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Keeping up with the pace of change

February 22, 2019  |  Linda Wedul

Keeping up with the pace of change

In Justin Trudeau’s 2018 Davos address, he said the now-famous line, "The pace of change has never been this fast, yet it will never be this slow again." While this statement is especially relevant today, I suspect many people were preaching this sentiment for generations before us. Think about our history of change: The invention of the printing press increased the dissemination of knowledge. The inventions of the telegraph, telephone, radio and television all increased the speed of communication. Then, the internet came and increased the volume of information to levels beyond what we can possibly consume with critical thought.

The accounting profession, a profession that is more than 100 years old, is not immune to change. But, it doesn't have a reputation of changing quickly.

Accountants are trained to look for and minimize risk -- and change always involves risk. They observe early adopters with a watchful eye. If the early adopter succeeds, then they'll look at that new software, business structure or process. For more on this process, read Geoffrey Moore's book, Crossing the Chasm. It’s a classic.

The developments in digital technology are, without a doubt, going to change accounting work. This means CPAs will need to learn new skills. According to the World Economic Forum, on average, employees will need 101 days of training or retraining leading up to 2022. Those who fail to learn and adapt to the digital transformation, which is well underway, will find themselves quickly marginalized. It’s the lifelong learners who will thrive and adapt.

Lifelong learning is a shining light in the accounting profession. It’s a core value of the profession and the MNCPA, and will serve us well as we navigate change.

The MNCPA itself is going through a major change. After 25 years on the same association software system, we are moving to a new system. The new system will mean new business processes for almost everything we do. Feelings of anxiousness, fear and frustration will most certainly be part of this process as we relearn how to do our work. But, there is also excitement, anticipation and optimism about new features and improved functionality.

Before learning about the nuances of the new system, we are mentally preparing for the change. We’ve been doing team activities to simulate change and the feelings that accompany it. We are engaging in exercises to help us appreciate how we each handle change differently. We’re also focusing our discussions on what we will gain with the change, rather than what we will lose.

Some of my favorite activities have included:

  • Challenging a team of four people to all move a pen from one end of a room to another in under 10 seconds. It was easy the first time, but then they had to do it in under five seconds, three seconds and even one second. This activity showed how important asking questions and adjusting your strategy can be when faced with a change.
  • Sitting back-to-back with a partner, one person had to describe to the other person how to draw an everyday object. This exercise challenged us to embrace clear communication, drop assumptions and support each other.
  • Asking everyone to write their name 10 times -- first with their dominant hand, then again with their nondominant hand -- and then sharing reactions and thoughts during the exercise. Many said they were frustrated, cautious and uncertain when writing with their nondominant hand. Others were energized and determined. This helped us embrace how everyone handles change differently.
While our change management project is small in comparison to an entire profession changing, the process and feelings associated with it are not that different.
  1. Acknowledge that when you’re facing change, something you’re comfortable with is ending. This can elicit feelings of sadness and uncertainty.
  2. Embrace learning and relearning, which will bring about feelings of both excitement and frustration.
  3. Look for and create new opportunities that you couldn’t do before. This final stage will evoke energy and optimism into what we do. 

I know that many MNCPA members have gone through major system changes. If you have words of wisdom, please share them in the comments.

And just for fun, play David Bowie's song, “Changes,” and remember that in 1971, the world felt crazy then, too. 

Topics: Leadership, Management, Team Building, Practice Management

Linda Wedul

Linda Wedul is president and CEO of the MNCPA. She’s usually spotted at MNCPA events, introducing herself to members with a warm smile and memorable laugh. Mixed among the Footnotes, accounting journals, leadership books and three monitors in her office, you’d be surprised to see a dog kennel. Her unpaid job is volunteering as a foster family for service dogs in training through Can-Do-Canines. She and her husband have two adult children and live in Farmington. Linda can be reached at 952-885-5516 or lwedul@mncpa.org.

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