Sample Report: CPA Core Competency Scan (powered by SenseMaker)


Published on

This is a sample CPA Core Competency Scan, developed using the Cognitive Edge SenseMaker tool. This approach has been developed in conjunction with INCPAS (Indiana CPA Society), who have exclusive rights on the method in the United States.

Published in: Business, Technology

Sample Report: CPA Core Competency Scan (powered by SenseMaker)

  1. 1. Prepared by:David Griffiths, PhDFounder k3-Cubed LtdCPA CORE COMPETENCYSAMPLE BM REPORTFirm: Sample CPAsDate: May 2013
  2. 2. 0.1 Index1.1 Briefing - 41.2 Report Focus - 51.3 Data Interpretation - 61.4 Legend - 72.1 Participation Breakdown - 103.1 Headlines - 134.1 Stories - 154.2 Feelings - 165.1 Sharing Knowledge - 185.1.1 Knowledge Culture - 215.2 Entrepreneurship - 225.2.1 Entrepreneurship 2 - 245.3 Relationship Building - 265.3.1 Relationship Building 2 - 285.4 Synthesising Intelligence - 305.4.1 Synthesising Intelligence 2 - 325.5 Leadership - 345.5.1 Leadership 2 - 375.6 Communication - 405.6.1 Communication 2 - 425.7 Critical Thinking - 446.1 Notes - 477.1 Contacts - 492
  3. 3. 1.0 OVERVIEW
  4. 4. 1.1 Briefing• This is a sample report from 78 CPAs across 6 firms (represented for the purpose ofthis sample report as a single firm - see notes in Section 6.1). Individual firm reportswould be set against the context and needs of the firm, which are determined viaface-to-face and telephone interviews. Individual firm level report outputs wouldprovider a deeper breakdown of the data than those in this sample report;demonstrating opportunities and threats based on a range of filters: location (forfirms with multiple locations), age, experience (such as time as a certified CPA),position held, position desired, feelings about the future of the firm etc.• The outputs are anonymous, but personal reports and guidance (professionaldevelopment, career development etc.) can be provided to all respondents (comingfall 2013).• CPA Core Competency performance is linked to the individual and organisationalcontext. They cannot be separated and therefore reports also explores individualstories, feelings and perceptions. This element of the process primes the data tobring a richer degree of sense making when considering the story to be told throughthe report.• The individual, the firm and the environment do not sit in isolation, they interact toproduce a complex whole. The reports produced using the SenseMaker processaddress all three aspects, providing firms with a deep insight into the present andfuture.4
  5. 5. 1.2 Report Focus• Nobody can tell you what the future will look like, but your past and present certainlyinfluences it. The question is, how much do your people know about themselves and howmuch do you really know about your firm?• All organisations, at some point, will transition through periods of growth, preservation,destruction and reorganisation. The events that will shift you from one phase to anothercan sometimes be predicted, but more often they are unforeseen. Today’s organisationsoperate in an environment that is more connected, interdependent and diverse than everbefore. This creates an environment, where the only certainty is change.• Your ability to adapt to this changing environment, to solve problems and makedecisions, is fundamentally built upon the knowledge, skills and experience of yourpeople. Your human resources are your biggest assets, but are they prepared for thechallenges that lie ahead?• To help you find out, INCPAS has partnered with K3-Cubed and Cognitive-Edge toprovide a scanning solution powered by SenseMaker™, one of the most potent insighttools available today and used by government organisations the world over. • The outputs from this scan will provide a powerful insight into CPA Core Competencies,as they exist within your organisation. Have no doubt, this scan can have a significantimpact upon your operational and strategic planning processes. The results will give youa rare insight into your capabilities that you will probably not have seen before.5
  6. 6. 1.3 Data Interpretation• The insights expressed in this report have been developed via several powerfulquantitative and qualitative analytic tools. In the first instance the stories told by theparticipants, as well as the “feelings” toward those stories, set the context for thepresentation of the data (see section 6.0 for further details on data credibility/reliability.• Each respondent’s story is compared and contrasted against his or her responses to eachindividual question, as well as other respondents at a similar position, years as apracticing CPA and number of years with the firm. Responses are then compared andcontrasted against the entire population of the scan.• Data is formatted and presented according to the nature of the patterns that emerge inthe analysis, using a minimum of 3 different analytical tools to strengthen credibility.• The integrity/reliability of the analysis is verified using a random selection ofrespondents. Here an internal verification process is applied, where respondents arecontacted to confirm that the interpretation of their data accurately reflects their views. • Stories are analysed in isolation and as part of the wider whole. Through this processdata is coded and clustered around themes that are of relevance to the firm. Forexample, you might see a central theme (a lack of growth) that is informed by 4 sub-themes (talent management, critical thinking, growing a network and developingservices). Data analysis is then conducted and presented against this background noise.In an individual firm report, and where appropriate, a reminder of this “noise” isprovided via quotes, to assist in contextualising points of reference in the data. 6
  7. 7. 1.4 LegendBAR CHART:Each ‘block’ = a scan response.Green line = Median.Red line = Average.Shaded area = area for observation.Arrow = Point of interestDiscussion is based on responses thatemerge in the shaded area, withresponses at the extreme showing astrong affinity toward the opinionexpressed.StrongaffinityLEGEND – TRIAD SCATTERCHART:Scatter clusters are highlighted withcircles and arrows. Each dot = aresponse. Where multiple colour dotsare used, this indicates a filter (age/position/experience etc.) and in a fullreport an additional legend would beprovided. The closer to the “point” orside of a triangle, the stronger theaffinity toward a specific view.7
  8. 8. 1.4 LegendLEGEND – LANDSCAPES:Used to visualise a large datalandscape around three responses.Arrows indicate a trend or point ofinterest for discussion.LEGEND – TEXT COLOURCODINGCritical: Action needed   Be aware: This area has the potential tobecome “critical”  Good performance: Continue to monitor8
  9. 9. 2.0 PARTICIPATION9
  10. 10. 2.1 Participation Breakdown1038%4%6% 4%3%19%26%FunctionAccounting Services AuditCFO ConsultingManaging Partner Other ExecTax12%42%46%SexMale Female No Answer
  11. 11. 2.1 Participation Breakdown111%26%3%15%19%17%19%PositionAccounting Services AuditCFO ConsultingManaging Partner Other ExecTax6%8%18%21%23%24%Age20-29 30-39 40-4950-59 60-69 70+No Answer
  12. 12. 3.0 HEADLINES12
  13. 13. 3.1 HeadlinesCompetency Signals:These are the strong and weak competency signals received from the data. Strong signalsmean that the respondent displayed a strong affinity (clearly aligned her/himself with theresponse) to either the excellence or quality statement. A weak signal is interpreted as aperson who has no defined alignment, but their positioning on the triad suggests weakalignment toward the excellence or quality statement for the competence under question.13Knowledge SharingEntrepreneurship 1Entrepreneurship 2Relationship BuildingSynthesising Intelligence 1Synthesising Intelligence 2Leadership 1Leadership 2Communication 1Communication 2Critical Thinking0 12.5 25.0 37.5 50.0Excellence Signals: All respondentsStrong WeakKnowledge SharingEntrepreneurship 1Entrepreneurship 2Relationship BuildingSynthesising Intelligence 1Synthesising Intelligence 2Leadership 1Leadership 2Communication 1Communication 2Critical Thinking0 17.5 35.0 52.5 70.0Quality Signals: All respondents
  15. 15. 4.1 StoriesStories being told in your firmtoday:Four impact story themes (two in particular,Staffing and Strategy) emerge around a coretheme of growth.People speak of a need for better leadershipand direction. There is also concern aroundthe future (coming from more senior CPAs)and what that could mean in terms of thevalue of the firm. There is considerabletension around staffing, specifically work loadversus reward, a lack of clarity when it comesto career path, issues of general talentmanagement and succession planning (linkedto discussions on the future). Strategy storiesare split between traditionalists (stick to whatwe know) and adventurists (seek out newproducts and services to stay relevant).Positive stories surface in relation to jobsatisfaction (mainly at the Partner level) andthe motivation CPAs get from moving intonew service areas and solving new problems.15
  16. 16. 4.2 FeelingsFeelings:These are the feelings used to describe thestories told by the participants at the outset ofthe CPA Core Competency Scan. Thesefeelings help set the context for individual andcollective responses within the data set.Feelings are compared and contrasted acrossfilters (e.g. position, age, years as aprofessional CPA) to explore patterns thatmight emerge around a particular area (e.g.Partners dissatisfied with the potential of newstaff).In the case of this firm, no significant negativepatterns emerged. Although it should benoted that the feeling of being “exposed”resonated within responses from Managers.This is an area that should be exploredfurther at the firm level.164%3%4%45%3%1%12%8%10%8%3%1%Respondent FeelingsAngry Bewildered BitterEmpowered Excited ExposedHappy Incapable IrritatedMotivated Nonchalant NumbSad
  17. 17. 5.0 CORE COMPETENCIES17
  18. 18. 5.1 Sharing KnowledgeHOW WOULD YOUDESCRIBE YOUR ABILITYTO SHARE KNOWLEDGE?:Your ability to share knowledge is essential todecision making and problem solvingcapability. Have you considered theeffectiveness of your knowledge flows?Over 50% of the firm only share knowledgewhen called upon. You may not see this as aproblem, but now consider that 8 of 15 (53%)of your Managers only share when calledupon (a basic competency indicator).Compare this to other functions within thefirm (next 4 diagrams) and you begin to see avulnerability in the firm’s future capability toadapt – especially considering the age of theExecutive Board and the impact on futureleadership needs.18Excellence: Activist - I lead on, encourage andprovide opportunities for knowledge sharingQuality: Catalyst- I tend to receive and freelydistribute knowledge
  19. 19. 5.1 Sharing KnowledgeHOW WOULD YOUDESCRIBE YOUR ABILITYTO SHARE KNOWLEDGE?:Compare your Managers to Partner MemberShareholders and, as should be expected,there is a dramatic shift toward knowledgecatalysts and activists. This is positive, but toenhance leadership in this area, there is stillthe need for professional development totransition more “catalysts” to become“activists” (a shift from quality to excellence).Compare the Partner Member Shareholdersto Partners and there are not enough”activists” in the firm. Again, from aleadership perspective, you need to considerwhat message is being transmitted to generalstaff.This concern is reinforced when reflectingback on your Managers, but this also appliesto Seniors and Staff Accountants (next 2diagrams).19
  20. 20. 5.1 Sharing KnowledgeHOW WOULD YOUDESCRIBE YOUR ABILITYTO SHARE KNOWLEDGE?:7 of your 12 Seniors see themselves as onlysharing when called upon. Now compare thisto the bottom diagram (Staff Accountants)where the vast majority see themselves as onlysharing when called upon.Are you concerned and do you see the needfor leadership in this area? How does thisimpact service provision? Growth? Clientretention? Succession planning – will yourfuture leaders be able to lead in this area andis it important to you? How could this impactsignal detection or horizon scanning forstrategic planning? How will this impact yourability to adapt when the unexpectedhappens?20SeniorsStaff Accountants
  21. 21. 5.1.1 (Culture) Sharing InfluencerThe culture of myorganization is best describedas follows: “Leaders set theexample and reward knowledgesharing” or “Share any knowledgeand others will take credit, it’s a dogeat dog world”.The overwhelming opinion is that leaders setthe example and reward knowledge sharing.This is a positive and should be celebrated.However, this should not detract from thedata presented in 5.1, where there areemerging issues in the area of knowledgesharing that could/should be addressed.21Strongaffinity“Leaders set the example and rewardknowledge sharing”
  22. 22. 5.2 EntrepreneurshipIn providing client services,do you tend to..?Here the interest is in your ability to discovernew services (especially when considering astrategic shift from service provider tosolutions provider). To adapt to changingclient needs. To determine whether your firmtends to wait to react or act to prevent.Does your current practice do a good job ofsensing signals of change or do you tend tostick to what you know, regardless of what elseis happening?22Excellence: Explore and actively review existingofferings to better match market demandQuality: Think outside the box to extend what youoffer to fit the needs of the client
  23. 23. 5.2 EntrepreneurshipIn providing client services,do you tend to?There is a good balance (distribution) ofPartner responses in relation to thiscompetency. This said, development timewould be well invested in those with a leaningtoward “Utilize existing service offerings”.While a balance and push back on“rainmakers” is appropriate, it is important toensure that a potential leaning towardtraditional approaches within the firm is wellfounded.Seniors, perhaps due to the nature of theirposition, lean toward the use of existingservices. The problem here is that thisposition forms part of your sensory networkand if they are not listening to signals thatindicate a change in client need, who is?Would it not be better to spend developmenttime transitioning Seniors toward a positionwhere they begin to “think outside the box”?23
  24. 24. 5.2.1 Entrepreneurship 2What is your approach todelivering client servicesolutions?The interest here, again, is on the evolution ofservices to ensure a personalised (individual-centric) service provision for clients - anessential element in the evolution from“service provider” to “solutions provider”.Managers, in the main, are focused on“Keeping within cost”. If that is the case, howare they personalising individual solutions? Isthis caused by a firm focus on traditional“billable hour” driven solutions/thinking orproject working? To complicate matters,Seniors, exhibit only weak bonds to the samebasic competency indicator. Why is this?24Excellence: Work to give the client what they need,even if they don’t know it at the timeQuality: Build the relationship, including somefreebies
  25. 25. 5.2.1 Entrepreneurship 2What is your approach todelivering client servicesolutions?Partners are in need of development. Thereare strong bonds to quality competencyindicators, but at this level you should see astronger/developing bond to excellenceindicators.Compare Partners to Partner MemberShareholders and the development work thatneeds to be done is clear. The PartnerMember Shareholder position is an ageingone. How are you preparing for loss in thisarea? At what cost to entrepreneurship? Whatcost to relearn what you already know, interms of service development/provision?25
  26. 26. 5.3 Relationship BuildingIf others were looking at myapproach to relationshipbuilding, they would say..?Many CPA firms have a strategy that isdescribed as being focused on growth. Thisgrowth is often attached to the network size,and influence within that network, of theindividual CPA. Accepting that there willalways be “technicians” within a firm, there isstill an expectation for a CPA to be able tocontribute to growing the firm’s network.Look at the data, the signals suggest thatManagers and Seniors are not in alignmentwith the view above. Too many exhibit strongbonds with the basic competency descriptor.26Excellence: I act as a connector, extending my ownprofessional or client relationships, while at the sametime acting as an advocate for othersQuality: I seek out new opportunities to extend myprofessional or client network
  27. 27. 5.3 Relationship BuildingIf others were looking at myapproach to relationshipbuilding, they would say..?Staff Accountants cluster around a strongbond to the basic competency descriptor. The5 outliers (top diagram) could indicate staffready for promotion.The data suggests that Partner MemberShareholders are driving growth. This needsto be risk assessed as part of the firm’ssuccession planning processes. There is a highprobability that loss in this area will have ahigh impact on network/firm growth andinfluence.27
  28. 28. 5.3.1 Relationship Building 2If colleagues were tocomment on the strengths ofmy relationships I haveestablished...The extent and diversity of personal networksare key to environment scanning, decisionmaking and problem solving capability/capacity. The power of the individualnetwork, and its contribution to the power ofthe firm network, is linked to connectivity anddiversity.Managers (top diagram) and Partner MemberShareholders (bottom diagram) both exhibitsimilar patterns when it comes to weaknesseswithin their current networks. This has to bean area for concern, as it seems as if the focusis on clients, which will impact futureresilience (connectivity being linked to a firm’sagility in the face of unexpected problems).28Managers
  29. 29. 5.3.1 Relationship Building 2If colleagues were tocomment on the strengths ofmy relationships I haveestablished...The pattern does not change that much whenlooking into the data from Partners. Thisreinforces the concern for the firm as it lookstowards the future.29
  30. 30. 5.4 Synthesising IntelligenceIn making judgements aboutan intractable problem, I tendto..?The ability to receive signals from theenvironment is one thing. The ability to act isquite another. This competency informs firmlevel capability to respond to emerging clientneeds (service provider versus solutionsprovider). Do you stick what has gone before?Do you adapt according to experience andnew insight? Or do you experiment (scalingfailure) with new service options?Managers display a tendency toward qualitycompetency descriptors, although the bondcould be stronger. There is a weak bond toquality amongst Partners and alignment withexcellence has to be a development concern.30Excellence: Experiment and try new things outQuality: Draw on past experience and insight
  31. 31. 5.4 Synthesising IntelligenceIn making judgements aboutan intractable problem, I tendto..?Staff Accountants have a stronger bond to thequality competency descriptor than Seniors.But the concern, as has been expressedthroughout this report, is that PartnerMember Shareholders appear to drive firmlevel advantage in this area. This must haveimplications for succession planning processes.31
  32. 32. 5.4.1 Synthesising Intelligence 2When faced with anunexpected problems as aCPA, I tend to?Continuing the theme of sense making andadapting service provision in response toclient/environment driven businessintelligence, there are adequate signals ofadaption (indicated by the green areas) orbonds to the quality based competency. Thissaid, there appears to be far too weak of abond to the excellence based competencyindicator.32Excellence: Challenge existing practice, leading onthe development of new practiceQuality: Review existing practice and adaptaccording to need
  33. 33. 5.4.1 Synthesising Intelligence 2When faced with anunexpected problems as aCPA, I tend to?The recurring theme in this report is the firmdependency upon Partner MemberShareholders to align with excellencecompetency indicators. How does this alignwith current development and successionplans?33
  34. 34. 5.5 LeadershipLeaders in my setting usuallyfocus on or, as a leader Iusually focus on..?How does leadership align with your strategicneeds? If you want to trasnsition from aservice driven to a solutions driven firm thenthere has to be consideration of theleadership style. Partner memberShareholders and Partners both follow similarpatterns, aligning with the quality competencydescriptor.This could be a problem when is comes to theagility/resilience of the firm, but, moreimportantly, it could be influencing responsesfrom staff/seniors/managers in other areas.34Excellence: Promoting diversity and innovationQuality: Empowerment and delegation
  35. 35. 5.5 LeadershipLeaders in my setting usuallyfocus on or, as a leader Iusually focus on..?Of concern, Managers and Seniors both alignwith the basic competency indicator. This isproblematic as these people are the future ofyour firm and are also responsible forinfluencing Staff Accountants. Is this whatyou want to be communicating, in terms of aleadership style?35
  36. 36. 5.5 LeadershipLeaders in my setting usuallyfocus on...This is how Staff Accountants see leadershipwithin the firm. The clustering around thebasic competency descriptor is a potentialissue. If growth of service provision (via apersonalised service approach and the ethosof a solutions provider) is important thendevelopment in this area has to be considered.36
  37. 37. 5.5.1 Leadership 2Leaders in my setting are bestdescribed as or, as a leadermy colleagues would describeme as...?Here the interest is in leadership style, from abasic (transactional, “assertive”) approach tothat of excellence (transformational,“altruistic”).Both Partners and Partner MemberShareholders display a range of leadershipstyles. This said, the strong and weak ties tothe basic competency descriptor could be acause for concern. Further enquiry is need inthis area to find out why this is happening.Indications from the stories told would suggestthat this is an area that needs to be addressedin terms of development.37Excellence: Altruism (Transformational approach)Quality: Analytical
  38. 38. 5.5.1 Leadership 2Leaders in my setting are bestdescribed as or, as a leadermy colleagues would describeme as...?Seniors are tied to the basic competencydescriptor, but, encouragingly, Managers arestrongly tied to the quality Leadershipdescriptor. Considering these people are thefuture of the firm, talent managementprocesses need to be reviewed to ensure thattheir professional development reflects growthtoward excellence.38
  39. 39. 5.5.1 Leadership 2Leaders in my setting are bestdescribed as...?The feedback from Staff Accountants is inline with the data from the other positionswithin the firm. The concern is that not asingle response (zero) indicated the existenceof altruistic leadership within the firm. Thequality competence indicator dominates, butthere are significant weak ties toward the basiccompetence indicator, which need to bemonitored.39
  40. 40. 5.6 CommunicationTo me, effectivecommunication means?Communication allows sense makingmessages and know-how to flow vertically andhorizontally within the firm. Disruptions inthis area can impact signal detection andresponse (efficiency and effectiveness).Managers believe that communication isaligned with the basic competency, with onlyweak ties to the quality based competency,“Clarity” - this could also align with an“assertive” leadership style. Of concern is thatfirm leaders (Partner Member Shareholders)also have strong ties to the basic competencydescriptor.40Excellence: Negotiation, getting to win-winQuality: Clarity
  41. 41. 5.6 CommunicationTo me, effectivecommunication means?There is a better spread of responses amongstPartners. However, there is work to be done inthe development of Seniors and StaffAccountants if the firm is to work towardresilience for the future.41
  42. 42. 5.6.1 Communication 2Colleagues would generallydescribe my communicationskills as...?The potential issues with firm levelcommunication spill over to this second aspectof the competency. Many Managers havestrong/weak ties to the basic competencydescriptor, while Partner MemberShareholders would seem to need to a betterjob of leading development in this area.How will that growth be achieved?Traditional services might align with this levelof communication. Innovative servicedevelopment (solutions provider) does notalign well with the basic/qualitycommunication competency descriptors. Whyis the firm like this?42Excellence: A negotiator, you look to engage widelyand understand the needs of othersQuality: A catalyst, you look to bring others into theconversation
  43. 43. 5.6.1 Communication 2Colleagues would generallydescribe my communicationskills as...?Here too Partners need development,especially considering succession planning.There is also development potential forSeniors and Staff Accountants.43
  44. 44. 5.7 Critical ThinkingAs a professional, when facedwith a problem I generallybelieve it is important to...?Critical thinking is a strength for the firm,although it does not seem to link to other keycompetency areas, such as Entrepreneurship.Managers are particularly strong in this area.The only concern that Partner MemberShareholders could be exhibiting a“traditionalist” approach, which links to thebasic competency descriptor. Otherwise, thisis a core strength in the firm data.44Excellence: Gather evidence and present a solution,even if unconventionalQuality: Talk to colleagues and go with consensus
  45. 45. 5.7 Critical ThinkingIn providing client services,do you tend to?There are small areas of development need,but this are could be described as a corestrength of the firm. How can this beexploited to enhance future growth andresilience?45
  46. 46. 6.0 NOTES46
  47. 47. 6.1 NotesNotes:This is a generic benchmarking report taken from participants across six firms. The level of coherence fromrespondents, regardless of firm, and across filters, such as time as a certified CPA, position, and position desired,has enhanced the pragmatic validity of the data.At the time of writing this report, two on site visits, lasting 5 days (including 18 face-to-face interviews and 4Senior Management Team briefings), had been concluded to validate the credibility and reliability of the datasubmitted by the respondents. In both cases the data was found to accurately reflect the reality beingexperienced inside the firm.This is a basic benchmarking report. Firm level reports would include feedback focused on the future resilienceof the firm. This would be achieved by extending the data to explore filters, such as the position desired byrespondents. From this data it would be possible to analyse factors that contribute to the future agility orresilience of the firm.It is also possible to discuss risk, as was highlighted in this report, by examining, for example, age according tofunction and position. As an example, the age of Partner Member Shareholders was identified as a challenge forthe firm moving forward, especially when considering their contribution to excellence within the corecompetency descriptors.47
  48. 48. 7.0 CONTACT DETAILS48
  49. 49. 7.1 ContactsKey Contacts:David Griffiths, Founder K3-Cubed LtdEmail: david@theknowledgecore.comSkype: davidALKaMETel: +44 (0)7500 966998LinkedIn: and or .co.ukBlog: www.knowcademy.comINCPAS:Contact: Gary Bolinger (President and CEO)Email: gbolinger@incpas.orgTel: 001 317 726 5017Web: www.incpas.org49