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Mind of Jacka: If You Could Change One Thing

Blogs Mike Jacka, CIA, CPA, CPCU, CLU Feb 22, 2024

What’s the one thing you hate most about internal auditing?

I don’t mean in the esoteric, big-picture, strategic, why-are-we-here way. I mean, what in the day-to-day, week-to-week, and month-to-month processes that keep the internal audit engine running do you approach with trepidation, fear, and loathing? What activities make you physically sick with their repetitiveness, wastefulness, and uselessness?

In other words, if you could change one thing, what would it be?

And then the follow up question: Why haven’t you changed it?

For those who read my previous blog post — the one that mentioned the questions I ask in interviews — this was another of my favorites.

At first, you might laugh this question off as a rhetorical hyperbole meant to loosen the brain, but with no inherent value. On the other hand, you may be scowling as you request that we not bother with such trivialities and move on to more important matters. But I am deadly serious.

Why? Why haven’t you done it? Why haven’t you initiated that change? Why haven’t you asked for that change? Why haven’t you made that change? And if you hit a brick wall trying to make/get/ask for that change, why did you give up?

This is what drives me into paroxysms of exasperation about the internal audit profession. We want to be known for seeing the big picture. We want to be known for our ability to think strategically and tactically. We want to be known for using our skills to make the organization better. We want to be agents of change. (Remember when that was one of the clarion calls of our profession?) We want to champion, drive, and elicit positive change with all the work we do.

However, if you merely whisper the word “change” regarding internal audit, itself, watch as everyone ducks into their shells, sticks their heads in the sand, and hides under their desks in the safety of their cubicles. And watch as leadership quakes under the weight of “We’ve always done it this way!”

Don’t believe me? Look at recent history — the release of the new Global Internal Audit Standards. The initial idea, subsequent discussions, and various rollouts have, are, and will be met with cries of anguish, most of them centered around the concept, “Why do we have to change?”

It is natural to fear change. Internal auditors, despite what many of our clients think, are just as natural as anyone else. But we must be willing to step beyond that natural reaction and embrace change, especially in our own house.

This is only my third blog post this year, but a natural progression has already accidentally occurred. First, take a good, long, hard look at the way things are done in your department and look for where change is needed. Do not accept the status quo; find what needs to be fixed. Second, expand your horizons to find creative ways to make those changes. Explore possibilities — something different, anything different — and find innovation that no one else has thought of. And finally…

Do it.

Don’t sit whining. Don’t sit cowering. Don’t say it can’t be done, no one will let us, or we can’t change.

Do it.

Here is the gauntlet I am throwing down. Prove me wrong. Tell me of a time you boldly stepped forward and stopped your internal audit department from doing something stupid that it had always done just because it had always been done.

Here’s an even bigger challenge: Prove me wrong by telling me about something you did in the last year. The last month. The last week. Yesterday.

Tell me this (and I really want an answer): what would you change, right now, if you could? And tell me how you are going to change it.

There can be lots of excuses, but few good reasons.

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.