There is a billboard I pass by nearly every day of a hospital that boasts a 98 percent survival rate for a particular type of cancer. 98 percent? That's amazing … unless you are part of that 2 percent who didn't survive. I don't want to take anything away from this hospital, as that survival rate has made a lot of families happy, but it makes me think about some of the unintended consequences in our audit reports and other communications.
How strong are our opinions? We completed the work. We feel strongly enough to write a report, but are we watering down this information by using words such as "appears" or "indicates"? If we are including something in a report, we need to be more definitive. If we aren't definitive, are we unsure? Does management get the impression we aren't confident in, or don't feel strongly about, what we are suggesting?
Do we leave anything up for interpretation? I have heard it said there should only be one interpretation to everything we write. Yet I'm afraid we often write reports where management interprets it one way, audit interprets it another, and any third parties yet another. We do our best to always communicate the issue at hand to management, but the report and subsequent actions are what are remembered.
What's our tone? Are we wearing it as a badge of honor that we "find" something in an audit report? Are we attempting to inflate our egos by showing management the cost efficiencies they can gain or how we know they could better run their business? What I hope we are doing is taking a facts-based approach to present evidence to management in the tone of a partner to find the best solution for our company.
In what ways do you think your communication might be falling short? In what ways are you succeeding?