New Year’s Resolution: Process Improvements, One Small Step at a Time
By Christine Walters, Director, Assurance Services
New Year’s resolutions are rarely achieved because people tend to make them too extreme. If your goal is to start exercising, you shouldn’t start January 1 with a marathon. Think baby steps. Join a gym, establish a goal to go twice per week and keep track of your progress. Any amount of exercise is an improvement.
The same rationale should be applied to your business goals. Every company has room for improvement. You don’t need to restructure the entire company overnight or hire consultants to analyze every aspect of your business at once and suggest process improvements in every department. Although process improvements throughout your organization could be beneficial, no one will buy into that level of commitment. It would be overwhelming and become a “one-day we’ll do that” type of goal.
How can you make process improvements throughout your entire organization more appealing? Set small goals. Any amount of process improvement is better than none, so focus on one area at a time.
What is your biggest headache area? Is month-end close taking too long? Are your receivables too high? Is budget to actual off? Whatever is the biggest concern should be your focus. Once that focus is established, I recommend following the five steps below to implement a process improvement initiative.
Step 1: Document that process.
Step 2: Identify weaknesses or process inefficiencies.
Step 3: Improve or create controls, or eliminate unnecessary steps.
Step 4: Implement controls.
Step 5: Test the controls to see if they are operating effectively to mitigate identified issues.
If you implement these five steps for one specific process, that initiative shouldn’t be overwhelming for the people involved. When complete, you will have identified the issue, found a solution and made that process stronger. The people involved will see that there is benefit to the small amount of effort needed, and it will make their jobs more efficient and effective.
Once you work through your first process improvement exercise, I believe you will be energized and motivated to work on the next one.
Remember, it’s not all or nothing. Don’t start with a marathon; just show up at the gym. You may be surprised by what you can accomplish when you set realistic goals.
Do you have questions about process improvements, or other accounting and auditing issues? Please contact Christine Walters, Director, Assurance Services.