There is a greater challenge than ever before in leading and managing high-performing teams. As a result of the current volatile and uncertain environment, the blockages caused by low engagement and decreased work output are now exacerbated.
With economic uncertainty looming in almost every sector, belt-tightening is expected. However, instead of focusing on cutting costs (which can inevitably lead to the cutting of headcount), firms can instead make the more sustainable decision for the long-term health of the business by focusing on increasing productivity and output from their existing resources and teams. In other words: firms should look to remove the blockages caused by low engagement and outdated processes.
Easier said than done, as the saying goes.
However, improving efficiency and prioritizing maximizing your team’s output will be the most beneficial thing you can do for your firm’s future and ability to weather any economic storm.
Improve Efficiency, Increase Output
High-functioning teams are rare. But there are actionable steps firms can take to improve efficiency and increase output – elevating their teams and team members to be top performers no matter the circumstances.
Team Alignment and Buy-In
First and foremost, your team members are people, and people work better when they understand and believe in the purpose of their work. According to Six Sigma, “Having a common purpose is part of what changes a group of people into a team.”
The best way to increase your team’s output is to have your team aligned with and working towards the same vision. If you were to ask your team today, “What are the goals and vision of our team?” how similar would the responses be? If the answer isn’t “very similar” then this is where you have to start. Team purpose should be clearly defined and at the forefront of every decision the team has to make. It should be discussed often with regular reminders so that it’s always top of mind.
Having a clear “why” and a clear end-vision helps your team prioritize the most important work and feel invested in their results.
At the firm level, there are many metrics that can help to measure how efficiently your team is performing. Accounting Today has some great suggestions for labor-based goals, including the Labor Efficiency Ratio, and how to adapt them to an accounting practice.
However, smaller, less abstract team goals are also important. Things like average project duration are easily quantifiable and easy to track progress. Rallying the team behind one or two smaller goals for a set time period can be a great way to bring a team together for a common goal. (Note: make sure that these smaller goals align with the greater vision discussed in the previous section.)
Accurate tracking and reporting are also essential when it comes to setting goals for your team. Few things are as demoralizing for a team working hard to improve than discovering that no one was willing to take the time to track or even able to measure their successes.
Make the goals real. Make them achievable. Make them measurable. And then celebrate the wins.
Technology can position a team to maximize work output quickly. Look at your processes, talk to your team, and find out where the bottlenecks are. What steps take the most time? Prioritize finding technological solutions that can speed up or eliminate the time spent at these steps.
For example, if your firm offers valuation, forensic work, or financial due diligence, your team is probably spending hours, if not days, tracking down documents and reports from the request list. Additionally, they spend hours, if not days, converting all that data into flat Excel tables. Only AFTER all those steps are complete can they begin their actual analysis.
Those are two steps in your process that are bottlenecks to value-add work.
Fortunately, there are software solutions to address those bottlenecks. Strongbox extracts all the needed financial data directly from a business’s accounting software and transforms the data into a clean Excel workbook, ready for your team to analyze, all in minutes. Not hours. Not days.
Agile processes let your team deliver value quickly to your clients, collaborate across both the practice and the firm, and improve efficiency. There are a variety of project methodologies to look to for guidance as to what will work best for your firm. For example, the Kanban project methodology can be a great first step away from linear project management to an agile approach.
Our team at Finagraph also works with CAS teams that use a Production vs. Project Team model. The production team manages the recurring tasks and deliverables for clients while the project team focuses on non-recurring tasks. This allows the practice to be able to take on one-off requests or additional projects without derailing the recurring services timelines. (Strongbox CRO shares his thoughts on this model here.)
Having strong alignment for team goals will ensure the client experience, regardless of which team they interact with, remains consistent. And time-saving technology tools can help ensure information is centralized and accessible in an agile environment.
Review Your Output & Efficiency Today
Our team has over a decade of experience helping accounting and advisory firms improve efficiency and increase work output. Strongbox can be found in the Big Four and top regional firms, saving these teams significant hours on each project. We offer a risk-free pilot program, so contact us today to see if we can help your firm achieve your output goals.