I don't know about you, but I have the feeling that my Christmas vacation was months ago and we're all back in the swing of things.
Of course, not least because of the lockdown, some processes are still at a standstill in one place or another at the start of the year, but once again things got underway more quickly than I had expected.
The beginning of the year is a very important time for reflection.
not to repeat last year's mistakes.
And to continue doing the things that went well, or even to improve them.
This is also true for us at zapliance:
We used the last weeks to review 2020.
We reflected on whether our processes still fit our growing team, whether the roles and responsibilities still make sense and how teams can be better organized.
But we also reviewed our blog - and tailored the content for the coming months even better to our readers.
We are happy with the results!
And we hope that you will be, too.
So, the first steps into 2021 have been taken and it is time for us to hit the ground running again with the blog.
That is why - inspired by the last weeks - I decided to dedicate the first article of the year to the start of the new year.
To be precise, the 4-step plan I used to analyze the last, very eventful year.
And even though things may be hectic again for you now, I still recommend that you pause for a moment and think about last year once again:
How did the cooperation with your colleagues and managers go?
Could you rely on the others, or did you prefer to do the work yourself?
Were the tasks clearly distributed or did they overlap again and again?
How did it go with deadlines - were they met, or did you get the impression that deadlines were just a formality that nobody stuck to anyway?
And what about your own competencies?
Were you up to every situation or did you always have the feeling that you were stumbling over weaknesses in a certain area?
Analyze instead of ignoring!
Whatever your situation was - an analysis of the past year never hurts.
Because this way you can also uncover issues that you didn't even have on your radar screen - but which have unconsciously disturbed you throughout the year.
I myself follow a 4-step plan for this analysis - and it goes as follows:
- creation of a list of relevant situations
- analysis of the situations
- working out and implementing solutions
So, the first step is to make a list of all the situations I remember from last year - both the ones where something didn't work out and the ones where something worked out well.
What helps if you don't remember every single situation:
feel free to go through your calendar from last year - you'll probably come across countless smaller projects that you may have already forgotten about.
For example, a request to a specialist department that remained unanswered until the end of the project.
The next step - analyzing the situations - is to take a close look at what went well or poorly in this situation.
Have there been similarly successful or unsatisfactory processes in the past?
Were there others involved - or just oneself?
Was there a trigger for the success or difficulties?
What was done - and what was not done?
Don't forget to cross-reference between situations as well:
Were there other events that were related to or resulted from it?
Or that may have followed the same pattern?
With reference to the example of the unanswered request from the specialist department, an analysis could show that the mail to the head of the specialist department was worded very succinctly and neither a deadline nor a reason for the request was given.
In addition, there was no follow-up via a second e-mail or a phone call.
Don't be afraid of evaluation!
In the third step - the evaluation - the collected situations are now classified.
Are they situations that occurred once due to a lucky or unlucky coincidence?
Or are they situations that are frequently repeated and have an underlying pattern?
Continue working with the situations that belong to the second group, because that's where you can really make a difference.
At this point, don't forget to evaluate the positive situations as well.
Because it is not only the case that praise is often forgotten - but at the same time it is also important for your own perception of efficiency.
It is also the case that behavior from successfully mastered situations can be transferred to those that did not go so well.
With reference to the example, it could turn out that the lack of information transfer from this specialist department is not an isolated case.
In past projects, for example, you repeatedly received no response or only a delayed response to inquiries to this specialist department - regardless of whether the manager or a member of staff was contacted.
Every solution is different - but each one helps.
The fourth step - working out solutions - is now about making sure that situations that have been handled well continue to be handled satisfactorily or even better.
And that situations that have gone unsatisfactorily are handled differently in the future.
The latter involves individual solutions for which, unfortunately, I cannot provide an instruction manual here.
Ask colleagues for advice on how they would solve the situation.
In addition, involve all the people you have already identified in the second step in finding a solution.
Ask them what they think didn't go so well and try to understand their perspective - this can help tremendously in finding a solution.
In the example used, a discussion with the head and employees of the specialist department might reveal that there is a great deal of mistrust towards the auditing department.
Or that there is such a high volume of e-mails in the department that a call would be a more effective option.
So, work out a procedure together that will improve future cooperation.
This could include trust-building measures such as getting to know each other in person during a self-introduction.
Or even agreeing to use specific wording in the subject line of e-mails to the specialist department so that the meaning for the audit is clear.
Reflection helps in many areas of life.
This four-step plan can also be used in your private life - less analytically and "strictly business", of course.
For example, if you feel you have seen your children too little during the week last year.
Also helpful for reflecting on the past year:
Use the time now to decipher successful or not so successful situations of the last year.
This takes a bit of time and - this is undeniable - also nerves. But you will see: In the long run, it also saves both!
About the author:
Alexander Rühle, CAI, CISA, is the CEO and CO-founder at zapliance. After 15 years in the finance and auditing world and having met his partner in crime, Prof. Dr. Nick Gehrke, at PWC, they started zapliance together, with the mission to change the way business professionals of the future work with data.