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I Want to Live In Precedented Times

Blogs Mike Jacka, CIA, CPA, CPCU, CLU Feb 05, 2021

You've read it innumerable times, it has been written ad infinitum, and I've even succumbed to using the phrase a few times myself.

"We are living in unprecedented times." And then the author goes on to discuss the frenetically transforming world as if such evolution and light-speed change was new.

You know what? It's about time we got over it.

Yeah, we are living in unprecedented times. Yeah, we are living in weird times. Yeah, one year ago we never expected this future. Yeah, things are happening that make black swans seem as common as pigeons in a New York park. But are the times really any weirder, any more frenetic, any more evolutionary than the changing times we've always experienced? Or is it that this one is so dramatic that we are actually seeing the speed of change that we ignored in the past?

Internal audit has one job: to provide information to organizational leadership that will help the organization stay out of trouble. (And don't argue with me on this one right now. Think about it. All our fancy phrases about achieving objectives and risk assessment and control are all focused on this one thing, keeping the organization out of trouble. So, accept it and let's move on.)

And, if we are to help keep the organization out of trouble — if we are to keep leadership advised of the rocks, shoals, icebergs, and mines that their crow's-nest early detection systems have not identified — then we must recognize that tomorrow — any tomorrow — is going to be different from today. The steam engine, fire, personal computing, the black death, the concept of the number zero, the internet, flight, the wheel, Hedy Lamarr and GPS (look it up), the Spanish flu, voting rights, wired communication, human rights, wireless communication … (Your list, impacts, and mileage may differ.) History is rife with events that caused drastic change; events that caused "unprecedented" times.

In other words, again, get over it. Precedented, unprecedented, antiprecedented, reprecedented, underprecedented, supercalifragilisticexpialidociousprecendented. Call it whatever you want. Black swans, white swans, paisley swans — whatever color swan strikes your fancy. Stuff is going to happen. Unprecedented stuff is going to happen.

Change has, is, and will happen faster than we can realize. And it is internal audit's job to help the organization identify the risks related to change and to help them prepare to roll with the punches the immediate future has in store.

Mike Jacka, CIA, CPA, CPCU, CLU

Co-founder and Chief Creative Pilot, Flying Pig Audit, Consulting, and Training Services (FPACTS), based in Phoenix.