Learn to Love Frustration – Or Fix Your Workflow #2

In my last post, you learned that to fix your workflow, you have to first define your current workflow. Next, let’s work on improving it.


Ruthlessly Efficient Workflow (REW) has two primary tenets. First, tasks should be performed by the least expensive staff capable of performing the task. Second, tasks must either deliver value to a client or be required for regulatory purposes.


Now that you have defined your workflow, the next step in the improvement process is to mark which staff performs each task in your workflow. You can start out with the actual names. Then come back and substitute position, such as admin, tax preparer, reviewer, or partner, for each step. We do this to de-personalize our analysis. This isn’t about individual people, it’s about finding the right level person for each task.


For instance, many firms have preparers scan their own documents before beginning the tax preparation process. Is there anything inherent in scanning that requires a $50K per year person? Absolutely not. While I’m certain an expensive tax preparer will likely do a great job scanning, that’s not what you need them for. They should be preparing returns. Scanning should be done by a less expensive clerical employee. This is how you cut cost from a process.


Final production of a tax return is similar. If you have preparers either printing (God forbid at this point in the 21st century) or e-delivering tax returns directly to clients, you are wasting money. Yes, this is a bit more difficult than scanning, but it’s still within the capabilities of an admin person with a little training and a good process in place.


Another great task for admin staff is e-filing and tracking acceptances and rejections. No they can’t fix the rejections, but they can notify the return preparer when a rejection happens and follow up to see that it is resolved.


Successfully delegating tasks down the firm structure requires: training and standardized processes. If you build complexity into a task definition, you will not be able to delegate it down to the appropriate level. Let’s look at delegating scanning as an example.


The key to making scanning an admin task is removing complexity. You cannot ask admin staff to make judgment decisions about what should be scanned and what should not. You have to define it for them since they don’t know what documents matter and which are junk. Have them err on the side of scanning everything unless clearly inconsequential. Preparers can easily ignore the pages they don’t need.


My final post in the series will cover eliminating unnecessary tasks from your workflow.


Thanks for reading!

Frank Stitely, CPA, CVA

1 Response

  1. It’s hard to search out educated individuals on this matter, however you sound like you already know what you’re speaking about! Thanks

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