​Moneyball Part 3: Why? Why? Why? Why? Ad Infinitum

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Sheesh. These recaps are starting to take as long as the entire post. Suffice it to say that, so far, we have talked about how the movie/book Moneyball might speak to the profession about the way it determines an internal auditor is “successful”; we talked about hiring the right people, not just the right people for the job; and we talked about how we may be focusing on the wrong traits and skills and should be focusing on creativity and inquisitiveness instead.

Let’s dig into those two a little more, because I think it’s kind of bold statement to say that these are the only two things we should be looking for. First, I want to reiterate that I am not saying we totally ignore the other traits and skills we so often talk about. I must admit that some of my biggest hiring failures (and few have been minor failures) were either from focusing too much on creativity and inquisitiveness, or too little on the more traditional traits.

For example, in one instance, we gave a slate of candidates a quick test. After the interview, we put them in front of a computer and asked them to go into Word, type up a description of what they did in their current jobs, and let us know when they were done. This was meant to show they knew how to use a computer and start up a program (it was a number of years ago), and it was meant to see if they knew how to put thoughts down on paper. In one instance, after about 20 minutes, I went back to the candidate who was still furiously typing away and, trying not to embarrass him, asked if he was still working on it. He looked surprised and said, “Oh, I thought you were going to come tell me when I could stop.” Ignoring that an important part of this exercise was learning if the candidate could listen and follow directions, I went ahead and hired him. Boy, did I pay for that one.

But I like to think that a willingness to make some of those mistakes has also led to some pretty successful hires. I have to say that, when it comes to hiring, I’m batting about .500. When I’m good, I’m very, very good, but when I’m bad, I’m horrid. But those very, very good ones (some now in leadership positions throughout the company) have come from an appropriate focus on creativity and inquisitiveness.

Let’s start with the concept of inquisitiveness. I am actually hard pressed to understand how any auditor can succeed without an unquenchable thirst for knowledge. In an internal audit context, it is about wanting to dig and find the facts that make up the review — it is being inquisitive about how a process works, about what might support an action, about where the data lies, about the nuts and bolts and facts and figures and people and places and policies and procedures and nooks and crannies and body and soul of the audit, the process, and the department.

Here’s an example of how that lack of inquisitiveness can make things go badly. A few years ago, we got access to a database that had a ton of information for the area we were reviewing. I presented this information to the auditor and asked him to take a look. He wanted to know what he should be looking for. I told him to look for anything that might make his Spidey-auditor senses tingle. He asked what they might look like. I gave some examples. He still didn’t have a clue. I tried a few more examples, analogies, ideas. It never sank in. He spent some time with the data, but never found anything. That the data was valuable was proven by the next auditor to whom I assigned the task.

Inquisitiveness — jonesing for knowledge and insight.

But there is more to this trait than just the desire to know about a process or data or facts; there is the thirst to just know stuff about stuff — stuff beyond internal auditing. It is seeing the world and wondering why it is the way it is, it is seeing a company and trying to figure out why it works the way it does, it is seeing something unrecognized and dying to know what it is.

Quick quiz. How many of you read the end of my last post and saw the reference to Scheherazade? How many of you knew who Scheherazade was? How many of you who did not know then went out to find the answer? That is the inquisitiveness I’m talking about. The nagging pain in the gut that won’t go away until all questions are answered.

I want someone who is not complacent with the knowledge they got in college or high school or Wikipedia or last night’s edition of TMZ. I want someone who is constantly reading, researching, learning about …well, learning about anything. Because drowning yourself in the knowledge of internal audit is not sufficient. It will not make you a well-rounded human being. In fact, it will not make you a well-rounded internal auditor. If we as auditors look at the world (even the closed in world of internal auditing) with the myopia of professional knowledge, then we will be left on the dust heap of history by others who are finding the new and better ways to get our jobs done for us.

And looking at the clock on the wall and the word count of the post, it is apparent we are running out of time once again. Next time, we will discuss why creativity so important.

And, at some point, honest, I’ll get to what started this whole thing – how to identify successful internal auditors

Your thoughts so far?

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