Embracing, Leading and Surviving Change

A hot topic at Wolters Kluwer’s Audit Talks LIVE – Spring 2020 virtual conference change management. Specifically, we hosted a session on embracing, leading and surviving change. Presenters included Rachel Cooke, founder of Lead Above Noise and Cathy Rowe, Director of Product Management, Accounting and Audit Solutions, Wolters Kluwer.

Together, they talked about a simple framework for leading through change. Afterall, successful change management follows a framework. And, this one gets people excited and inspired to participate.

Framework for the change journey

Phase 1 – Initiate. First, as great leaders, we need to initiate the change journey with both clarity and connection. As a leadership team, it is necessary to clearly articulate the vision and build a case for why it matters. In addition, a great leadership team must connect with their teams, employees and customers. Let them know they are on this journey with you to support, collaborate and innovate during the change. If you do not build this coalition, then others may feel victimized and forced to comply with the new process versus taking ownership of the outcomes right along with you.

Phase 2 – Engage. Second, the leadership team engages with the stakeholders by listening to their experiences of the shared vision. Notably, it’s important to understand everyone’s perspective and what they need from leadership to make the change a success. At this point, it becomes a collaborative effort, and where the connection really begins to happen. Precisely, connection to the vision, connection to the outcomes and connection to each other.

Phase 3 – Sustain. Third, the leadership team sustains the change process two ways:

  • One, by continuing the critical connection with the stakeholders
  • Two, being responsive in real time

While you need to celebrate and amplify wins and successes as they happen, remember to correct anything that’s off track. Your job is to be as good a listener as possible along the way. Be humble. Be willing to correct and shift course as you go. In return, your team will guide you if you give them permission to do so.

Finally, change – even a change that we are excited about – always involves acceptance of a loss. The loss of the old way of being. Or, the old way of doing things. So, even when that change is for the better, we need to be ready to let go of the past. And, we all go through that experience on our own timeline. Therefore, your job as a leader is simply to support them and yourself through it. Said differently, your job is not to hustle people through this change curve as fast as you can. Or, to help them jump over it.

Real World Examples

Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. This is an example of a change we all had to make recently. At the drop of a hat, offices were required to shut down and employees were forced to work from home during quarantine. Also, there was very little time for leadership to figure out logistics and tools. Even so, though, firms using cloud software and storage were better equipped to work from home without skipping a beat.

During this change-journey, great leaders engaged with their employees and learned what they needed to be successful. In a collaborative effort, everyone worked together to figure out things along the way. To be sure, keys to their success included a connection to each other and responsiveness in real time.

Risk assessment standards. Additionally, the AICPA has shared alarming metrics in terms of common missteps they see coming out of their reviews of audits. And, these missteps relate to risk assessment standards that are not being followed. Now, this is an example of a change that firms can choose to make.

For example, Cathy commented that she hears a lot of firms asking, “Why do I need to change if it’s always worked for me?” Or, “My firm doesn’t want to do things differently. But we know that we have to.” Cathy believes it must be a conscious choice. She says, “It comes down to having that clarity and connection we’ve been talking about. Partners must put on their own oxygen mask first, to use an analogy. They need to really buy into the importance of the change and why it needs to happen.”

To help, Cathy pointed out that Wolters Kluwer has a risk-based audit methodology that addresses the risk assessment standards. CCH® ProSystem fx® Knowledge Coach is the desktop solution and CCH Axcess Knowledge Coach is the cloud solution. Both products were designed to avoid these missteps that the AICPA has identified. Furthermore, both drive improved audit efficiency and quality, as well as staff development.

Change Management – Conclusion

To learn more about change management, listen to the full 30-minute recording. Here’s a link to our Audit Talks LIVE sessions.

P.S. Here’s another Audit Talks LIVE session-related blog you’ll find interesting, Adjusting to an Extended Tax Season


Joel Ortner

All stories by: Joel Ortner