​​Lessons From SNL - Part 1

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One of the great things about having a blog like this is that I have been given relatively free rein to go off on whatever tangent attracts me at the moment. (Squirrel!!) When this blog was first proposed, the title "From the Mind of Jacka" was suggested. I said then as I say now – be careful, I live in that mind and it scares me. It was also discussed that the focus would be on my thoughts regarding the profession of internal audit. However, I would be allowed to go pretty much any direction I wanted. [Cue the diabolical laughter as our hero realizes the magnitude of the power he has been given.]

And so, with that warning, I'd like to talk about last weekend's Saturday Night Live.

I was around when it all started – Belushi, Radner, Chase, Aykroyd, etc. However, I was playing in bands at the time and didn't get to see the original airings. It was not until the late 80's I started watching the show with any regularity. And, for the last 25 plus years, my wife and I have made it a Saturday night habit to watch the show. We've seen it go through good years and really bad years. We've watched incredible shows (Betty White) and incredibly awful shows.

Saturday night's show starred Justin Bieber, with musical guest Justin Bieber.

Saturday night's show was one of the worst.

(The following sentence is to calm those diligent individuals whose role it is to oversee the contents of this blog.) And there are a few lessons that internal audit can take away from last night's debacle.

However, before we delve into that particular show, let's talk about SNL itself and the long history of successes and failures. The show has gone through some famous ups and downs. The press has reported their imminent (and obviously exaggerated) demise many times. SNL has hired stars that helped propel them; they've hired duds that (in the best situations) disappeared or (in the worst situations) actually drug down the quality of the show and led to those aforementioned reports of demise. And, if you are even a casual watcher of the show, you have seen some instances where it is obvious they all pulled together to do the extra work necessary to make the show shine, and in other situations it is quite obvious they phoned it in. 

That is the life cycle you will see for anything that has lasted for any length of time. Nothing – no television show, no company, no profession, no department, no individual – can maintain an ever-improving level of success. That is the life cycle of internal audit as a profession. That is the life cycle of internal audit within your organization. And that is the life cycle you will see for your personal development.

So here's our first lesson: Do not be too hasty when weighing in on the ability and skill of your department; do not make snap judgments based on one or two days/projects/years of experience.

And from that, the second lesson. There is no doubt it can be very disheartening to jump into a department and find it is not all it was promised to be. The department is stagnating, the superstars are shining far from brightly, the organization is in the doldrums. If you find a department at the low end of the cycle, your job (whether you are new to the department or a grizzled veteran, whether you have been thrust in charge or are just a lowly worker bee) is to strive with all you have to take it to realms that can be barely imagined. 

On the other hand, what a glorious situation it is to walk in while the department is at its height. All is wonderful, the stars are aligned, and life is beautiful. However, at some point, the other shoe will drop, as will the quality of the department. Do not go into a panic when you see it plateau or even decline; the sky is not falling. Every organization, every department, every person goes through the cycles we've been discussing. And research shows that progress comes at the expense of these plateaus and, sometimes, temporary declines. We all need to take a breath before we can make that next climb. (You'll find an interesting discussion of the plateau effect lots of places, but most recently I ran across it inMoonwalking with Einstein – a book about which I will have more to say in later blogs. But I notice the web site overseer is starting to get a little testy, a sure indication I need to get back on topic.)

So, the important part about this is that, no matter where your department is in the roller coaster ride that is progress, never become one of those who phones in the work, the performance, and the job. You will never get out of the valley, you will never drive past the platform, you will never see what it all might become, unless you dedicate yourself to making that real difference – doing your best work and doing what you can to drive others to do their best work.

All well and good, you might say, but you promised us lessons to be learned from this weekend's show. Where are those?

Ah, that will have to wait until tomorrow. Join us then as we dig more deeply into the lessons to be learned from an individual show that featured one person in two roles, a show that may have followed a fad a little too closely, and a skit that wore out its welcome before it even arrived.

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