March 1999 Issue



By Virginia LaGrossa and
Suzanne Saxe

Team With all the hype surrounding Y2K, it's no wonder that businesses, government agencies, and computer owners everywhere are on the edge of panic. Predictions of bankruptcies, recessions, or worse have put tremendous pressure on company managers to get the job done. All eyes are on you as you begin the ultimate challenge of your career.

This challenge requires more than individual expertise--it is also the ultimate challenge of teamwork and requires skills from all parts of the organization. Your company completes high-level projects all the time, and you consider yourselves the "masters" when it comes to assembling project teams. That is the key--getting people with the right skills to do the job. Our new book, The Consultative Approach: Partnering for Results, provides the framework for a successful collaboration that delivers more results in less time--an approach that will allow you to successfully complete the Y2K project on time.

You know the formula for successful project completion. Consider Y2K to be another long-term project with a series of short-term deliverables. Decide on the project team and begin gathering ideas.

But don't forget, this project has some key differences from others you may have completed:

* The deadline is completely inflexible.

* The project has never been done before.

* The marshaling of resources is tremendous and the costs are likely to be greater than for other projects.

* The project calls for the coordination of many different players, ranging from vendors and customers to employees and board members--people that may never have worked together before and likely have little knowledge of each other's perspectives and priorities.

* The sense of urgency is very intense.

* The solutions are not readily testable.

Because many companies tie into vendors, suppliers, and customers, you will see a ripple effect if you aren't in compliance. Failure to comply may devastate the business. This is a "do-or-die" project.

Overcoming all these hurdles requires more than technical skill. It requires the ultimate in communication management. Time pressure will inhibit people from sitting down and talking, yet communic ation has never been so important. Your diverse team must learn to communicate well together in order to work well together.

Here are some suggestions to help you make a successful Y2K transition:

* Assemble a balanced, qualified team. Technical expertise is crucial to this project, but select people who add value beyond knowledge--people with a partnering attitude. Such people can move easily among a variety of roles, including facilitator, coach, strategist, influencer, administrator, and problem solver. The motivation, attitude, and morale of the team can be the key to success.

* Set priorities and make a schedule. Identify the most critical applications that could be affected by Y2K and focus on them first. This may require an impact analysis. Planning and scheduling is imperative for success.

* Be very clear about roles and responsibilities. Use work agreements as you plan your strategies. Get organized and stay focused. Staying on track has never been more crucial.

* Set goals and agendas for all meetings. While the long-term goal is clear, short-term goals may not be and should be clearly communicated.

* Fine-tune communications. Refine the art of listening, and learn to ask the right questions. Teach everyone in the group to clarify assumptions and confirm understandings. Engage in timely, full reporting, even if you don't think it's all that important. Later on, people will be less likely to say, "I wish I had known that sooner."

* Make open and honest communication an absolute rule. Teams must have accurate knowledge of what they have (and have not) accomplished, and they must report it honestly. Don't shelter the team in order to buy time that isn't there.

* Be aware of potential red flags. Don't just be aware of your progress today, but be ready to report on where you are going and any problems you expect to encounter. A good rule of thumb for red flag reporting: More rather than less, and sooner rather than later. Unbeknownst to you, someone else in the group may be able to help. Oversights by any team working on this assignment can fatally wound the group and spell catastrophe for the project.

* Manage interactions fully. This project has numerous connections outside the basic team--vendors, end users, information systems groups, and so forth. These people may be unaccustomed to working together. In addition, you may have trouble getting cooperation from the rest of the company, especially if it means work interruptions. Y2K is 10 months away and their deadline may be 5 p.m. today. Develop a strategy for effectively managing those interactions. *

Virginia LaGrossa and Suzanne Saxe are the authors of The Consultative Approach: Partnering for Results , available at bookstores and online through It may also be ordered by calling Jossey-Bass Publishers at (800) 956-7739 or by calling Advance Consulting, Inc., directly at (888) 874-3656. For more information visit

James L. Craig, Jr., CPA
The CPA Journal

Home | Contact | Subscribe | Advertise | Archives | NYSSCPA | About The CPA Journal

The CPA Journal is broadly recognized as an outstanding, technical-refereed publication aimed at public practitioners, management, educators, and other accounting professionals. It is edited by CPAs for CPAs. Our goal is to provide CPAs and other accounting professionals with the information and news to enable them to be successful accountants, managers, and executives in today's practice environments.

©2009 The New York State Society of CPAs. Legal Notices

Visit the new