The Most Important Thing Internal Audit Can Do in 2014 - Part 2

 

Yesterday I spent our entire time together talking about how much I hate "New Year" posts. And then I explained that I was going to do one anyway. The purpose of all those caveats was to emphasize just how important I think the coming year is for internal audit. Why? Well, that is what we will get into with Part 2.
 
Not to put too fine a point on it, but I sincerely believe that the profession of internal audit is at an important crossroads. We are at a unique point in time where we can truly revolutionize our profession by capitalizing on the new opportunities and exploiting the emerging technologies and concepts available.
 
It is our chance to become something we may have not yet even imagined.
 
On the other hand, if we do not take advantage of this pivotal point in our history, if we sit back and let the world move on without us, we run the risk of being swept into the back room like yesterday's dust.
 
Now, there is no doubt we have come a long way. We have evolved from a rabble of tolerated, mandated, backroom-living, regulatory-required, stabbers of the wounded into true business partners who are recognized as sharing the organization's vision for success. We have gained a real "seat at the table." Which raises the question "Now what?"
 
What's he talking about? What does he mean "Now what?" Isn't this everything we have been striving for? Isn't this everything we could want to be?
 
Not so fast Kaiba. In this ever changing world in which we live in, no profession can rest on yesterday's accomplishments. (And I don't mean some metaphorical yesterday, I'm literally talking about what was achieved as recently as the day before this one.) There is no victory in maintaining even the most recent status quo. To have continued success and relevance, any profession must continue to reinvent itself and find new ways to provide value to an organization.
 
If internal audit settles for this new status quo (no matter how great it is that we have reached it), if we do not look for impactful change (not just moving the deck hands on the Titanic), then the relevancy for which we have fought will disappear once more.
 
We must keep moving. We must continually evolve.
 
Because, whether we change or not, the world (the business world, the professional world, and our personal worlds) will continue to change around us. And that change is occurring faster than any other time in our history. 
 
I recently read, for the first time, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. This was a hugely popular book from the seventies. There are many interesting things that still make the book worth reading, but one thing that stood out to me as interesting/humorous/naive was the way the author kept talking about how fast the world was changing. For that time, yes indeed change was coming fast. For our times, we look back longingly on that pace of change wishing for something so simple to handle.
 
Therefore, if history is any guide, the current pace of change will only become faster. Those who lived in the sixties lamented the increasingly fast pace of change. Those who lived in the seventies lamented the increasingly fast pace of change. Those who lived in the (fill in your favorite decade here) lamented the increasingly fast pace of change. And, in the future, people will look back on our era and laugh at our naive ideas of what comprised "fast" change.
 
So it is with our profession. 
 
So it is with our organizations.
 
So it is with our personal lives (but we won't be getting into that one – you'll have to address it yourself.)
 
If we want to (at the very least) maintain the valued roles we have finally obtained, then we must keep up with the Joneses, the Smiths, and every other neighbor that is covetously eyeing the territory we have worked to gain. It is insanity to believe that encroachment will not follow if we do nothing to (again, at the very least) keep up.
 
We must change because those who believe they can do our job (and do it better) will be changing. They are out there right now. They are looking at the work we do. And they are identifying the new opportunities, the new approaches, and the brave, new world. And, unless we respond, our relevance will once more be on the decline.
 
It then becomes quickly evident that we must charge ourselves to do more than just keep up. We must prove we are the leaders. We must show that our thinking is at the forefront, that our knowledge of business and changes in business are second to none, and that we are professionals who understand more than controls, risk, and governance – that we understand the way business runs now and into the future.
 
All this shows that we can no longer be satisfied with "tweaking our way to success." What internal audit needs in 2014 is seismic change.
 
But, once again, we've run out of time.  Join us tomorrow when we'll talk more about that seismic change.

Posted on Jan 15, 2014 by Mike Jacka

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