Get Results: Improve Your Accounting Firm Processes Using Lean Six Sigma

Renewed focus on efficiency and quality can beef up profitability.

January 2010
by Dustin Hostetler/Journal of Accountancy

Poor processes directly affect client service and client satisfaction. You see it in delays in completing jobs, responding to client requests, or when a partner fails to communicate a piece of client-related information, causing an unnecessary mistake down the line. Inefficient processes can result in your firm’s inability to bill for all the work in process, which decreases profitability. If your firm has experienced any of these problems, it is a sign of inefficient work processes that are keeping you from maximizing talents and resources. Lean Six Sigma, a method often used by manufacturers to improve internal processes, can improve your firm’s business operations while driving short- and long-term benefits to the bottom line.

Lean Six Sigma is a combination of the “lean” manufacturing concept that focuses on efficiency, and Six Sigma, which focuses on quality. The Lean Six Sigma concept is a balanced approach of these two methods.

In an accounting firm, Lean Six Sigma focuses on adding client value by eliminating non-value-added steps and inefficiencies in client service processes, resulting in more time to be proactive. It is a holistic, team-based approach that requires time and commitment to detect waste and inefficiency. Skilled facilitators (certified Black Belts who are trained experts in applying Lean Six Sigma concepts within an organization) lead teams through a thorough analysis of the “current state” of the firm’s processes. Waste and inefficiencies are identified, and lean techniques (tools that are focused on process effectiveness and understanding client value) are applied to eliminate waste and improve processes.

This article was excerpted from the Journal of Accountancy. Read the full article here.