A common question in our Boomer Process Circle gatherings is how to enforce consistent processes and procedures in a firm. It’s a valid concern. After all, firms invest a lot of time and resources into improving and refining their processes, so they want those changes to stick.
However, it’s essential to recognize that you can’t impose true accountability; you have to nurture it through deliberate and strategic actions.
In this article, we’ll outline these actions, focusing on fostering a sense of responsibility and consistency in your approach to leading your firm.
Encourage consistency from the top
When firms struggle with accountability and consistency, the first place to look for a root cause isn’t the team members performing the work but the people at the top of the firm.
Leadership sets the tone for any organization. To enforce consistent processes, firm leaders must set an example.
Consider the characteristics of accountable and non-accountable leadership from Dan Sullivan of The Strategic Coach below. Which category do your partners fit into?
When leaders are accountable, it creates a ripple effect throughout the organization, encouraging team members to follow suit.
Identify key metrics for accountability
You can’t hold people accountable if they’re unclear about what is expected of them.
Communicating expectations involves defining roles and responsibilities and ensuring each team member understands how their work contributes to the firm’s broader goals.
Accountability thrives in an environment where expectations are quantifiable, i.e., key performance indicators (KPIs). Some KPIs to consider tracking in your firm include:
Total revenue generated per partner
Net profit margin after accounting for expenses
Total billable hours
Percentage of fees collected on time
Aging of accounts receivables
Revenue and profitability by service line or industry specialization
Revenue targets vs actual results
Error rate in deliverables
Client satisfaction scores or feedback
Percentage of projects completed on time
Number of new clients acquired
Percentage of clients retained year-over-year
Number of client referrals
Number of lost clients
Revenue generated from cross-selling services
Participation in training, certifications, or professional development
The key isn’t to inundate your team with an overwhelming number of metrics. Choose three to five KPIs that align with your desired behaviors and outcomes.
These metrics shouldn’t be confined to financial performance alone—they should also encompass aspects like professional development, client relationship management, and team collaboration.
Focusing on a few metrics helps team members understand what is expected and how their performance will be measured.
Engage in crucial conversations
One of the most challenging aspects of enforcing accountability is addressing underperformance or non-compliance with established processes. This often requires having tough, crucial conversations.
The objective of a crucial conversation isn’t to reprimand but to understand the root causes of the issues and to develop support systems that enable individuals to succeed. Approach these conversations with empathy and focus on constructive feedback. It's about creating an environment where team members feel supported in their growth and development.
Enforcing consistent processes in your firm is less about imposing rules and more about cultivating a culture of accountability. This requires leading by example, clear metrics, well-defined expectations and the willingness to engage in honest, supportive conversations.
When you foster this culture, you create an environment where accountability isn’t just expected but embraced, leading to a more efficient, effective and harmonious workplace.
Could you benefit from structure and accountability as you strive to push your firm forward?
The Boomer Process Circle is a peer group of top process managers, project managers and change leaders in the accounting profession who share tools and resources for pushing change within their firms. Apply now to tap into the experience and expertise you need to lead the charge for continuous improvement.
As Shareholder and Chief Operating Officer for Boomer Consulting, Inc., Arianna Campbell helps accounting firms focus on the people part of change by leading process improvement initiatives that increase capacity to create more value internally and externally. Arianna is adept at blending concepts from process improvement and change leadership to drive innovation and continuous improvement.
Arianna facilitates the development and cultivation of Process Managers, Project Managers and Change Leaders in the Boomer Process Circle.