Ed Kless Is Wrong

Once again, the self-proclaimed Defender of the Timesheet and Champion of the Dissenters, Greg Kyte, is at it again. This time he takes me on rather than Ron.

Dear Ron,

Quite awhile ago, I sent the following letter to the Journal of Accountancy, but apparently they were too scared to print the truth. Enjoy as I expose the falsehood of your co-conspirator, Ed Kless.

In April 2010 the Journal of Accountancy published the article, Project Management for Accountants by Ed Kless. Although the article contained a significant number of words, many of those words created lines, and if one reads between those fabricated lines, one may find the same offensive subtext that I found. The author is waging a guerilla war – not against gorillas, but against the accounting profession. Project management is for ignoble professions such as contractors, engineers, and doctorate-level pharmacology researchers. Project management may be good enough for those and other financial Cro-Magnons. We accountants, however, are the progeny of a dignified tradition, and our collective pecuniary prowess has led us as a community to a near-universal acceptance and usage of the financially sophisticated and elegantly simple concepts of the billable hour and the timesheet.

Mr. Kless’ approach to project management is his attempt to rob our profession of the fringe benefits that accompany the billable hour and the timesheet. In his article, Fast Eddie lists eleven essential components of a scope statement. He advocates the use of a scope statement because it is designed to limit “scope creep”; however, he ignores that fact that under the billable hour paradigm, scope creep creates revenue. Ergo, Fast Eddie is trying to decrease your firm’s revenue, and if you consult your accountant, she’ll verify that revenue is a good thing.

In his opinion, all assumptions between a firm and a client are to be clearly enumerated. Mr. Kless exhorts us to “answer the question, ‘What should we not leave unsaid?'” But since I bill by the hour, there is only one assumption that I can’t leave unsaid-the assumption that if I work on an engagement for an hour, the client is going to pay me for an hour.

I actually liked his idea of maintaining a “future project list.” It’s a list of possible projects and major tasks that will be deferred until the future . like when I need more billable hours.

He argues that constraints need to be brainstormed and specified. Constraints are limitations and restrictions that could hinder the efficiency of an engagement. The article states that constraints are “risks in waiting.” Don’t look at constraints as risks in waiting; look at them as semi-avoidable wellsprings of cash flow.

Possibly the most offensive part of this article was the following assertion made while discussing how to calculate percentage of completion: “Measuring the completeness of your projects by hours billed is akin to listening for the smoke detector to determine when your cookies are done. The alarm only goes off when it’s too late.” This is blatantly invalid. The beauty of using billable hours is that we don’t need to measure completeness. Billable hours and timesheets are actually like cooking with the Ronco Rotisserie and BBQ Oven: “Just set it and forget it!”

Once again, Greg demonstrates that he is quite deserving of his self-developed moniker.


  1. Of course Fast Eddie is wrong…he’s a Mets fan!

  2. Matthew Tol says:

    So…he makes the assumption that because he has worked for an hour he is going to be paid for it!

    I like that – what if he works on something that the customer hasn’t instructed him to work on? How does this stack up against Ed’s idea that you scope out fully what’s required and get the customer to agree in advance? Greg’s approach will soon instill a big fee dispute methinks.

    When the lights finally go on for him, Greg will realise that he has been arguing the flat earth theory.

    As for his assetion that you “just set it and forget it” – riiiiight. Depth of thinking there – not. The comment that “we don’t need to measure completeness” – so that then means we just keep the job going forever and keep billing the customer (who will be happy to pay in this idyllic world he lives in) with the view that it will all be OK in the end.

    This guy needs a “Bex and a good lie down” as they say over here in Australia.

  3. Matthew, I think you have missed something here.

    You don’t sound like an accountant at all. You sound like a CLIENT.

    Have you not heard that business is war? You need only ask Donald Trump to find out about that. Why would you bother with the client’s interests? Your objective – nay, your duty – as a professional is to make as much money as possible. If you want to “give something back to” or “care about” your clients, send them a Christmas card. Do you think they’d hesitate to screw you out of an invoice if they didn’t think you’d sue them to Auckland and back?

    The mistake that you, and this whole crowd of Rons and Eds, make is to deny the theory of evolution. Accountancy has evolved over centuries to the pinnacle of adaptation and perfection that the billable hour represents. If it wasn’t right, it wouldn’t be so popular.

    Greg is my personal hero and – if he’s willing to pay for the time it takes me to do it – I’ll send him a congratulatory email telling him just that. And a lot more besides. And just imagine how slowly I’ll be typing.

  4. Thank you all for your support.

  5. John Chisholm says:

    you accountants are so unlucky you know. Here in the legal profession we don’t have the problems you guys seem to have.

    Clients of law firms don’t expect fixed fees or even realistic estimates because they know that for us lawyers it is simply impossible to tell how much something is going to cost because we don’t know (to the exact 6 minute) how long something is going to take.

    Not only do we not know how long something is going to take we also do not know how many lawyers we will need to work on a clients matter.

    As for this project management mumbo jumbo why on earth would I need to manage something going forward when I can simply look at my timesheets and I can find out EXACTLY how I managed something in the past!

    Please please Verasage members I plead with you do not befuddle and pollute the minds of law firm clients with talk of certainty,value,service guarantees and accountability for you may open a Pandora’s Box the contents of which could shake and destroy the very foundations upon which our great profession is built.

    Keep your revolutionary zeal to accounting,advertising and IT or even the real business world but please leave the world’s second oldest profession alone (the oldest profession of course charges by time too so there-cannot work out how and why they get their fees up front though to be honest) at least for a couple of hundred more years.

  6. Matthew Tol says:


    You are so right – I’m in the dark ages here and have no hope of redemption unless I embrace fully the modus operandi of the various consultants to the professions and charge for my time.

    I feel so silly – I didn’t ever realise that the customer would be happy to pay me whatever I billed them.

    Back to the drawing board – I just need a client code to charge that time to….

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