I am literally sitting in a meeting as I type the rough draft of this post. (Don’t worry; I am not an active participant. I am only monitoring this meeting because I will be involved in a later set of meetings in which I will have a greater role. Honest, I’m paying attention. Really, I am. What? Did I just get called on?)
The meetings involve discussions about our audit processes; ways we can be sure we are applying our standards while ensuring we are working in the most efficient and effective manner. Actually, a pretty good conversation. In fact, I believe every department should have similar discussions. How are you documenting? How are you achieving your objectives? How does your documentation support or inhibit quality? Are you documenting to just document? Are you empowered beyond the handcuffs of your departmental standards? All of these are questions worth revisiting on a regular basis.
But none of that is why I am typing this.
An auditor was just discussing a part of our process; a part where we may be insisting all auditors follow a procedure that does not apply in all situations. After his rather impassioned comments, he finished with “I apologize because this may be a very controversial subject.”
Now, imagine someone from the outside world (the non-audit world) listening in. Controversial? Auditing??? What happened, did someone misplace a pencil?
At first, it does sound a little strange. It’s funny to think that such small things are controversial. Yet, you know as well as I do that these little details can be important and become very controversial in their own tempest in a teapot way.
And, lest you think it is some mere local issue or a problem at the individual department level, allow me let you in on a dirty little international secret. You would not believe some of the discussions that go on at the International Committee level related to seemingly mundane things. I have sat in meetings where I couldn’t believe we were spending time on the most trivial of subjects. (Does anyone really care what font is used? Seriph vs. sans seriph anyone?) And in other situations, I’ve been a driver of the digression. (Trust me; it makes all the difference in the world whether we use a comma or a semi-colon.) These examples are probably trivial. But let me try a more impactful example. Apparently, you should be in the room (I have not been, but I’ve heard stories) when discussions are held about simple word changes to the standards, definition of internal audit, etc. What is earth-shattering to one is a discussion of angels dancing on pinheads to another.
It is very easy to laugh at this (unless you’re stuck in one of those interminable meetings), but let’s go down a slightly different road. Controversy really only occurs when there is passion. You might be able to argue that it is misplaced passion (semi-colons?!! Get Real!), but passion nonetheless. And without passion, Internal Audit becomes a cold, dead, green-eye-shaded profession. And, you know what? I think I just figured out what was bothering me about my last post to this blog.
Back up. Let me explain. I’ve gotten some nice comments (both in the comments section and in separate e-mails and phone calls) about my previous post, but there was something about it that bothered me. I couldn’t get a handle on what was wrong. And this little sidetrack during a meeting has helped me figure out what it is.
This column is titled “From the Mind of Mike Jacka”, and you’ve just gotten a chance to watch that weird little mind at work. This is not where I meant for this posting to go. What was intended to be a quick write-up about the way others might view auditors as weird people with unusual priorities has turned into a deeper understanding of how to respond to myself from the previous post. Stick around – this posting has just become a preview of things to come. Next week – honest, I promise – I will respond to my own previous blog with a comment about passion, excellence, and a positive response to negative situations.