IN THIS ISSUE
Q&A with Dave Harmon
David Harmon, CCSA, CIA, CISA, CPA, is director of financial management programs at UCLA in Los Angeles. Harmon helped develop a CSA program in his former position at Fannie Mae, instructs several IIA courses on CSA, and contributed to the questions in the CCSA exam.
Before you chose a topic, it’s important to identify your customer and consider what the customer’s expectations are. It is always good to have ideas of topics to discuss, but one of your primary considerations should be: "What will it take to have a satisfied customer?" Then, tailor your topic and approach accordingly. For instance, a customer may be interested in a particular process that is new or has changed recently, or there may be "people" issues affecting a team's ability to manage a complex process. In some cases, you may have an audit objective that runs contrary to what your customer wants. In those situations, try to be creative and find a way to do both.
One way of selecting an appropriate topic is to ask the customer what he or she wants to talk about. Ask both management and staff. You may be surprised by their response. Management tends to be more task or process focused. Staff members tend to be more sensitive to the "soft" control issues that affect tasks and processes, and they have the closest grasp on the day-to-day detail. Management frequently only knows what is supposed to happen, while staff members know what actually happens. The feedback you receive may help you determine whether to structure a workshop that has a broader, soft-control scope or one that is more narrowly focused and perhaps more process oriented.
Next, choose a topic that is relevant and timely. Y2K readiness would have been a great topic in 1997, but if you waited until the middle of 1999, you may have been a day late and a dollar short. I don’t have to remind you that people are busy and their time is valuable. You will have a tough time engaging group members in a topic they do not think is important. Keep in mind that your job as a facilitator is not to select a topic that you think is important but to help your group members assess something that is important to them.
For your first workshop, don’t pick the most challenging or difficult topic to discuss, even if it is the most important, because the most critical topic may present the greatest opportunity for failure. Remember, there is a lot going on during a workshop that can be rather overwhelming for a first-time facilitator. From practicing facilitation skills to operating new types of equipment (which may or may not work) to perhaps dealing with one or two emotionally charged, opinionated, or otherwise difficult personalities, you will have a lot more on your mind than the subject matter of the actual CSA workshop. So, choosing a topic that requires intense thinking on your part may not be the best idea. You may want to avoid complex topics such as derivatives or network security, for example, unless you’re familiar and comfortable with these subjects.
Ultimately, you’ll want to select a topic that is relevant, but not too controversial. Striking the right balance is key. So, use the "Goldilocks" approach to help you determine what topic will work best — something that’s not too hot and not too cold, but just right.
One final word of advice — choose a topic and approach that feel right to you, the facilitator. If you’re coerced into discussing a topic that you do not feel comfortable with, you may be setting yourself up for failure.
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