A shovel can’t dig a hole – the operational excellence parallels

A shovel can’t dig a hole – the operational excellence parallels 
By Lynda Steffens


You want to dig a hole. What’s the first thing you do? Run out and buy a shovel!

You’re very proud of your new, top-of-the-line, somewhat expensive shovel and you’re quite sure that your hole will be exactly what you need, dug where you need it.  You remove the packaging, install the shovel, stand back and wait for the hole to be dug.

But wait a minute… a shovel can’t dig a hole by itself!

Wondering why the shovel is not doing the job, and realising you’re going to have to get involved, you start thinking…

What’s your STRATEGY?

Why are you digging this hole? A hole to plant a tree is very different to a hole dug to lay water pipes, so you need to consider how wide and deep your hole should be. You wonder whether the sides need to be at a certain angle.

Where is the best place to dig the hole? You don’t want to dig a great big dirty hole right where your partner has had grand visions for the new outdoor area or the kids swing set – do you?

Hmm …. what will be the quickest and easiest way to dig these holes?  Perhaps the earth should be prepared in some way before you start digging.

What PEOPLE do you really need? 

Are you the best person to dig the hole? You’ve never dug a hole before and you’ve missed a few gym sessions lately. You wonder if you’re fit enough for the job.  Come to think of it, do you even have the time and capacity to dig the hole? You start to think about the other things will you have to postpone or put off whilst you dig the hole…

Imagine if you start digging one hole, then realise you need to dig ten holes.  Who will dig the rest of the holes and when will they dig them?

What’s your PROCESS?

You know that placing your foot on the top of the shovel whilst digging should make it easier and quicker. You try to recall how you should stand and bend so you don’t hurt your back, and you wonder if there’s a YouTube video you could watch to learn the most effective method.

Whilst you’ve been pondering all of this, time is slipping away and it’s getting hot in the sun.  Maybe the shovel is not the right tool for the job after all – a mini-digger would be much better!  So, you take the shovel, put it in the shed and leave it to find a dusty home sitting with your other tools, never to see the light of day again.

What does this have to do with accounting?

In the accounting industry, we have a plethora of software tools available to us. We often think that investing dollars in this software will get our holes dug. But the software programs are just like a shovel – they are simply tools.

In the past, I have most certainly been guilty of doing and thinking that having the best tools with all the bells and whistles (the more the better) will get the job done. Unfortunately, I’ve discovered again and again, so many of them end up sitting lonely and abandoned in the shed, just like the shovel.

So, what do you do from here? How do you determine which approach will work best in your accountancy business?

The answers lie simply in your implementation process. It’s important to take the time and effort to think and plan your STRATEGY, your PEOPLE and your PROCESS in equal measure, before you start to dig your hole – or even better, before you buy that brand new shovel!  Your time and effort will not be wasted and the lessons learned will reap dividends.

We all still need to buy shovels, so it’s worth taking a holistic approach by incorporating STRATEGY, PEOPLE & PROCESS in your implementation, as well as your purchasing decisions for tools. That way, the tools you purchase will be a much better investment of your time & money.

Remember – A shovel can’t dig a hole by itself!




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