An experience with problem solving, process improvement, and enhanced communication

When I began working for the Canadian Pension & Benefits Institute (a non-profit organization) as an administrator/bookkeeper, I initially encountered three problems:

  1. the job had been largely neglected for several months;
  2. the bookkeeping spreadsheet was disorganized and cumbersome to use; and
  3. the income statement and balance sheet from the head office had discrepancies every month.

I tackled one issue at a time. First, I got all the bookkeeping caught up. This included:

  • invoicing along with following up on overdue invoices;
  • verifying and paying bills;
  • depositing cheques for memberships, sponsorships, and conference registrations;
  • reconciling to the bank;
  • preparing GST returns;
  • catching up on emails, and
  • organizing documents and files.

Secondly, I set up a new spreadsheet where you could enter the date and description of the transaction, then tab to the right to enter the amount in the correct revenue or expense column. Despite having a number of columns, it was simple and effective. The organization had become accustomed to the old way of doing things, but after finding out there was a better way, they greatly appreciated it.

Over the ensuing months, I sent my bookkeeping spreadsheet to the head office every month, alongside the administrators in other regions. The head office then put together an income statement and balance sheet and sent those back to the administrators each month. I checked mine carefully and responded with suggested corrections. After several months of doing this, I asked the head office for a meeting as I was hoping we could find a way to streamline the process and cut down on errors and discrepancies.

Their accounting person and the executive director met with me. At the meeting, I made it very clear that I just wanted to help and to see if there was something I could do differently that would improve things for everyone. I was careful not to put blame on anyone. It didn’t take long before the accounting person confessed that she had been thinking about quitting her job because, “No one cares about the numbers except Karen!” she said. The executive director promptly replied, “Of course we care, it’s the numbers!” It seemed that the organization had developed a habit of glancing at the statements and concluding that it was “close enough”. After that meeting, the executive director jumped into the trenches with her accounting person, unturned every stone, and gradually got everyone moved to an attitude of accuracy down to the penny. The accounting person once again felt like her job mattered so she stayed which was great.

In summary, in my first few months with this non-profit organization, I got everything caught up and organized, implemented a new bookkeeping spreadsheet, and helped to improve relations, attitudes, and accuracy within the organization. I like to model myself after the executive director, jumping into the trenches with my clients to get to the bottom of issues and implementing effective solutions. I find that very rewarding because it is greatly needed to reduce stress, improve communication, and keep operations running smoothly.