What’s in it for me.
The five most important words for any auditor to know.
Let me tell you a story.
A while ago, I had the privilege of sitting in on the conference
call of a department whose production had fallen behind schedule. The new director
ran a quick riot act on the group, including the explanation that failure was
really not an option — that heads would roll if the schedule was not met. He
ended by asking each manager “Can you get this done?” Not surprisingly, every
single one said they could. By year’s end, the work was done and the schedule
Two years passed, the department found itself in a similar
situation, and I again got the chance to sit in on their conference call. The
department was the same. The situation was the same (production was lagging). The
only difference was that there was a new director. This director, having been
one of the managers sitting on the other side of the phone two years ago, figured
he would use the same approach. It had worked before; why not again? He began
with his version of the riot act (not quite as effective; you would have to
meet him to understand why), then explained how important it was for the team to
get the work done. However, where the previous director had put people’s jobs
on the line, this director indicated that the reason achieving production goals
was so important was to enable the VP to get his bonus, and everyone liked the
It was interesting to listen to the responses this time
around as the new director asked each manager for their pledge that the work would
get done. Every single one said yes. But there didn’t seem to be the same passion
in their commitments.
I can’t speak for anyone else, but I was not particularly
surprised when the department didn’t meet its goals that year. Also of
interest, no manager paid a price, and the struggle to maintain production
Here’s why I’m telling you this story.
How do you sell your audit findings? Do you describe how audit’s
customer will be impacted? Or do you describe the impact on someone else?
It doesn’t matter at what level of the organization the
people you are working with are embedded. You have to show them why they care —
not why someone else should care, but the personal impact that will give them a
vested interest in the success you are trying to sell. Sure, keeping the boss
happy is part of that equation, but for our sales pitch to really work — for our
audit results to be accepted and acted upon at all levels — we have to show why
each person at each level should care.
That means a different pitch may be required for different
people. But shouldn’t that always be the case? And, besides, if you really
understand the issue and its impact, coming up with the different reasons why
people care shouldn’t be a problem.
It isn’t, is it?
And here’s a bit of lagniappe. A quick story to show you how
confused internal auditors get about who the customer is and how to make
Our audit was running late. I sat in on a meeting where the
auditor was working with the customer to get the report completed. The customer
was hesitant — one of those who, while not combative, was very careful. The
auditor (the clueless auditor) explained to the customer that we needed to come to agreement
because the report was going to be due at the end of the week.
The customer didn’t say a word. He just looked at the
auditor with a mixture of sadness and pity and, without saying a word,
delivered the message “Your due dates mean nothing to me; I have my own job to
What’s in It for me?
What’s in it for them?