I couldn’t pass this statement by and not let my readers enjoy both the presentation and the point. First of all – I have never given birth… I have been in the room (4 times – yes, that’s 4 times), but I was strictly on the support team (cups of ice and push – push – push). I would also like to make the point that if men had to have babies the population would never have taken off, because of our low threshold for pain (any man who takes the exception to that last statement has never been in a delivery room).
The quote that titles this blog, “I gave birth to two but I seem to mother everyone” came from a conversation I had yesterday with a bank’s accounting person who is in charge of the accounts payable process.
Let me set the stage… I had been traveling for two days, working in the Big Apple. One day started at 4am and the next ended at 10pm. Lots of time was spent on planes, in traffic (notice I didn’t write cars), and in board rooms. I was on my last call of the day, and I was tired. I was an hour into the conversation on Accounts Payable Automation with this AP person from the bank. A small aside – when traveling I love to talk with people. Yes, I am that person. Sorry – rest assured that I will read your body language and if you don’t want to talk I won’t start. I was talking once with a lady who asked me what I do and I responded,”I write about AP Automation.” She sarcastically said, “Yip Pee!”, and that was the end of the conversation. Now, back to the story… The outcome of the conversation was, “Let’s gather more information” (Cost Per Invoice study – It’s what I am known for – everybody loves a good spreadsheet). I asked if she anticipated any problems with automating (keep in mind, I am very tired at this point). She responded, “I gave birth to two but I seem to mother everyone.” Of course, after I finished laughing (and it was a good one that I really needed… probably when on too long… I am sure it got unconfortable for her… but that’s why I told you about my long day) I asked what she meant. She said, “It seems that whatever I do, managers perceive approving invoices as a low priority.” She went on to say, “Even if we automate, I bet they still won’t login no matter how many reminders they get.”
There is a fine line between helping people and enabling people. This is a difficult thing when it comes to the day-to-day life of an accounting professional. However, there are a few tried and true principles that exist, and most companies do this without really knowing it. I call it the Field vs. Accounting. To explain this a little more – the field says that accounting does not understand them, and accounting says the field has no idea what they are doing. There are two problems with this unspoken (well, sometimes spoken) argument.
- You Can’t Manage What you Can’t Measure – in a paper world, the idea of moving fast or slow is relative based on someone’s opinion. In an automated world you know the number.
- Incentives Make the World Go Round – Whether financial or otherwise, if you incentivise the person in the proper way, with the proper motivation, you will be amazed at the outcome.
If we take the above and add 1+2 that equals: Knowing your numbers and putting the proper incentives on those numbers will create the behaviors that you need. In the case with the AP manager of the bank, her frustration was due to the branch managers not working on AP in the time and way she thought they should. If I was to talk with the branch managers they would likely say that they have to increase (in this troubling time) the revenue of their branch – AP will have to wait.
AP Automation can solve a very interesting problem… you will gain remarkable visibility of your process once automated and you will ease the burden of the managers in doing the work. Your company can set goals according to those numbers…. no more finger to the wind (that can be the middle finger too) and everyone can be trained to perform up to those numbers.
I write a lot about this subject in the 8 Pitfalls in Chapter 6 – Training and Go Live – Keeping the Proper Perspective on Training Will Keep You Out of the Pit!
So, to all you moms out there – collect your data and punish according to that!