Lewis and Lewis, P.C Accounting Firm


Lewis & Lewis, P.C. is a small, Jackson-based accounting firm that
employs thirty-five people and was founded by Phil Willis in 1968. It exhibits
many interesting aspects of organizational behavior, which we will examine below
from several perspectives. After examining the company\'s current policies and
practices, we will evaluate its status in the transition from the "old" to the
"new" model of organization, and recommend some changes that may improve the way
Lewis & Lewis operates.

From a Strategic Perspective

Physical Description

Lewis & Lewis, P.C. is located in a quiet suburb of Jackson, Michigan.
It is a forty-five minute drive from Lansing. The two-storied building is built
on a slightly elevated hill with spacious parking lots in the back and to one
side. The outer walls are of a pleasant beige brick which is in keeping with
the calm atmosphere of the community and of the landscape. Right in front of
the building there are columns and the large main entrance is toward the rear
off the parking lot.
The appearance of the building is well harmonized with the surroundings.
However, it gives guests the impression of dignity and openness.
Directly inside the main entrance to Lewis & Lewis is a small but
welcoming lobby, with a natural stone floor, stylish but difficult to walk on in
heels. There is a narrow open closet for guests to hang their coats, and several
chairs arranged around a table on which are placed the company newsletter and
other publications. The receptionist\'s desk is facing the entrance door, and
behind it sits a friendly young woman. The partners\' offices are found against
the two farthest external walls, noticeably removed from the rest of office.
The other external walls are lined with the offices of the professionals, with
large windows overlooking the pleasant exterior. The remainder of the office
space is segmented with partitioning walls, forming a sort of cubicle labyrinth.
In the center of this maze is a small kitchen where employees gather and
converse informally. Adjacent to the kitchen is a small work area with copy
machines and office supplies. In a corner of this floor is a set of uninviting
sta irs leading to the ground level, where the conference room is located. The
conference room itself is spacious and handsomely decorated, with a large table
and comfortable chairs, a video center with television and VCR. The seating is
limited to fourteen people.

Task and Job Description

Tasks are distributed on the basis of specialization: auditing, tax,
government and consulting. Very few tasks are performed by routine; each day
may include new procedures for each employee.
Jobs in this accounting firm are created by the customers\' needs, and
therefore vary greatly from client to client. Each employee does most of his
work based on experience, not according to standard procedure. This individual-
style process replaces clearly defined tasks in the firm. However, there is no
job rotation between specialties.

Coordination Systems

Information flows very informally and on a personal basis. While this
may create problems that will be discussed later, there are many positive
aspects to this arrangement; it contributes to the family-like atmosphere that
is very evident to the casual observer. The lack of a formally defined flow of
information is in part caused by the many client contacts within the firm, but
there is imbalance in the quality and quantity of information that each employee
receives.
Formal information flow is undefined between the vaguely defined
divisions of the firm in part due to the nature of the accounting industry.
Therefore, information flow is very vertical. Information is handed down to
each department from the top (Phil, Brian and other partners), and from each
professional to the shared administrative staff. Data from each individual
professional division flowing back up to Phil and Brian goes through David.
There are no general staff meetings at Lewis & Lewis. The only formally
coordinated data-sharing medium are the partner meetings. In a busy month
(those preceding April 15) the partners may meet two or three times, but
throughout the rest of the year there may only be two meetings scheduled.
Therefore, even among the partners, information flow is on a need-to-know basis
only.
There are very few task forces formed where people from different
divisions work together on a project. The exception is an auditing team,
created when the company embarks on an external auditing job and sends four or
five people to the company being audited.
The firm believes relationships with clients are of the utmost
importance. They stress frequent contact with customers, but it is conducted at
the discretion of individual responsible for the client\'s file,