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Mind of Jacka: Where’s My Seat?

Blogs Mike Jacka, CIA, CPA, CPCU, CLU Aug 31, 2023

For a while it seemed that every speech, presentation, and pontification about internal audit included this phrase, “We need to have a seat at the table.” Sometimes it was an admonishment, sometimes it was aspirational, and sometimes it just seemed to be something people said.

But ultimately it was the rallying cry that no internal audit department should be getting information about the organization’s strategic and tactical decisions secondhand.

As they sing in Hamilton, we need to be in the room where it happens. We need to be there when the decisions are being made. Not making the decisions, but there during the discussions to ensure risks and mitigations are properly identified and addressed. (And never forget the added benefit of getting firsthand information that helps form our strategies and plans.)

It seems I haven’t heard the phrase lately. Maybe I just haven’t been in the right circles. But, you know how buzzwords and phrases come and go. And if it has disappeared like last year’s management fad — if it is no longer a part of the conversations within the internal audit profession — that’s a shame. Because it is at the heart of how we make a difference within our organizations and how we are perceived.

So, do you have a seat at the table? Are you in the room where it happens? Yes? Sometimes yes, sometimes no? More no than yes? No? What seat? What table?

I’d love to think that I’m hearing it less because we’ve all gotten that seat. However, my cynical side is afraid that discussions about “seats at the table” are disappearing because audit leadership is tired of fighting the battle. Or, maybe worse, leadership gets an occasional invite and thinks the fight is over — that they have a real seat. Or maybe even worse, leadership doesn’t really think it is important.

Take a good, long, hard look at your situation. Do you have a seat? Is it a real seat? Is it permanent? Or are you still three doors down from the room where it happens, considered kryptonite to any real decision-making?

We have to be there. We have to be there when important decisions are cussed, discussed, and decided on. And we have to be there all the time.

Here is a quote from Shirley Chisholm.

 “If they don’t give you a seat at the table, bring a folding chair.”

Far too many auditors seem to think they have to wait on an invitation for that seat. But you don’t always get to be invited. Sometimes you have to ask for the seat, sometimes you have to demand a seat, and sometimes you have to bring your own folding chair.

Quit sitting in the background. Quit waiting to be invited. Quit accepting excuses. Bring that folding chair and force your way to the table.

Mike Jacka, CIA, CPA, CPCU, CLU

Mike Jacka is co-founder and chief creative pilot of Flying Pig Audit, Consulting, and Training Services (FPACTS), based in Phoenix.