It happens all the time: A management guru comes up with a catch phrase and applies it to an old and obvious management productivity-improvement process. In short order, the phrase becomes fashionable, and career-minded managers quickly latch onto the trendy idea. But, more often than not, the effort to adopt the idea resembles an attempt to squeeze a square peg into a round hole. It doesn’t take an MBA to understand that the only way to insert a square peg in a round hole is to reshape either the peg or the hole. Failure to do one or the other results in frustration and, worse, considerable damage—to both the organization and the staff.
Corporate teams are a perfect example. The idea of forming teams to accomplish tasks is a worthwhile objective. But for a team to function effectively, it has to meet at least two criteria:
- Team members must have essentially the same goal. That’s not to say they initially have to agree on how to reach that goal. If anything, diversity of views at an early stage is a positive thing—it stimulates fresh, innovative thinking.
- Team members must not be in competition with each other. If you ignore that stricture, ego clashes are sure to follow, guaranteeing failure of the team’s project.
A Better Way to Learn
As an experiment, gather your accounting staff and suggest they spend an hour or two together, sharing with each other some of the work shortcuts they’ve developed for themselves. One person, for example, may have worked out a helpful spreadsheet macro; another may have figured out a simple way to build a special database or to get the database to instruct a word processor to produce custom mail-merge letters.
Despite the popularity and apparent efficiency of classroom instruction, one-on-one learning remains probably the most effective way to share special knowledge.
You may find that not only do staff members happily share knowledge (it builds positive self-image), but also their colleagues learn quickly because the instruction comes from people who understand their work goal and can focus on their needs.
Bonus: It also builds team spirit.
Get a (Real) Rise Out of Meetings
If long business meetings get you down, maybe you should stand up for a change.
Management researchers at the University of Missouri ran a series of tests and found when meeting participants were asked to stand during the session, instead of sitting, not only were the meetings shorter (no surprise there), but also the quality of the decision-making was not impaired (big surprise). Equally surprising was the finding that those who stood reported greater satisfaction with the meeting. Meetings where participants sat lasted on average 34% longer than stand-up sessions.
|An Invitation |
The JofA publishes a monthly collection of Golden Business Ideas and invites readers to contribute their favorites (for attribution, if you like).
Send your ideas to Senior Editor Stanley Zarowin via either e-mail ( firstname.lastname@example.org ) or regular mail at the Journal of Accountancy, Harborside Financial Center, 201 Plaza Three, Jersey City, NJ 07311-3881.