Let me tell you another story:

Many years ago I went to work at an organisation as a factory accountant (I love factories) for a technology company.  Part of the role involved the cross comparison of large tables of data to find discrepancies between the factory systems and the financial systems – Yawn!  My predecessor used to spend hours diligently working through the data.  She was very happy to do so as she believed that, as an accountant, it was right & proper to spend ages on boring work.

Not me.  There was no way I was going to do that.  It took hours!

I searched through all the functions in excel and found the answer – pivot tables.  A little bit of work with the data and a pivot table would tell me the answers I needed in minutes rather than hours.  The application of Proactive Positive Laziness saved me, and the business, quite a few valuable hours each month-end.  This, in turn, gave me more time to spend on the factory floor (I love factories) adding value to the business.

Interestingly, my approach didn’t sit easily with my predecessor as it went against her values and beliefs – working late on labourious tasks and missing deadlines was a virtue as it showed how committed you were.

Roll forward to a cold and dark winter’s afternoon at that international FMCG.  The client walks into my office with one of the accountants in tow.  He is frustrated at how long it is going to take the accountant to do a vital part of the year-end analysis.  He starts describing the situation but (and this bit he didn’t confess until months later) started to get very frustrated that I appeared to be taking little notice of him as I was tapping away on my keyboard.  Just at the point when he was about to have a ‘few choice words’ with me I turned my screen towards him and said:

“That is near enough the answer.  I’ve worked out the big numbers and, just scanning this column, you can see that the leftovers don’t look like they could make much difference.”

All I’d done was let loose my drive to find the shortcuts.  I’m not a rocket scientist but I get bored by repetitive tasks.  I’ve taught myself to think of numbers in terms of shape and size, and I’ll use every trick I can find to save myself the effort.

So, do you have an accountant or an accounts team that leave you feeling frustrated by missed deadlines?  Do the end results fail to deliver value and only deliver masses of figures that give you intellectual indigestion?

Maybe they don’t need to work harder but quite the opposite?  Maybe they need some training, mentoring and coaching to understand Pareto, learn a few tricks and change their values & beliefs about numbers?

If so, then get in touch – I’d love to help.

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