​The Most Important Thing Internal Audit Can Do in 2014 - Part 1

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​​ Well, it seems that, once again, what I thought was going to be a quick blog post has gotten out of hand. Yep, another four-parter. But, trust me; I would not spend this much time if I didn't believe this one was really important. I apologize, but appreciate your indulgence.​​

I don't particularly like "Year in Review" or "New Year's Resolution" or "What Will the Year Bring" or "Let's Make This the Year of the..." type pieces. (Yes, I realize I wrote one last year. That still doesn't mean I like them.) It's hard to say exactly why they bother me, but it's probably because I tend to have one of two reactions after reading them.

The first reaction occurs after reading a "resolution" type piece. You know what I mean:   Next year I'll do this and I won't do that and I swear this will finally get accomplished and on my honor this will never happen and so on and so forth, ad infinitum, ad nauseam, ad space available upon request. I tend to respond with thoughts akin to "How many times have you said that before?" and "What makes you think there is something magical about the new year that will allow this to finally happen?" In other words, I have trouble believing that the pronouncement of goals and expectations at the beginning of the year – strictly because it is the beginning of the year – represent a true "New Beginning".

The second reaction happens after reading any type of "New Year" piece.  It is the feeling that people's promises and platitudes don't reach far enough. Nowhere within them is evidence that serious change or significantly different actions are expected. There are no visionary challenges. (Yes, I recognize the hypocrisy that exists when my first reaction is that people will not be able to accomplish what they promise and my second reaction equates to "And, oh, by the way, you aren't promising enough." Let's just keep moving.) 

With all that being said – with the recognition that there may be no greater cliché than discussing change at the beginning of the year – that doesn't mean some type of annual reassessment is necessarily a bad thing. In spite of having no desire to make resolutions or "turn over new leafs", I do find myself making fresh starts at this time of year. Nothing specific; nothing stated as a resolution or rule or regulation – just using the break created by the holidays as an opportunity to catch my breath and take a whack at figuring what the heck comes next.

The culmination of my most recent ruminations is that, in spite of my distaste for these forward looking entreaties to do something new, different, and better, and in spite of the recognition that I will surely fail like everyone before me, I'm about to add to the innumerable blogs, articles, posts, columns, harangues, rants, etc. already visited upon you. 

I do not dive into this pool of self-indulgent, self-introspection lightly. As has become obvious by everything I've already stated, I avoid resolutions and New Year futurecasting like the plague, like lukewarm coffee, like a disgruntled auditee, like questionable grammar, like an unfounded finding, like a poorly constructed simile. The only reason I now burden you with my thoughts is that this year's unplanned retrospective reflections revealed glimmers of something profound.

The profession of internal audit has laid the foundation for something very important to occur. In t​alking to audit departments, in working with other internal audit professionals, in seeing the trends that are becoming extant throughout all organizations, I have seen snippets, scraps, and smidgens of a grand opportunity – one that may be much greater than internal audit ever realized.

And that, in the business, is what is known as a "teaser", because I've run out of time. Tomorrow: An opportunity exists... if we just have the guts, fortitude, and vision to exploit it.

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