By Bill Kennedy - Okay, I was not cut out to be a gardener. How do I know? I was raking last year's leaves from the garden when I realized that this year's crocuses had already sprouted, flowered and died. I never saw them because they couldn't get through all the dead leaves. Time for spring cleaning!
Is there any dead wood in your accounting system? When the year end is done and the audit over is a good time to look at the system and decide if anything needs to be tweaked.
A great tip from the world of project management is to have a Lessons Learned session with the team where you go over a recently completed project (e.g. the audit) and ask what everyone would do differently in a similar future situation. This is not a finger pointing or blaming exercise, in fact great care should be taken to emphasize that the session is about the future rather than the past. If people are open about their experiences, a lot of good can come from these sessions. To get more value from the meeting, arrive with a few open ended questions to get people talking. To continue with the audit example you might ask:
- Did anyone have to create a manual spreadsheet that we could have the system produce if a change was made to the chart of accounts?
- Could any of the auditors' requests be combined so that two requirements could be completed at once?
- What could the auditors have done that would have achieved the same results more effectively or efficiently? (They need feedback as well.)
- Could the timing of any of the audit be improved?
- Was anything else dropped as a result of the extra work required for the audit?
Another candidate for spring cleaning is financial reporting. Governments, regulatory authorities and operations managers often require more detailed information. Ask if it would be possible to produce this information more quickly or effectively with a change to procedures or to the accounting system setup. You would be amazed at how often issues like this go unexamined until someone comes along and stirs things up a little.
Just like the leaves in my garden.