​Lessons from Moneyball (Part 1.5)

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​(This is sad. Only one installment into my series of posts about finding the right people to be successful in Internal Audit, and I’m off on a side track.) 

To catch those of you up who could not attend our last meeting, we started by talking about the movie/book Moneyball, and how it showed that even professions working under incredible scrutiny can measure the wrong things when they are trying to identify people who will succeed. The parallel was then drawn to Internal Audit; how we struggle in determining if auditors are successful.

However, before jumping straight into that subject, we talked about how poorly audit shops measure their own success. The fallout being, if we do not understand how we can measure our success, how can we measure the success of the individuals within the department? I ended by promising we would talk about what people need to succeed as auditors, and how we might find those successful people.

But a recent conversation reminded me of some past experiences which have an impact on where this discussion is going. Because the point I want to drive home now (the point I want to drive home before we talk about knowing what we need from people and then finding them) is to emphasize that what we want are talented people, not just job fillers.

 Story #1

 A good friend of mine was charged with starting up a group within her internal audit department. We won’t go into the unusual responsibilities this group would have other than to say that they involved such things as IT support, administrative support, and customer (auditee) satisfaction. She was told she would have a small staff of three people.

 Now, the first steps any one of us might have taken in this situation would be to build job descriptions, from those determine the criteria for success within that job, and then hire accordingly. What my friend did was different. She used the existing job descriptions, added a little verbiage so potential candidates might understand how the job was different, and posted the positions – none of these three particularly unusual. Oh, let me throw in that she did a little recruiting also. (Lesson #1 for a post that will come up in the future – keep your eye out for talent and, if the opportunity arises, go to that talent and make your case; don’t sit around waiting for the talent to come to you.)

 Here’s where it really gets different. Two of the people she eventually hired came from outside Internal Audit; they had no internal audit experience. However, my friend recognized they were highly skilled, could bring a fresh perspective to the work being done, and would be invaluable assets to the department. Her next step was to build the structure of the team around the skills of the individuals. Let’s hit that one again. She did not try to force the individuals’ skills sets into prescribed “job jackets”; she designed the jobs and the work around the skills and the people that she had recruited.

 What happened when there was turnover? She looked for the most talented people, and adjusted her approach/structure to better use those talents. (Since this conversation started with Moneyball, let’s throw in a sports analogy. Think Tim Tebow with the Broncos. They didn’t force him to be the quarterback that fit their plans; they changed their plans to fit the kind of quarterback he was.)

 Far too often, we search for the best people, and then cram them in the straightjacket of our preconceived notions and existing descriptions. The result is half-good, and all wrong.

 As evidence, story #2.

 Another friend of mine (I have so many friends) was a good auditor and was rewarded by being put in a management position. He was good as a manager. In fact, he was great. (Maybe better than his skill sets as an auditor would have indicated.) He came into a rather dysfunctional department and, with leadership and interpersonal skills his bosses had not suspected, was able to establish esprit de corps, eliminate some of the bad eggs, make some very good hires, and, in general, turn a sow’s audit department into a silk audit team.

 He then took the job that was the next step for his career progression. As it turned out, that job did not match his skills sets near as well. Top this off with the fact that he did not get the support he probably should have had in developing himself in the new position.

 The consequence? He was eventually demoted and left the company completely demoralized. The company was out an extremely talented individual, and the department he had brought to greatness sank back into dysfunction – in fact, maybe just a little bit worse. (Don’t worry – talked to him a while ago and things have turned out well for him. I told you he was talented.)

 The first story is about taking talented people and fitting the jobs around them. The second is about taking talented people and forcing them to fit.

 Which one do you think is the successful approach?

 (Sheesh – even my asides are too long)

 I’ll leave you to ponder those two tales and next week, honest, we’ll start talking about the right people and the right way to find them.

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