Here’s what drives me crazy about some internal auditors …
Wait, that comes off a little mean. Let me try this another
I was at a conference earlier this month — The Conference
That Counts — in Albany, N.Y. (This is an annual, three-day conference where
the chapter does a great job of responding to the educational and training
needs of auditors in the area. If you happen to be nearby at the appropriate time,
you might want to carve out some time to join in.)
At the beginning of the second day, I was ingesting my first
shots of caffeine when I happened to overhear two auditors complaining.
(“Happened to overhear.” I’m an auditor. I learned at an
early age to eavesdrop and make it seem like pure happenstance. I can also read
upside down. That is, I can read print that is upside down, not read while I am
The two were complaining because, the day before, track one
of the conference had been held in the room around which we were congregating. For
day two, tracks one and two had (oh, the horror) switched rooms.
I will pause to allow you to compose yourself, grab a little
smelling salts to relieve the vapors, and gather together any items you have
found which have caused themselves to be bunched.
The two auditors were truly upset about the turn of events, spending
quite a bit of morning vitriol on the subject, and were lamenting that no one
had warned anyone that the track they were on would be held in a different room.
Never mind that neither session had started, there was a sign in front of the
room announcing the session along with the track number, and that these two had
figured out which room to enter without the embarrassment of having to sneak
out once the session started when they realized they were in the wrong room.
It reminds me of something Harlan Ellison once said that I
am going to horribly mangle because, even after searching my archives, I can’t
find the actual quote. You can warn people by announcing for an entire week, “This
Friday, the abyss will open and you should avoid this area” in flashing, bold
letters, but someone will still fall in while shouting “Why didn’t you tell
Another quick story from the same conference. I also
overheard (there’s that word again) someone telling the story of a lady who sat
in the wrong session all morning assuming the speaker she had come to see would
be arriving at some point. It apparently did not cross her mind to wonder why
the speaker hadn’t started or why the session had a completely different title.
Look, I know this is the kind of thing that happens at
conferences, meetings, seminars, etc. But here’s what really bothered me.
We are internal auditors. We purport to have brains that we
try to keep engaged as we ply the crafts of critical thinking and logical
thought. And we are constantly describing our desire to have a seat at the
table, to be a partner to the business, to be an incubator of talent, to be
agents of change, to be seen as important professionals within our
And we can’t even go to the right room for a conference.
No wait, that isn’t the issue. The problem is that we want
to be all that, yet we are convinced it is someone else’s fault that we went to
the wrong room for a conference.
See, that’s that part that really grinds my gear. It’s not
that mistakes were made. It is that it was someone else’s fault. The signs
weren’t big enough, “they” made changes I didn’t expect. I was not spoon-fed
the information in a way where no mistakes might be made.
Auditors are about professionalism, ethics, knowledge, and a
raft of other skills and talents. But in amongst it all is another real
important one: personal responsibility.
Yes, this happens anywhere, anytime, with anybody. But I
like to think internal audit professionals are better; I like to think we …
Look, I suppose that the thing that drives me crazy about
these two stories is really my own fault. I have pride in the profession. And I
believe we are (or should be) made up of some of the top professionals of any
kind. I expect that, if we are able to work our way through an audit in a professional
and intelligent manner, we should be able to figure out the intricacies of a
conference without resorting to blaming the planners for our own mistakes.
Not being sure what else to do with all this that I am
telling you, I guess I’ll just make it a cautionary tale. Look around. Are you
surrounded by audit professionals, or just auditors? Are you meeting and
talking with audit professionals, or just auditors? And, look in the mirror. Which
one do you see.