In 1980, Bernice McCarthy developed a new model to explain how people take in and apply new learning.

It is based on research from many fields, but mainly is a synthesis of findings from the fields of learning styles, and right and left brain dominance.

It entails the use of right and left-mode strategies within four distinct phases of the learning cycle …..


This is most often used in a formal learning atmosphere such as workshops, seminars etc.

However, the Accounting Practitioner can take a lot from from this.

If you think about it, whenever an Accounting Practitioner is with a client and conveying the result so their work whether it arises from completing the annual ‘tax assignment’ or to something a little more ‘out there’ such as discussing the financial results of their business over the past year.

In many cases, the clients has difficulty grasping the terminology their Accountant uses or how the explanations can be used to improve their results in the current year.

If the Accountant were to adopt and apply the 4MAT system of learning when giving the client the benefit of their analysis, then a different result may be achieved.

Here’s how.

The 4MAT system is explained using a circular diagram with 4 quadrants hence the 4MAT system.

In quadrant #1 it answers the ‘Why’ question. Why is this important? Why is this applicable to me?

In quadrant #2 it answers the ‘What’ question. What does this all mean? What do I do with it?

In quadrant #3 it answers the ‘How’ question. How do I use this information? How can I apply this in my business?

And finally, in quadrant #4 the ‘What IF’ question. What if I use this for something else? What if I change how it’s used?

And, here’s how you’d apply this in a more practical way.

Answering the ‘Why’ question – Experiencing .

The financial statements reveal that even though sales have increased over the previous year, the Operating Profit has fallen as a percentage of the Income Earned.

The reasons for this included a reduction in the Gross Profit Margin and and increase in the fixed operating costs. The reasons for this haven’t yet been fully determined. The Accountant would like to work with the client in order to do this.

If sales continue to grow and profit continues to fall then the business may be in danger of financial collapse.

Now for the ‘What’ question – Conceptualising.

The Accountant has explained to the client where the problems are, the reasons for this can be established and a solution found if an investigation into the causes is undertaken.

And for the ‘How’ question – Applying.

The Accountant explains to the client how they can assist in revealing the cause for the problem and what the action the client can take to correct it.

The falling gross margin may have been due to a number of reasons.

For example a change in the sales mix where more lower margin products are being sold and the cost of an advertising campaign virtually negated the extra profit the increase in sales generated. A more targeted approach to marketing would need to be undertaken.

Finally, the ‘What IF” question – Refining.

If problems are occurring in the business that client is unaware of then there may be other facets of the financial result that also need attention. The initial review related primarily to profit but there is also the possibility that cash flow needs attention as well.

The client will have learned that by involving their Accountant more often and more closely with their business then financial disaster can not only be avoided but also areas for improvement can be identified and change implemented a lot sooner than at the end of the year.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.