I feel a great disturbance in the force. Yes, for a little over one week I have failed to fulfill my self-imposed obligation to complete three blog posts per week. I was late on a couple in the beginning, and in the last month or so I actually didn’t post a couple of times. But this marks the first time I’ve missed a full week (plus).
Kind of bums me out. Keeping up on these has been a fun challenge. Not that anyone cares, but I’ve actually written posts during a couple of vacations (including when my wife and I went away for Valentine’s Day) and wound up completing others late in the night. (You can probably spot those – they’re the ones that make the least sense.) All this just to hit my self-imposed deadline. But now I’ve missed a whole week.
Considering all I’ve gone through to get these done, what horrific event occurred that kept me from the keyboard?
Well, truth be told, I just didn’t feel like it. (The first step is admitting you have a problem.)
But, this did all lead me to remember an interesting time in my audit career. In the late 80’s, I worked for the absolute worst boss I ever (and I mean ever) had the dissatisfaction to work with. This is the type of boss that, when I am at conferences and meetings and we have “my boss was so bad” contests, I invariably win. I won’t bore you with the stories. Suffice to say he was promoted because he was the warm body that was at the right place at the right time, and that his knowledge of internal audit could be contained in a thimble with room left over for his understanding of how to communicate with people and how to manage a team.
Okay, one story. His third day in the office, he called his first weekly team meeting. This was a small audit team – three auditors, a supervisor, and an analyst. We proceeded to update him. And, in that one hour he became so flustered that he did not hold another weekly meeting for five years. No wait – I lie. That meeting five years later never happened - he just fabricated notes of meetings to be sent to the Director of Auditing to show he was communicating with his team. (What’s that? Yes, I said five years. And it went on for a couple of years longer.)
You can learn just as much from a bad boss as a good one; you just have to remember you are learning what not to do.
I learned a whole lot.
And one of the things I learned – one of the scary things I realized – was that if the people in charge don’t really understand what an audit department can do for them, they can be happy to have an audit department that does not know how to do its job.
You see, poor audit management can lead to a few things. The first is that nothing ever comes from the audit department. That’s good news to the uneducated executives because they need not be bothered by those pesky auditors. The second is an audit manager who, because of a lack of understanding (of internal audit or the business), will buy any excuse executive management supplies. In spite of the executive having to do just a little more work; again, internal audit is just a nuisance – nothing more. And finally, poor audit management can lead to incredibly bad work. And that is all it takes to discredit an audit department. And, once they are discredited, they can be effectively ignored.
In all three scenarios, internal audit is a nuisance – a gnat that, once swatted, goes away. And that leads to a happy group of executive managers. Internal audit is out of sight and out of mind. And once out of mind, they no longer need even remember internal audit existed.
So a quick reminder. You may not have missed me. I can live with that. But who would miss your audit department if it was gone for a week or two, or a month or two, or a year or two? (Don’t think a department can be gone for a year or two? What do you think happened to those shops that used every available hour to work on SOX?)
If you were gone, would anyone miss you?