My Halloween Ritual
Nancy Wu, Head of Client Service
Every Halloween, I make my son’s costume by hand.
For someone who “sews” with fabric glue, this is no small undertaking – finding the easiest patterns online (turnip, crayon or cookie?), cutting and gluing, convincing the child (“Yes turnip is a real thing”) and placating the family (“No he doesn’t look awful”).
This year, my family staged an intervention. They begged me to quit making stuff and just buy a Halloween costume for him. The general sentiment is that, while I earn an “A” for effort, the results are less than ideal. One family member’s exact words: “This is too much fuss just to make a turnip.”
Does your period-end close resemble my Halloween ritual?
This kind of period-end close tends to involve great commotion, and focuses excessively on activities at the expense of the outcome, for example:
- The Close creeps deep into the month and squeezes time from financial statement review.
- Balance sheet reconciliations that demand a tremendous amount of effort to complete, but produce no analysis on open items aging, exceptions and write offs.
- The feeling that “we’re always closing.”
What’s especially dangerous about a commotion-heavy process is the false sense of security that it imparts:
“Everyone is so busy all the time, so we must be producing results.”
“These spreadsheets take a long time to finish, so they must be accurate.”
“There is never any time to take on new projects, so staff capacity must be optimized.”
We know that this is not true. A jam packed schedule does not signify productivity, and more activities do not automatically lead to better results.
Cobbling together manual checklists and spreadsheets, suffering through workarounds, and drowning in busy-work all eat up time, but contribute little to the overall quality of the work.
And you know what else is crummy? Time spent in staying busy to maintain the current state drains talent and energy, and robs the Accounting organization of the capacity to develop process improvement habits.
This year, my son’s Nascar driver costume is bought, laid out and all ready to go. Instead of being consumed by the costume making process, I’m using my time to scope out my neighborhood for areas with maximum treats and minimum foot coverage.
And that's me focusing less on activities and more on getting better results instead.