It is taking me quite a while to figure out AICPA President and CEO Barry Melancon and I am still not sure if I got it right.

My first impression of him was someone who knew where he wanted to take the Institute and in turn the profession. I also felt that he wasn't happy with the Institute's committee set-up based on a belief that it was stymieing new initiatives and fresh ways of thinking. I also got the impression that he thought some CPAs were actually holding the profession back. In fact, in one speech, he referred to some CPAs as "laggards."

Most of my experience with Barry has centered around a number of AICPA initiatives such as the Vision project, WebTrust, the XYZ proposed global credential, XBRL, CPA2Biz, and his actions with regard to legislative and SEC regulatory matters.

For the most part, I have been critical of Barry. But, I recently concluded that Barry is a visionary who cares deeply about the future of the profession. I give him credit for helping to bring the AICPA into the information age, but think he has failed miserably on a number of those initiatives, both in their selection and in their execution. In fairness, it is not all his fault. He wasn't surrounded with the right people to properly advise him.

While attending the recent AICPA Leadership Conference, I began to understand how hard Barry works and how he thrives in the political environment. He and the AICPA leadership lobbied extensively to minimize the adverse impact that the Sarbanes-Oxley legislation would have on the accounting profession. After its enactment, many hours were spent at AICPA headquarters on various what-if scenarios.

Barry is extremely bright and has a tremendous grasp and knowledge of the technical, practice, and regulatory matters affecting the profession. However, I still see a failure on his part to recognize certain things. It was obvious in the AICPA membership defeat of the XYZ credential when he failed to properly consider the massive grassroots opposition, and most recently, it was not foreseeing how the Big Four's actions, repeatedly publicized in newspapers and lawsuits, were going to hurt the profession.

In light of the uncertain future for AICPA's leadership, I recommend that each and every AICPA member should do some scenario planning. They should think about who would be the best person to succeed Barry and lead the profession if he decides to no longer serve as AICPA president and CEO, whether in 2003 or towards the end of his current term, which expires in 2005.

His successor will play a large role in determining the future of the profession.

How about considering a current head of a regional firm with a proven track record of success?

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