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The Craft of Internal Audit​

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A few days ago, I was getting my grande quad flat white from Starbucks. It is my weekend indulgence to buy this, my favorite of all the coffee versions. (Okay, sometimes the indulgence happens more often than just the weekend. Okay, it definitely happens more often than just the weekend. Okay … Look, we all have our vices. This is one of mine.)

You may or may not know this, but when a flat white is perfectly constructed, there is a small white dot of milk in the center of the drink. It is how you can tell if a barista knows what she is doing — the perfect construction of that dot.

In my area, the baristas must be getting bored because more and more of them, instead of creating the dot, are creating designs in the foam. This does not detract from the quality. Dot or design, it is about the way the milk is poured into the drink. Once completed, the barista puts a cover on the cup and takes it over to the customer.

I have noticed these behaviors because I like to watch them create the drink. First, that way I can make sure the barista knows what she is doing. (Once an auditor …) Second, I enjoy watching a skilled craftsperson ply his or her craft.

During this most recent trip, I watched the barista complete the drink and noticed she had put a design on top. Suddenly, she took off to the back room.

Other employees looked perplexed, one even checking the espresso machine to make sure everything was okay. But they all had work to do, so everyone went back to their tasks.

Soon, the barista returned with her cell phone and took a picture of the design she had created. She looked up at me sheepishly and said, “it will still taste fine, it just came out so beautiful.”

Auditors should take away two important points/questions from this story.

Point #1: The lid goes on the cup well before the customer sees it. The dot or the design is done for no one else but the individual crafting the drink. I happen to see them because it is something I like to observe. But I would guess most customers couldn’t care less; just make sure it tastes good. Which raises the question, do you focus just as intently on the work that won’t be seen by anyone, be it customer, boss, or co-worker? Do you revel in the thrill of perfectly executing the craft of internal audit without caring who, if anyone, will see the results?

Point #2: When was the last time you did any work in internal audit that was so perfect, so wonderful, so beautiful that you wanted to take a picture of it? Not just finding some issue that saved the organization millions; not just uncovering a fraud perpetrated by a high-ranking executive; not just finishing a project where everyone shook hands, said it was a job well done, and went on with their lives. No, literally doing work that amazed you with its perfection, its craftsmanship, and its beauty.

Those are questions that should be asked with every task, every test, every project, every day as you complete your work in internal audit. When you are more than just satisfied with your performance — when you are thrilled by your own performance, when you are amazed by your performance, when you have completed work that no one else will see that has reached such a stage of perfection that you want to take a picture — then clients will have no choice but to join in.​

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