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Mind of Jacka: They'll Catch it in Review

Blogs Mike Jacka, CIA, CPA, CPCU, CLU Mar 01, 2022

It doesn't matter how many people stand between the work you submit and its final result. Do your best, under the assumption that what you do will be seen by everyone. 

Striving for less than the best means you are only striving for mediocre.

I now provide, for your dining, dancing, and reading pleasure, a peek behind the curtain.

I'm sure you have all seen the recent changes to the IIA's website. I'm sure you have also seen that this has resulted in a better looking and better working website. It is a breath of fresh air in the professional internal audit world. Kudos to the IIA staff for their efforts and success.

Now, to that peek behind the curtain. The changes have also meant a change in the way these blog posts are handled.

For the last 14 years (yes, this collection of diatribes, rants, rambles, and babbles has been going on for 14 years) my blog posts have generally contained my unedited comments. The process allowed me to enter my posts directly to the website. That means that, if you happened to look at my post first thing in the morning, what you would have seen were my unreviewed remarks.

Of course, the magazine editors aren't crazy enough to leave me unfiltered and unfettered. Some editing was bound to occur. But allow me to quickly note that they never censored me. When I say "unedited," I mean my snafus and grammatical warts were exposed for all to see. That is, until someone on the staff had a chance to review and appropriately edit the content.

So, as noted, things have changed. I now submit my blog post a few days before the planned Thursday publication. The staff reviews and edits the piece, and it is submitted to another department to be uploaded to the "Voices" section of the website. I lose a small amount of immediacy, but quality control is improved.

Last week, I was talking with my wife about the blog process (yes, the woman is a saint) and I mentioned, "You know, it is kind of nice not having to worry as much about how correct I am."

Which is horribly wrong. Not just the poorly constructed sentence (which, if it were not a close-to-direct quote, I would take the time to edit), but the laziness of accepting the fact that, just because someone is now reviewing my work before it goes public, I can allow my personal standards to erode.

Here's a real-life, internal audit story.

I have mentioned innumerable times that, for a few years, I worked for inarguably the worst audit manager in Farmers Insurance history. I have also mentioned (again, innumerably) that achieving this high rank was no easy feat; there were many contenders. But this gentleman came out on top. And we were caught on the bottom.

After about a year, my direct supervisor found an escape to our home office, and I became supervisor. He had provided much sage advice in the past, providing me a large part of the knowledge that allowed me to become a successful internal auditor. As he departed, he provided another gem.

"Assume no one will review anything you write. He will not review anything; it will all go out just as you have written it. Make sure it is the best you can do."

I followed that advice and quickly learned the truth in what he said. There were no reviews; my words went out as written. The only viable solution was to focus on quality throughout the process. However, his advice had an impact beyond the single situation of issuing reports, letters, and memos. I learned it was excellent advice for everything I did within and even outside of internal audit. Do your work as if no one is going to review it; do the most perfect work you can accomplish.

How exacting are you when you write? Do you screen your worksheets for potential errors and missteps? Do you prepare your work with an eye to perfection? Or do you assume someone will review your work and correct it before it goes out?

Do not accept "just okay." Accept only work that meets your highest standards. If someone else is going to review, edit, and change that work, so be it. It doesn't matter if someone is reviewing your work. It doesn't matter if they are changing your work. It doesn't matter how many people stand between your execution and the final result. Do your best under the assumption that what you have done will be seen by everyone. When you accept less than the best from yourself is when you start sliding down the slippery path to mediocrity.

Is what you are reading right now my unedited, unexpurgated babblings? I won't know until it is actually posted. But I can tell you this. No matter what you see in the end, what I submitted was an attempt to make the most perfect piece possible.

And therein lies the challenge. No matter the work, the task, the assignment, the drudgery, the spectacle, the duties you perform, make the results so perfect you feel they require no change. You can only achieve a hint of good when you start working to do your best.

Mike Jacka, CIA, CPA, CPCU, CLU

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


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