It’s unbelievable. We are doing the same mistakes over and over again.
Frustration evident in the trembling hands, this CPA was visibly annoyed. “I told them. I wrote instructions and gave them. I explained why, many a times. Yet, these mistakes keep happening. I am tired of checking and reviewing for mistakes but have no choice”.
As an accounting and tax professional, your whole business (and life) foundation is based upon compliance. You are the “faith-keeper” of people and the Government alike. But that also means tremendous responsibility; and the resulting anxieties. Therefore, you want to ensure everything is going right and correct.
But with increased workloads, less time, the inadequate expertise of staff and ever increasing staff turnover, sometimes there are simply these “errors of omission and commission” and just plain mistakes that can go unnoticed. The same mistakes are repeated every week or month and you are just plain exasperated by having to ensure compliance yourself.
If your operating processes are not being followed, it is generally NOT the process at fault. It is the Dogma that is to blame.
DOGMA 4: THE NON-COMPLIANCE DOGMA
It will sound astonishing to believe at first. But procedural lapses are because of the Dogma –
A belief that unless you check things yourself, it will not be correct.
Because of your own dogma, the resultant repetitive experience makes your staff fall into the habit, and belief that “someone else will check to make sure mistakes are not happening”.
The responsibility and accountability of compliance simply shifts; to you!
Because there are no consequences, positive or negative. If you yell at people for making mistakes, they’ll get used to that too! And no one likes being yelled at. Sometimes, people can simply ignore it because they believe they don’t deserve being yelled at.
And that happens because not many human beings would WANT TO do mistakes. People do things the way they do because they think they are doing the right thing. And they do so according to their knowledge, experience and competence. And unless there are enough checks and balances in the work processes, enough feedback mechanisms, people do not quickly grasp that what they are doing can be actually wrong.
What’s The Solution?
- First, and most important, is that people need to be trained on doing the right things AND what they should NOT be doing.
- Second, the processes and procedures must have enough checks and balances to identify mistakes AND provide a clear feedback, as fast as possible. Tell “what” is wrong but also tell “why” is it wrong.
- Third, as they say – what can go wrong, will – and hence build your processes around those exceptions i.e. process steps must include tasks that force checking for errors.
- Fourth, have strong review processes in place, with steps that highlight mistakes, if any. Spending an additional few minutes on review of work can save you a lot of headaches later. Automate; use technology; have another set of eyes to take a look; have a review of the work done (if you are a solo practitioner, just keep the work aside and revisit after a break. You will be amazed how you can find things to correct when you take a look at your own work after some time gap).
- Fifth, and critically important – implement consequences – not to say that punish people for every mistake – but make sure that the negative effect of mistakes is quantified and presented in measurable terms – e.g. client will not pay X Dollars for wrong work or we will have Y Dollars penalty for missing this deadline, etc.
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