A recent comment from a business friend, call him Tom, who manages a small factory, reminded me of a scene from The Wizard of Oz. “Our president is an accountant by training – but,” he added, “she’s a good accountant.”
“So, what is a good accountant?” I asked.
“Well, you know,” Tom said, “she thinks that numbers are important, but what’s more important is the story behind the numbers. She understands accounting, but she also has taken time to understand the business, especially our Lean efforts. On more than one occasion she’s supported us at a time when a bad accountant would have just read chapter and verse from GAAP standards.”
“So then, what’s a bad accountant?” I asked.
“I wouldn’t have the time to describe that right now,” Tom replied.
After this discussion I took few minutes to jot down traits of a bad accountant for myself, all from instances that I’ve personally observed. Before proceeding however, I hasten to add that good accountants are numerous and have on occasion been know to be heroic. But there are still some status quo controllers out there whose myopic and archaic views are dangerous for lean implementers. Here are a few traits to watch for:
A bad accountant…
- Stays in his/her office. Wants to be seen as ‘above the fray.’
- Reads reports and computer screens (and the Wall Street Journal.) No direct observation.
- Sees him/herself only as a scorekeeper. Takes no responsibility for business performance.
- Understands accounting only. Does not take time to understand other functions or the business as a whole.
- Sees accounting as a rigid science. Follows GAAP standards without question.
- Heard saying: “The auditors will object.” Is quick to object to new ideas and uses the auditor threat to quell objection.
- Thinks that a positive inventory variance offset by a negative variance elsewhere is good enough as long as the net is zero.
- Believes that shipment spikes at the end of the month occur because production only works hard at the end of the month.
- Slashes inventory requisition quantities as a means to reduce inventory.
- Encourages inventory run down at period ends to improve turns.
- Thinks that set-up reduction means amortizing long set-ups over similar parts.
- Treats inventory as an asset and employees as a variable expense.
These are just a few traits that come to mind. Can you add others? Is your accountant a ‘good witch or a bad witch?’ Let me hear from you.
BTW: Only 111 days until the 2013 Northeast Shingo Conference.
One of my favorites for bad accountants:
“Walks through the battlefield after the fray is over, only to shoot the wounded.”