Seek trans­for­ma­tion, ac­cept change

Accounting Today - - Technology - By L. Gary Boomer

Dan Sullivan, founder of The Strate­gic Coach, says, “All progress starts with the truth.” I be­lieve this state­ment to be proven, es­pe­cially in the ac­count­ing pro­fes­sion. Progress re­quires change and trans­for­ma­tion. Peo­ple of­ten use the words in­ter­change­ably, but there are dis­tinct dif­fer­ences be­tween change and trans­for­ma­tion.

Change tends to fix things of the past, while trans­for­ma­tion de­fines and cre­ates an at­trac­tive fu­ture. As Daniel Bur­rus writes in “The An­tic­i­pa­tory Or­ga­ni­za­tion,” some­times change sim­ply isn’t enough. Trans­for­ma­tion was once viewed as in­spi­ra­tional, and still is to a cer­tain seg­ment of the pop­u­la­tion. Oth­ers as­so­ciate trans­for­ma­tion with dis­rup­tive tech­nol­ogy, cost-cut­ting and loss of jobs. This cer­tainly can be the case, but will you be bet­ter off pro­cras­ti­nat­ing and ig­nor­ing the truth or start­ing the trans­for­ma­tion jour­ney to­day? I be­lieve trans­for­ma­tion is a jour­ney that re­quires change and learn­ing new skills to re­main rel­e­vant.

We re­fer to this as up­skilling. There are sev­eral ways to gain new rel­e­vant skills, and both em­ploy­ees and em­ploy­ers re­al­ize the im­por­tance of up­skilling. Tra­di­tional ed­u­ca­tion sys­tems typ­i­cally don’t meet the needs for up­skilling. Value is cre­ated through lead­er­ship, re­la­tion­ships and cre­ativ­ity. Think­ing may be the most crit­i­cal skill, and how you think is dif­fer­ent with re­gard to trans­for­ma­tion and change. Trans­for­ma­tion re­quires ex­po­nen­tial think­ing, while in­cre­men­tal think­ing is nor­mally associated with change. The dif­fer­ence is huge … 10 per­cent ver­sus 10X. You tend to think lo­cal for change and global for trans­for­ma­tion.

Change may seem fu­ture-ori­ented, but it is firmly em­bed­ded in the past. Change tries to pro­duce a bet­ter ver­sion of what al­ready ex­ists. Links to the past in­vari­ably are associated with cor­po­rate com­mu­ni­ca­tions like:

We need to re­spond faster — work harder. Man­age­ment must be more ag­ile. We need more so­cial me­dia pres­ence. These state­ments are all based upon ref­er­ence points in the past.

In con­trast, trans­for­ma­tion de­signs new fields and ser­vices re­quir­ing new or dif­fer­ent skills. In ac­count­ing, some of the more crit­i­cal skills for the fu­ture are tech­nol­ogy, data an­a­lyt­ics, se­cu­rity, project man­age­ment, mar­ket­ing, sales and strate­gic plan­ning. These skills al­low firms to op­er­ate in less con­tested mar­kets with fewer reg­u­la­tions and are per­ceived by the clients to add more value than cur­rent com­pli­ance ser­vices. In ad­di­tion to changes in skill sets, trans­for­ma­tion also re­quires sig­nif­i­cant changes in mind­sets and toolsets. In fact, some of the toolsets are the dis­rupters (e.g., ro­bot­ics, ma­chine learn­ing, net­works and sen­sors, and blockchain).

The ques­tions asked are also much dif­fer­ent. In trans­for­ma­tion, the ques­tions are, “What is pos­si­ble, will this pro­duce ex­po­nen­tial re­sults, and how can we adapt?” Com­ments and ques­tions associated with change are gen­er­ally, “When will this end, what does this mean for me, and not an­other change now.”

Trans­for­ma­tion is based on as­ser­tions through cur­rent com­mit­ments. These com­mit­ments re­quire courage, ca­pa­bil­i­ties and con­fi­dence. Un­for­tu­nately, this is the or­der of the four “C”s. Most peo­ple would pre­fer the or­der be re­versed, but trans­for­ma­tion does not work that way. It starts with a com­mit­ment and you can com­mit to­day. Courage, ca­pa­bil­i­ties and confi- dence are gained through­out the jour­ney. Un­for­tu­nately, trans­for­ma­tion is not an event or driven by a check­list. Mind­sets will de­ter­mine your as­ser­tions and com­mit­ments. Some ques­tions to con­sider:

1. Do you want to be a game-changer or stay where you are, know­ing com­modi­ti­za­tion is hap­pen­ing at an in­creas­ing pace? 2. Are you a life-long learner? 3. Do you want to learn and change faster than the com­pe­ti­tion?

4. Do you wish to be a mem­ber of a col­lab­o­ra­tive team?

5. Are you will­ing to pack­age and price your ser­vices dif­fer­ently? 6. Do you wish to grow? 7. Do you want to lever­age cloud-based tech­nol­ogy?

If you an­swered “yes” to the ma­jor­ity of the ques­tions, you are po­si­tioned to ac­cel­er­ate the trans­for­ma­tion process by de­vel­op­ing a vi­sion, plan and unique-abil­ity team to ex­e­cute. Tack­ling these ques­tions as a firm will al­low you to ex­plore pos­si­bil­i­ties and fo­cus on pri­or­i­ties. The hid­den value comes from the con­ver­sa­tions and ideas that oc­cur dur­ing the plan­ning process where peo­ple feel safe, but un­com­fort­able with an un­known fu­ture. Firm sur­vival de­pends upon your abil­ity to trans­form. Now is the time to de­fine your game and re­lated story. Com­mit­ting to the trans­for­ma­tion process to­day is the first step.

In prac­tice, trans­for­ma­tion and change is not an ei­ther/or game. Too of­ten, firms get caught up fo­cus­ing on change linked to old pro­cesses, sys­tems and ser­vices when they should be clear about what they are trans­form­ing. A clear vi­sion and strate­gic plan will re­tain and at­tract qual­ity clients and em­ploy­ees. Both are im­por­tant to your abil­ity to sus­tain suc­cess and re­main fu­ture-ready.


L. Gary Boomer, CPA, CITP, CGMA, is the vi­sion­ary and strate­gist at Boomer Con­sult­ing Inc.

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