In Part 1 of our series you peered through the window of an accounting department to see a dysfunctional accounting team at work. Teammates were blaming each other for mistakes and missed deadlines, and clients were taking the brunt of it. You watched them long enough to see them pull together and find ways to fix some of their problems.
Then, in Part 2, we took another peek and saw how they were making fewer mistakes and getting more work done because of how they redesigned work processes and made other changes. We saw how staff accountants were taking ownership. They quit letting deadlines sail by and blaming clients for not doing their part. As a result, clients loved it. They appreciated accountants calling or emailing them reminders to keep things on track.
Now, let’s take a look in Part 3, the final piece in the series, to see what happened next.
It was looking like everything was going the right direction. The staff were following their new processes and generally working well together, and clients were happy. Then came the surprise.
The staff hadn’t considered that the team’s new approach to clients, attitudes about taking responsibility, and how they actually did the work could make some staff members uncomfortable. The changes really shook up the work environment including working relationships that were established prior to the change. Those relationships were formed by a different set of rules. When the team changed the rules for working together, it also changed the relationships as evidenced by what happened next.
One senior accountant was enthusiastic about the changes at first. He knew they needed to do things better, and he liked seeing the team get better results. But he also liked not helping other staff members and ignoring clients he didn’t like to work with. For him, parting with the past was sometimes downright annoying.
One day he surprised the staff by announcing he was quitting. He realized he wasn’t ready to give up part of the old culture. It was too hard. So, he decided to opt out of the change altogether and find a better fit for himself somewhere else.
The next thing that happened was almost as surprising as the resignation. The manager had to move most of the senior accountant’s work to another accountant. It nearly doubled her workload, and he wasn’t sure she could handle it.
As it turned out, he didn’t need to worry. Within a few weeks, she was easily handling everything from before as well as the senior accountant’s work. New processes and systems had made the work so much simpler to do that she was able to absorb it. Other staff members had similar experiences. Despite a huge increase in total workload, they had no trouble keeping up. In fact, the team soon doubled its productivity easily surpassing the 21% improvement we set as the bar to clear.
Before the change, the manager couldn’t figure out why his accountants could have so many problems getting work done. After the change, he realized that most of their problems were caused by the system. When the system was fixed, staff not only worked better together because they made fewer mistakes, they also made fewer mistakes because they worked better together. Staff stopped finger pointing and clients couldn’t be happier.
Company leaders sweating over lackluster team performance will often find the same solutions as this accounting team, if they’re willing to look past the obvious. By bringing staff together to find the root of problems, and creating solutions they’re committed to, they can achieve performance improvements just as astounding as the accountants.
Ascent Management Consulting is found at www.ascentmgt.com and specializes in productivity improvement through performance turnarounds, leadership coaching, and appraisal-less performance management.