There’s a lot being written and talked about on firm transformation and innovation today. You can’t go a few minutes on social media without being inundated with content. There are daily articles from the industry’s top publications. Every conference has multiple speakers on the topic. Suffice it to say, the hype is strong. And while there’s been a lot of content created around the ‘What’ and the ‘Why’, something I find disappointing is there’s never enough ‘How’. So, I want to set out to change the narrative, and start having more discussion around the How. In my 12+ years of consulting in the public accounting profession, simplifying the How has proven to be the single biggest factor in creating successful outcomes for my clients.
Don’t get me wrong, understanding the What and Why is important. Especially the Why when it comes to buy-in. But unless you execute on the How, very little changes in the organization. There’s not a lot of forward-moving action. And action is what generates results. Therefore, we must focus on action (the How).
In this blog post, I want to share with you a simple formula we’ve developed at Transformity to help you on your transformation journey to start moving forward. Think of it as a simplified How that can point you in the right direction to get started. The basic formula/process is the following: V + AIM, or spelled out Vision first, then AIM (Action Plan, Invest, Magnify) to take action. We believe understanding and utilizing this simple process can yield tremendous results going forward in your organization.
Let’s break it down into the four categories, starting with Vision. It is imperative that your organization have a compelling 5-year vision. That is a non-negotiable starting point for any successful transformation journey. You must define your firm’s vision of the future first, before you AIM to take action. Where are you headed? Why are you heading that way? Everyone needs to know the destination off in the distance you’re trying to get to. That’s the vision. Leadership needs to set the vision, first and foremost. That vision needs to be bold. It needs to be inspirational. It needs to be a shining example of a grand future state.
Once the vision has been defined, the next step is to develop an Action Plan. As with a Vision, there are many different tools and strategies to use to develop and document the action plan. We recommend a Strategic Deployment Matrix tool / approach – which focuses on 5-year breakthrough objectives, 1-2 year major initiatives, and 3-6 month short-term tactics that are tied to core elements of your firm’s vision and has champions assigned to carry out the execution. Think of the action plan as developing the tactical steps to begin taking baby steps toward execution of the vision. It builds accountability and timelines into the process.
From there, you need to start Investing in the major initiatives from the action plan. Initiatives that are increasingly focused on a shifting business model to diversify your services and revenue mix, away from so much compliance and into more consulting-based services. You’re going to want to make sure that you’re automating and leveraging gig/outsourcing efforts to free up the capacity of your relationship advisors. You’ll need to develop an innovation process to identify new service opportunities and a packaging/pricing model process to properly market, sell and grow them. There’s going to be major changes in your talent and development areas – both in terms of the search for talent as well as the nurturing and development of your existing talent. There’s no shortage of change and disruption occurring – your major initiatives and investing activities are put in place to make sure you’re being proactive and not reactive in becoming the firm of tomorrow that you want to become.
The fourth step is to Magnify your results. You may take some detours on the path to executing the action plan. That’s okay…it’s called learning. But the success you begin to have, you’ll want to focus on rinse and repeating that success and scaling it. Launch your innovators and trail blazers into pursuit of more new opportunity. Build the bench to support what’s already been built. Re-invest and magnify your results.
Before you know it, that crazy and far-fetched five-year vision that you were very uncomfortable about has come and gone – you’ve achieved it. And it wasn’t as hard as you thought. It’s time to repeat the cycle. Keep getting your rising leaders involved and continuously work toward that inspirational vision for the firm of tomorrow. Success doesn’t rest.
About the Author:
Dustin Hostetler, Co-Founder and Visionary of Transformity Solutions LLC, is the pioneer in applying Lean and Six Sigma concepts to public accounting firms. As a Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt, he has consulted with more than 150 CPA firms over the past 10 years, including nearly half of the Accounting Today Top 100 firms. Along with consulting, Dustin has trained hundreds of firm practitioners to be certified Lean Six Sigma Green Belts in conjunction with Ohio State University.