ISO 9000

I learned a variety of different topics in the second half of management 301, but the one that caught my eye the most was the idea of quality control and improvement. In particular, I related to ISO 9000 because of its personal relation to my own experiences. As I mentioned in my earlier blog post, I have no experience in actual managerial position where I’ve overseen supply chains and physical projects. I have however, experienced a wide variety of accounting projects and process improvement is one of the biggest things that managers are constantly on the look out for. The difference is that the customers we are trying to satisfy are not outside consumers, but rather ourselves.

ISO 9000 was interesting to me because the basic premise of process improvement was very similar to what I did in my last accounting internship. We were trying to improve a reconciliation process with all our international branches due to the fact that the current method was too time costly and slow. In order to improve it, we basically did what the ISO 9000 says to do.

1. Document your processes: We sat down with our superiors and meticulously traced our workflow from beginning to end. We then found areas that were redundant or extraneous and simplified them into single lumps. In other areas we completely cut out certain parts that we realized were not necessary.

2. Follow your documents: We then documented our new and improved process into an easy to understand work flow chart. I, as the intern, then did much of the leg work that would be needed to convert the old process to the new.

3. Be consistent: Finally, we jump started the new process into action. We were careful to make sure that the new process was as standardized as possible, so that random variability (such as different ways to categorize the same thing) was reduced close to zero.

4. Audit your results and improve your processes: After about a month, we did a quick audit to see where we stood. The members of the team had been writing down any errors or problems we had discovered over the course of the month and shared them with our superiors. The process was then further refined.

The end result was that what was normally a monstrous and time consuming reconciliation/international month end close was substantially stream lined. Many processes that were originally manually done had been transformed into quick, automatic updates by the computer.

It was interesting for me to learn that what I thought about as simply “process improvement” actually had a name like ISO 9000 (sounds like something from Space Odyssey).

Question: What process improvements have you made at your job?

Project Crashing & Ethics

Project management was something I learned fairly recently. In particular, I found the concept of crashing to be intriguing. Unfortunately, I have not had any internships where I was actually exposed to a physical project such as building a house. However, I have had three accounting internships where I have done various accounting projects.

Initially, I thought accounting processes could generally not be crashed. This is because it is the accountants that are completing the process and as such are limited by the number of hours a person can feasibly work. After all, people need to sleep (of course, some of the larger accounting firms seem to disregard this fact).

I then realized this is actually done all the time in accounting firms, I just never had an official name for it. When a project turns out to be too massive, such as completing an important audit in a tight deadline, an outside consultant is hired to shoulder the extra load. This was actually what happened at one of the companies I interned at. I was an internal auditor and near the end of my term, it turned out there was simply too much work to be done. We could not keep up with our schedule due to unforeseen circumstances arising (our CFO had us work on ad-hoc project he wanted very badly). As a result, my director hired an outside consultant. I didn’t realize until now that my director was technically crashing the project. By spending the money to hire this contractor on a short-term basis, my company was able to complete and file all regulatory SOX testing by the appropriate deadline. I thought this was an excellent and well used moment of project crashing as I had felt extremely overloaded at the time.

As I thought further, especially in a field such as audit, project crashing can sometimes be more than just about meeting deadlines and choosing the most cost efficient crash. In the anecdote of my time as an internal auditor, my director could have easily asked me to stay and work the extra hours at hardly any additional cost. However, because he knew that I was only an intern and that the high pressure and volume might lower the quality of audit, he purposely crashed with the much more costly option. Perhaps it’s due to the field I work in, but I’ve often found impending deadlines and ethics to be close together, hand in hand. As a result, I feel that project crashing can often be a very ethical process.

To the class: Where there ever any instances where you were ethically bound to crash or not crash a project?