Autumn (or for my American readers, Fall) has always been my favourite season. Why? Well, because as an auditor I see Autumn as the ultimate expression of planning and control. I do not see Autumn as a depressing, damp, increasingly dark, prelude to the dark days of Winter. Rather, I see Autumn as a planned recognition by nature that growth and expansion comes in natural cycles, that life does not comprise perpetual heady days of Summer also that the hard and difficult times of Winter can be proactively and successfully planned for and managed.

In an audit context this ties into my observation that different clients of mine over the years have been much better than others at addressing the Winters in their markets. They have had the ability to sense risks in proactive way and to have clear, orderly and organised plans to, in a literal sense, close branches and retrench in response. This requires a clear focus on risk. Not issues. Not proximate risk. But risk.

The management of risk if done properly should have a sense of constant imagining and re-imagining of the future, in fact various potential futures. It should have some sense about how to proactively identify those futures, that is, leading indicators. It should then have a real sense of planning how the organisation would respond if that future appeared to be coming to pass. This is more than simply long term financial planning. It is long term strategic planning and long term risk management.

I have been accused in my career, by a previous boss of mine, of seemingly having an ability to predict the future. I have, of course, no such thing. I just have that good professional audit sense of thinking and reviewing risk proactively. Good audit work should, in my view, be very little about the here and now and should have a focus on the potentially here at some point. My response to my previous boss was simple. I have no ability to predict the future. I just know that an unmanaged risk sat in the future has a much greater chance of eventually becoming an issue in the not too distant present.

So I think we as auditors should have great affinity with Autumn and see it as the ultimate expression of natures’ risk management.   It’s a great season which for me expresses the value to organisations of risk-based rather than issue-based audit. What does Autumn mean for you?

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