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​​​What Can Internal Audit Learn From Steve Jobs?

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Steve Jobs was a visionary leader who changed the lives of my generation. But would he have been a good internal audit leader? I often have asked myself that question.

I believe Jobs would have been a great internal audit leader. Admittedly, I never met Jobs, but I have watched two movies about him — including the one starring Ashton Kutcher!

To me, there were two sides of Jobs: the public-facing Steve Jobs and the private-facing Steve Jobs. I'll focus my thoughts on the public-facing side. Jobs was one of the world's greatest presenters, and internal auditors can learn from his presentation skills.

Lesson 1: Keep Your Audit Reports Short

When Jobs launched the MacBook Air, he physically introduced it in an office envelope to show how thin it was. Internal auditors often are guilty of having too much information in our reports. I have seen internal audit reports that were well over 100 pages. Remember that the key audience of our reports is executives and the board. I have heard my internal audit colleagues say that executives and board members have short attention spans, but no one wants to read a 100-page audit report — let alone write it or review it.

Lesson 2: Simplify and Focus Your Audit Message

When Jobs launched the iPhone in 2007, his headline was "Your life in your pocket." I have taken this lesson and applied it to my audit reports. When I write an audit finding, I almost envision myself as a reporter writing a news article headline. It's also important to focus on your overall audit message. One way to do this is by grouping your findings and opportunities into themes.  

Lesson 3: Put Numbers and Statistics Into Perspective

Jobs had a great way of putting statistics into perspective so that the audience can better appreciate and understand the message behind the numbers. For instance, he stated that iTunes had more than 25 billion downloads. He then put this statistic into perspective by stating that it meant 16,000 songs are downloaded every minute.

Do you think Steve Jobs would have been a good internal auditor? Can you think of any additional lessons from him?

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