Tone at The Top

April 10th, 2009

Management philosophy is synonymous with “tone at the top” and provides direction as to how the organization will manage its financial reporting and articulate its objectives relative to internal control. Management attitude sets the foundation for financial reporting assertions and the application of accounting principles. The philosophy and operating style of management determines how financial reporting objectives and risk mitigation practices are established and executed.
Many smaller companies have entrepreneurial management teams that don’t always understand accounting and internal control processes. Promoting the importance of risk mitigation and appropriate interaction associated with transaction processing requirements is an adjustment for management teams of smaller companies. In many instances, adjustments need to be made so that all journal entries, together with the underlying assumptions and estimates, are properly authorized and supported by sufficient documen┬Čtation. Management operating style trickles down to employees, so there needs to be clear communication and application of business judgment so that qualified personnel are in place to perform effectively designed controls. It is critical for smaller organizations to ensure that management communicates effectively with employees as well as external parties relative to information linked to financial reporting objectives and the necessity for accurate and fairly presented financial reporting. Management needs to take financial reporting and internal control seriously by setting a “tone from the top” that is understood at all levels of the organization. Management philosophy and operating style needs to be “do as I do” and not just “do as I say.”