is another great opportunity for disruption – just create one statement. And then truly live it. That is how culture is created – by the senior manager’s truly believing in why their company is in business and who they want to be to the world and living it daily in every interaction for all to see.

For me, disrupting efficiency is about breaking up the old idea of efficiency (old process improvement methodologies) and replacing it with more agile, common sense approaches that require fewer big costly meetings, and less documentation. So, getting back to my initials after my name, although I’m proud to have come from a CGA background, I have to ask myself a common-sense question, Is it value-add to take the time to type the additional, CGA every time? Live what you believe.


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