By Christian Partanen
There is a very predictable cycle in accounting that dictates your workflow called month-end. It is the processing of transactions, journal entries, and financial statements at the end of each month or period as we call it. This is important because the purpose of month-end is to define the status of the balance sheet from a certain frame of time. It is a running joke in our office that you can bother us at any time besides during month-end. Having survived nine month-end closings I can safely say that while it does get easier and more manageable, the deadlines and hecticness doesn’t go away!
Here is a picture of my desk on a normal day with a cup of coffee, a couple of invoices, and some paperwork. During month-end this desk is unrecognizable and a mess. With everyone having their own deadlines and timetables to meet, I find myself often pondering how is it that we are always able to close the month as a whole? I believe it to be because of our IKEA core values. These core values are seen daily at the office, but they are especially pronounced during month-end. Of course the best tool to make it through the week is the coffee machine on right next to my work station. There is a direct correlation with the amount of coffee I consume and the amount of work I have to get through.
These are our core values and I will explain how each one is present during our accounting tasks:
- Togetherness: We work together as a team by coordinating and communicating clearly about what it is that is on our priority list that day and understanding that our efforts and responsibilities directly affect each other’s work too. Nearly all month end tasks are coordinated between a couple of people and it is crucial to make sure everyone is on the same page about matters.
- Caring for people and planet: Even as accountants, we can affect our environment by reducing excess printing.
- Different with a meaning: If we figure out a new method of getting something done, we make sure to explain why this is superior to the former tactic. It is especially during month-end that deviating from the usual set-up requires careful and thorough reasoning.
- Give and take responsibility: Our team has been organized so that while everyone has their own area of expertise, we all share common knowledge and abilities in certain tasks. This enables us to give responsibility to others when appropriate, and to take our colleagues workload in times of need. I consider this a fail-safe type of mechanism so that during month-end we can meet our deadlines.
- Cost consciousness: Relating to printing, we have taken large steps to send all files electronically if possible. Cutting down costs for us also means to reduce wasted time.
- Renew and improve: When we are not working during the closing period, we attempt to circulate our jobs so that everyone develops and learns something new. It is during month-end that we see this come to fruition because everyone has better understanding of what certain tasks are like.
- Simplicity: Instead of making things complicated and more tedious than they have to be, we attempt to simplify and make things clearer. Accounting does not allow room for creativity in the traditional sense, therefore any way of improving efficiency and straightforwardness is hailed as a creative victory.
- Lead by example: Our department understands that everyone has a part to play in the bigger picture. When we are working during closing period, we take our own matters to hands and get busy. During hectic times the accounting leader of our team prefers the term “organized chaos”. And that is ok.
Working in the accounting department in IKEA Oy Service Office Finland means we are the last stage of the customer experience. The purpose of our team is to keep the large vessel I consider to be this company afloat. While we may not always directly see the effects of our efforts, we know that it is for the same reason as all co-workers in IKEA; the customer and the experience.