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Excellence Is Not Just Good Audit Work​​

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Here in Phoenix, the big news is that the Arizona Cardinals have selected a new head coach — Steve Wilks. For those who don’t know, the Arizona Cardinals are the NFL team based in Phoenix. And for those who don’t know, the NFL is the National Football League — a league of teams that play a game no one else in the world recognizes as “football.” In fact, in the U.S. version, the ball actually meets the foot only about 5 percent of the time. But that’s what we call it, and we’re stuck with it. Anyway …

Mr. Wilks was introduced to the media this week and gave exactly the kind of speech one would expect from an individual who has recently been tasked with helping a team achieve a championship. It was a good speech (he delivered it well, in a heartfelt manner) and it included the words and phrases most of us expect for any new leader in any organization. He talked about trust, commitment, accountability, and establishing a culture of winning.

He also spent some time speaking about “excellence.” Again, not that surprising; something you would desperately hope your new coach would want to see exhibited by his team. But what was interesting was the way he emphasized the need for excellence throughout the organization. And when I say “throughout,” I mean throughout.

Here’s Coach Wilks: “Everything that we do is going to be predicated towards that. Excellence when we go out on the field — the way we tackle, the way we block, the way we catch — the way we cook the food, the way we operate in the training room, the way we answer the phone, and the way we cut the grass.”

As a local sports announcer noted, “I wonder if the groundskeepers are aware of the new standards?”

Excellence is a word that gets bandied about. And I hope you are occasionally bandying it about in your audit department. But, to be truly excellent, I think we underestimate how deeply embedded that commitment to excellence has to be.

It is easy to say we will perform audits of the highest excellence. It is easy to say we will write reports that exhibit excellence. It is easy to say that we will be staffed with the most excellent talent available. Of course, it is easier to say than accomplish, but the first step is making the commitment.

However, if we really think about what it means to be a truly excellent audit department — if we began to contemplate what excellence in all we do really means — we would learn that it is going to take commitment in a lot more than just the obvious areas.

Everything (Everything? Everything!) Everything that we do has to reflect excellence — the way we document our workpapers, the way we conduct on-site visits, the way we enter a client’s office, the way we lead our meetings, the way we attend meetings, the way we answer the phones, the way we write our emails, the way we send our emails, the way we greet others in the hallway, the way we talk about our clients, the way we go to break, the way we go to lunch, the way we come to work in the morning, the way we go home in the evening …

I have only scratched the surface.

It is about recognizing that every action, word, sound, step, and breath reflects whether or not we are an excellent audit department. And if you really want your department to reflect a commitment to excellence, then it has to be exhibited in every … single … thing … you … do.

Even cutting the grass.​

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