Why your practice can benefit from more structure


CPA firms typically have been organizations with well-defined structure. As COVID drastically changed working environments, more remote work and flexible schedules started shifting how firms operated. The lack of structure may be impacting your organization more than you know though.

Organizational systems are usually defined in one of three categories, rational systems, natural systems or open systems. Rational systems are those of strict structure and typically a clearly defined hierarchy, historically where most firms have operated.

Open systems are the exact opposite, these organizations are completely fluid and take on the characteristics of their outside environment. In recent years, more firms have shifted toward a more natural systems model.

This middle ground means a lot less rigid structure, but still parameters (unlike an open system) around things like deadlines and security.

The problem that natural systems present are that they are most influenced by the social culture within the organization. In short, they are most influenced by your workforce.

This can present both benefits and challenges. On the one hand, we can all see how remote work and flexible schedules benefit a traditionally grueling accounting firm work environment. Those benefits make it easier for us to attract and retain talent. On the other hand, where is the line in terms of giving your staff everything they want?

If the structure is not taken into consideration how do you know your staff isn’t taking a 4-hour lunch break to run to their mani/pedi appointment or go for a mountain bike ride? Maybe that is fine and not a problem for your practice, but what happens when that bike ride means a staff member misses a call from a key client?

Natural systems over time start to “naturally” adopt the behaviors of their inner workings. In other words, if one manager starts going for the bike ride, others are soon to follow with their own personal agenda throughout the day. And now you may have missed calls from many key clients.

Natural systems are not all bad and do provide a unique opportunity for you to consider ways in which you can provide for your staff beyond just monetary increases in their pay. But make sure you still have parameters set. Allowing your team to dictate the structure themselves can create a stick human resources situation and also may drive inefficiency on your team if left unattended.

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