The following exchange occurred Tuesday night during The IIA’s
International Conference. While not the exact words, these are close enough to the
truth to be reportable. (That one was for you, Tim.)
Me (speaking to two attendees): Have you both enjoyed the conference
Both (in various variations): Yes.
Me: Have you gotten anything from the conference?
Attendee 1: Yes, there have been a few things…
Attendee 2 (interrupting attendee 1): Not a thing. It’s been
a complete waste.
Attendee 2 was then allowed to continue his rants which will
not be repeated here.
Me: Did you attend this morning’s session? (I was talking about the session with Dennis Snow, reports
of which you can see here and here.)
Attendee 2: Yes.
Me: Didn’t you get anything from that presentation?
Attendee 2: No!
Me: But, weren’t we just talking about how that specific
session included a discussion of the importance of customer service married
with a focus on employees?
Attendee 2: Yes.
Me: And didn’t you see that what was being discussed was not
just employees and customers of the organization, but of the internal audit
department as well:
Attendee 2 paused: Yes.
Me: So, didn’t you see the opportunity to apply the concepts
regarding customers to internal audit — for internal audit to do more work focusing
on how it treats its clients as customers?
Attendee 2 became somewhat lost in thought.
Me: And didn’t you see the opportunity to apply the concepts
of employee support to internal audit — for internal audit to treat its employees
better, to understand their needs, and, by providing service to the auditors, support
those employees in providing better service to the clients/customer?
Attendee 2 was silent.
Finally, he agreed that what had been said might have value.
And then he got excited because he began making connections between what had
been said throughout the conference and how those concepts might apply within internal
He had been so focused on the specific words that any of the
presenters were using that he did not make the jump to applying it to his own situation.
(That was my interpretation. Maybe it was something different, but that was
sure the way it seemed to me.) And suddenly a door opened, and he was able to
see the value of the entire conference.
One of the keys to the success of any internal audit
department (as I mentioned in my last blog post) is to ensure auditors receive training.
In fact, I believe my actual words were “Train, train, train!” (Pretty
inventive, wouldn’t you say?)
Of course training should include areas related to internal
audit, the organization, and the organization’s industry. But transformational
training occurs through exposure to areas that may not seem to immediately have
any bearing on audit or the organization or the industry. It is exploring every
nook and cranny of possibilities to stumble across concepts and ideas that would
otherwise never have occurred to us.
A perfect example of this comes from Henry Ford. Many people
think that Ford’s innovation was the assembly line. However, the true
innovation was the development of the moving assembly line. The story is
told that Ford was visiting a slaughterhouse and watched as the carcasses moved
to each worker who then would complete their prescribed task. As he watched,
the light went on, and he realized that cars could move just as easily as the
Innovation in car manufacturing that came from the
slaughterhouse. Transformation that occurs from exposure to seemingly unrelated
What are our connections? What are our comparisons? Where
are the operations and processes and bits and pieces of information that we
will learn from, obtuse and unreasonable areas that will turn into the next transformation?
All I know is that the only way we get auditors (and
ourselves) to look more broadly at strange opportunities is to allow us to look
and learn more broadly.
My current reading includes essays by Philip K. Dick
regarding reality, a book on agile auditing from Prescott Coleman, a collection
of book introductions by Harlan Ellison, and a collection of Carl Banks’ comic
book adventures of Uncle Scrooge. I can’t tell you how any of them will change
my understanding of internal audit or how they might impact how I see internal
audit succeeding. In fact, they may not. All I can tell you is that I am
looking for input from as many places as possible.
If you are in a position of responsibility, let learning
occur anywhere anyone can find the opportunity. And for anyone — leader,
follower, chief audit executive, auditor, anything in between — go out and learn anything/everything
in order to make yourself, your department, and your profession better.
Just be sure that, unlike attendee 2, you are ready to make