There seems to be a theme in the General Sessions I've been seeing lately. They are predicated on the following concepts: Social media is permeating everything, the way everyone does things is changing, organizations must change just to stay competitive, you don't recognize yesterday anymore and you have no idea what's coming tomorrow, etc.
I just saw another good presentation on the subject from Dr. Robert Kriegel in his presentation "Leadership: Creating a Change-Ready Organization". I'm not going to go into his presentation. You want to know what goes on in these keynote presentations? Show up.
But he had one phrase in particular that resonated with me. (Actually, he had quite a few. But I'm going to stick with this one.) "Rethink, redefine, and reinvent." And I watched a lot of Heads of Audit nod their heads in agreement and I heard a murmur of assent ripple across the crowd and I felt that, at any moment, the entire crowd would join in a kum by yah moment joining hands and walking forward into a great big beautiful tomorrow.
Now, as I mention, I've seen this type of theme before. And I've watched all level of auditors join in the head nodding and assent murmuring and kum bay yahing.
And then I watch them go back to their offices and do the same thing they always do and react to situations rather than look for real change and claim they are change leaders because they came up with a new font for their report (Comic Sans MS to be exact).
I have watched them not think, not define, and not invent.
And I've come up with a theory for why this message – a message everyone is gobbling down like fresh cobbler off the kitchen window – seems to land with a dull thud in our profession.
I propose that every auditor in every audience believes these speakers are talking to everyone but them. And I don't just mean they think their audit department is innovative while everyone else's isn't. In fact, I think 99% of the people in these audiences think these speakers are not talking to auditors – but to the companies the auditors work for.
I sincerely believe that auditors do not think they need to change that much – to rethink, redefine, and reinvent. They believe their companies need to be aware of the risk of not changing, but they do not believe audit needs to climb on that bandwagon. They feel that the role of internal audit is to be ready for the changes the company needs to make.
In today's presentation I heard the phrase "challenge the status quo" innumerable times. And, as I said, the crowd nodded their heads.
And, yet, I do not see CAEs, in general, willing to take on that challenge.
We all have to take the challenge– CAEs, Directors, auditors, clerks – we have to take on the status quo. The challenge is to find the next new thing. Burn the envelope, crush the box, dynamite the walls. And I mean the envelope, the box, the walls surrounding internal audit.
We are not a profession noted for our ability to change.
It is time to change that.