A couple of weeks ago it was “International Talk Like a Pirate Day”. Because this initiative has been so successful, I put together a modest proposal for all of us to start celebrating “Talk Like an Auditor Day”. I didn’t see it catch on right away. Then I realized why - we already talk like auditors all the time. We can’t help ourselves.
And I think that is one of the primary causes for our struggles working and communicating with so many of our customers. We don’t seem to be able to wean ourselves from Auditspeak.
Last week I was talking with a friend who had just finished providing enterprise and engagement level risk assessment training to a group of auditors. Since they were having trouble articulating some of these risks, she threw them this challenge: describe the components of the ERM model in a way that could be understood by anyone – no jargon, no clichés, no Auditspeak – just plain every day English anyone in the company could understand.
Take the challenge yourself right now. Go ahead. How would you describe such phrases as Internal Environment and Risk Assessment and Risk Response and Control Activities so they could be understood by anyone in your organization? Do it without talking like an auditor.
They had a lot of trouble with it. (I’ll bet, if you actually took the challenge, you had quite a bit of trouble, too.)
But, here’s the interesting twist in this tale. When my friend threw out the challenge, there was one person who nailed it. She could quickly convey the meaning of the terms succinctly and without reliance on the way we auditors normally talk. She had only been in the department for about a month – not long enough to have caught the disease.
You see, there is just some reason (maybe too many years of immersion, maybe trying too hard to sound important, maybe being led by a manager who loved audit jargon just a little too much) we can’t help but fall back into Auditspeak.
Can you describe the components of ERM in a way your significant other would understand? Can you even explain what you do for a living in such a way that people at the party don’t turn away, glazed looks in their eyes, wondering if it is too soon to drink themselves into oblivion? Can you even explain any of these in such a way that you understand them?
I think we each need to give ourselves a new challenge – listen closely to what we say, change the way we say the things we say, and make sure we even understand what it is we are trying to say.