I know… I have written some ridiculous articles in my time, and this one must really looks like it’s out of left field. Well, hang with me. Last year I wrote an eBook called “Could Steve Jobs Run An Accounting Department?” As far as 2014 went the Jobs book was the most requested and second highest rated talk that I did at conferences. It was a bit of a leap for me because I didn’t want to come across as disrespectful to accounting professional or making fun or our profession (we get enough of that). I wanted to take what made Jobs great and apply it to the world or accounting and finance. It seemed to work – thankfully. The feedback I got was it was a fresh look at management and innovation that people hadn’t thought about in accounting department.
I started thinking about the Steve Jobs thing, and there were people/characters out there that would be an interesting idea on running an accounting department. That’s when I ran across Tony Soprano. I am somewhat late to the Soprano bandwagon. For those of you that aren’t familiar, Tony Soprano was the lead character in the HBO series that ended in 2007 of the trials and tribulations of a modern mafia family. I have just finished the 5th season of the show through the HBO app and am very excited about knowing how it all ends. I don’t know if it’s because I am a huge nerd (my kids would say a very loud yes to this) but while I watch the show, although fictional, I keep evaluating Tony the head of the mob family and his management skills.
What Won’t Work?
If you only know the show by its reputation you will know that one thing that won’t work in an accounting department is violence. That’s a big part of Tony’s management style and there is no place for it in the work world. I could picture someone not turning in their expense report on time without the proper receipts and next thing you know they would be sleeping with the fishes. Come to think of it though, that would solve all T&E problems. (Seriously) Violence is no laughing matter, and the show for the most part plays it down as it just being part of the job. Tony as a leader and manager of the family uses the threat of violence, that is anyone crosses him inside or outside of the family then they will more than likely lose their life. There is no place for that in an accounting department.
What Would Work?
So if you take the threat of violence out of Tony Soprano’s management style then what are you left with? This is something that strikes me, in every episode that would make Tony an excellent accounting manager and that’s communication. His language is bad and a lot of time if you make him mad he would blow a gasket, but the one consistent thing he does as a character every episode is handle conflict with excellent communication. Now Tony doesn’t just handle any kind of conflict he handles life threatening conflict. Here are a few things that he does to resolve conflict
- He deals with the situation quickly – as soon as he hears about it
- He works face to face. Could you image Tony having a problem with someone and sending an email to express his displeasure
- He uses a code and hierarchy of values to resolve conflicts. He happened to have gotten this code from his father and family that dates back centuries.
- Once the issue is settled he has a confirmation process, usually a hug, kiss (both those are optional in an accounting department), and before they separate he says, “are we good?”
- Lastly, and he does this so well, if the other party says, “Yea Tone, we’re good.” It’s over. He doesn’t harbor or carry anything away from the resolution.
When I wrote the Steve Jobs book I answer the question if he could run an accounting department, and the answer was no. Jobs would want to change accounting and create his own process… maybe even develop a new currency. So, I guess I need to answer the question if Tony Soprano could run an accounting department. The answer is, if he gave up the violence and used his people skills, I believe he could.
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