​​What Internal Auditors Can Learn From Pixar

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​I recently received a free copy of Ed Catmull's new book, Creativity, Inc. No strings attached; just a copy with the idea that, if I was so inclined, I could write a review. (Note the way I comply with the FCC's requirement that bloggers provide a disclosure when the item they are reviewing was provided free.) 

First, who is Ed Catmull? Simple answer: One of the founders of Pixar. (And if you don't know what Pixar is, then turn in your Woody and Buzz decoder rings. Reminds me of the time I shared the story of being in the same room as John Lassiter and one of my listeners said, "Who?" Auditors need to get out more. Look 'em up.)

This excellent book is a collection of his thoughts about how a creative environment was established and maintained in Pixar. In the sharing, he also tells some fascinating stories about how Pixar started, how some of its movies were developed​, and how things have to so often go wrong before they can go right.

But my purpose here is NOT to review the book (although I did just kind of do that.) No, as I was reading it, I kept stumbling across nuggets that made me think, "Auditors need to read this."

And so, this week, I want to share some of the things I stumbled across, as well as why I think auditors should care. 

What Internal Auditors Can Learn from Pixar #1

"Clearly, it wasn't enough for managers to have good ideas – they had to be able to engender support for those ideas among the people who'd be charged with employing them. I took that lesson to heart."

I've heard that one definition of leadership is "getting someone to do something you want them to do and having them want to do it." 

I've also said that every internal auditor, no matter where they are, no matter their experience, no matter how inconsequential they may feel, is still in a leadership position.

This example puts it together better than anything I can imagine.

I had a mistake I hired one time whose main reason for wanting to be an auditor was so she could tell people what to do. (I learned it about three months too late – as I said, a mistake.) She had no concept that internal auditors have no power – that we cannot make anyone do anything. We are convincers. We are salesmen. We are marketers. We have to take our discoveries – the improvements, efficiencies, and suggestions – and couch them in terms that make our clients want to embrace them.

Far too often (and once would be too many – but there have been more than that) I've seen auditors and audit managers and audit directors and CAEs complain that all their brilliant ideas go for naught because the auditee refuses to agree. And the root cause is almost invariably that audit thought it was a great idea and just assumed everyone else would agree.​​

The next time the auditee disagrees with your corrective action, take a step back and first ask yourself if you really have the answer. Then put on those salesman shoes and work with the auditee to engender the support necessary to effect real change.

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