Following up on the last few posts on Month-End closing it’s time to get your arms around the entire closing process. I believe in this case we need to start at the end and not the beginning.
Below are my recommendations:
- Create an Agenda for your ‘Post Closing Meeting‘. Personally, I think there should be a staff meeting every month right after closing that addresses all issues that arose during the process. As the closing process improves, the meetings will become less time consuming.
- Gather all staff involved in the closing process within one to two days after the closing is totally complete. Have them bring all checklists and instructions as well as other notes that they think is relevant.
- Ask each staff member to be ready to ‘report’ any findings (good or bad) that may have affected the close process. I recommend letting staff members speak first in a ’round table’ session.
- If you can, use a flip chart/board to list the issues that arise.
- When issues are identified, you may need to handle them or assign them to someone to investigate.
- FOLLOW UP and FOLLOW THROUGH.
- Morning meeting – bring doughnuts. Afternoon meeting – bring cookies.
For example, during the ‘Post Mortem’ you discover that your Accounts Payable department continued processing expenses into the system for the current month after the month end cutoff but before you actually closed the books. In other words, somebody will most likely need to accrue into the next month these expenses or, if still possible, reverse and have rekeyed in the new month.
The question becomes for your post-mortem …… why did this happen? Was A/P not informed of the impending cut-off? Errors are time consuming. So how can you drive out such time wasters?
What if a key staffer was out sick, or otherwise absent during the process? Did everything come to a screeching halt? Is anyone cross trained to perform those duties? If not, there’s a problem sitting squarely in your lap.
Let me point out that ‘post-mortems’ should always be a learning experience and not just for your staff……for you as well.
As a controller, most of your life is spent being reactive. If you don’t believe that, make a list tonight of all the things you want to accomplish tomorrow. Put it on a time sheet. For instance, 8:00 a.m. – finish Segment X G/L account review – 9:00 a.m. – Read lease for new copier – 10:00 a.m. – call a Vendor about a problem……………….then, I challenge you to get all of these things done, in that order and on time. I’m going to gamble and say you won’t. The truth is ‘the day owns you’ and not ‘you own the day’. Agree? I believe that my ‘post-mortem meetings’ are not reactive. They are proactive if you follow through to see if needed improvements are made before the next month end close. Try it. Let me know how it goes.