Not a Movie Review

I refuse to watch the remake of The Day the Earth Stood Still, just as I should have refused to watch the remake of The Manchurian Candidate, just as I should have refused to watch the remake of Psycho, just as I should have refused to watch Disturbia (which was a remake of Rear Window no matter WHAT anybody says.) There is absolutely no reason to go back and redo the work of others unless you can do it better. Going from black and white to color is not making it better. Adding whiz-bang special effects (blowing up more stuff) is not making it better. Moving from the 50s to the 80s/90s/00s is not making it better. Doing a shot-for-shot remake with different stars is not making it better. Retesting the tests the testers did to ensure the testers actually tested the tests is not making it better. (Whoops — I may have just played my hand.)

Better is adding new concepts to an existing project. Better is bringing new thoughts and ideas into the project. Better is revealing something new about the subject. Better is leaving that project with everyone having learned something new — something important that didn’t exist in the previous incarnation.
Which is why, no matter what project you are taking on, you have to ask yourself, “how is what I am doing making a difference?” And it is also why you have to ask yourself, “Am I just doing the same things over and over?”
As auditors, there are two different aspects to this “Extreme Project Makeover” thing. The first relates to the projects we complete. In applying the “remaking the classics” quandary that has just been posed, we have to determine if we are really doing anything different in our projects or just reprising our greatest hits. (Like Chris Farley asking Paul McCartney, “Remember 10 years ago when you did that cash count and you found the Petty Cash clerk stole 20 dollars? That was awesome!”) The challenge is to approach audit projects (any audit project — from the lowliest tic and tie to the most grandiose advisory engagement) in a way that brings something new to the table.
And the second aspect (and perhaps the most movie-like) is, when we are assisting/reviewing/impeding a project, are we just doing a shot-for-shot remake of the project they already did? And, again, this isn’t just the grandiose things — it is every project/system/process we take a look at. How is our remake making a difference?
It can happen. The Magnificent Seven took Seven Samurai (a great movie in its own right — if you’ve never seen it, go watch it right now. We’ll wait) and made it something different. And we all have projects (the small and the great) where we were able to go beyond the rehashing of a previously existing product. (Please feel free to share.) But we have to take the next step. These accomplishments have to be the rule, not the exception.
And the worst part is – I will probably break down and put The Day the Earth Stood Still on my Netflix list.

Posted on Dec 12, 2008 by Mike Jacka

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  1. Overall, I agree with your "rant" (Ooops, I mean "insights"), with one exception - as the Mythbusters would say, everything is better when explosions are involved!

    With the possible exception of the annual petty cash audit, every recurring audit should be looked at with a fresh perspective.  Do accomplish this I find it beneficial to not look at prior years work papers until after I have gained a preliminary understanding of the risks and control environment, flowcharted existing and potential controls, and taken a stab at a new audit program.

    Prior work papers should primarily be a reference tool, not a roadmap.

  1. Good thoughts:

    First off, as the great Harry Knowles said, why remake the good movies, remake the bad ones to see if you can make them better.

    That leads to interesting set of thoughts. First let's realize that certain audits have to be done, for regulatory purposes, to assuage the external auditors, etc. These audits should not be given the greatest amount of time. They should be done, with accuracy, and brevity. For in these audits the ability to offer value adds may be difficult at best, yet we need to complete the audits

    The good audits, well if they were truly good when you go back to them either you solved most of the problems, or you figured out there is now no risk, so no need to audit. You can't repeat those audits because the risks have either been mitigated or were never there. So if you are ranking your risks in your audit critically, you can't redo it.

    The bad audits, now there's the remake possibility. Either through a poor identification of the risks, or execution or any of a thousand reasons, you have an audit that at the end you didn't ever find the core risks, and you see that in the workpapers or the report. Or even in the new risk assessment. Those are the audits that should be re-done.

    Just my $.02. Thanks Mike!

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