Here’s a set of questions. Do other CAEs have an attention to detail that can be over the top? Is this necessarily a bad thing? Does it make you not strategic?
I admit I am the type of person that once I see something I cannot leave it. If I leave the kitchen having opened a drawer and it does not slide back fully I cannot leave it, I have to go back and make it close. Similarly I have the same approach in my management style, I want and try to achieve perfect. When I miss things, or something is not perfect I am troubled and disappointed by it.
I wonder if this is my internal audit training’s fault? Is it because, as internal auditors, we like to follow the logic through of something? Good enough is not good enough. I assume an unmanaged risk will become an unmanaged issue. In my career this has certainly been the case on many occasions at many clients. I have seen organisations leave small, far-off, risks until they become first, proximate risks, then, large immediate issues. So when looking at something, even managing my team I see it in audit terms. What are the risks, what can I and should I be doing about it, and am I able to resource the controls needed to mitigate risk within my appetite?
Does this mean that I am not, therefore, suited to management? As management seems to me, at least in some part, to be an exercise is dealing with cognitive dissonance, or being able to ignore problems. How can, I often wonder, my clients over the years have ignored all of those risks and issues and never dealt with them? How can they have not put in all of those perfectly sensible and reasonable controls?
I guess it comes down to a matter of time and resources. I am used, through my training at the big 4, as seeing the balancing figure in any resource equation to be my time. I guess I am not one of those British kids that Jamie Oliver (a celebrity chef) bemoaned about this week when complaining that British kids these days don’t know the meaning of work. So if something is wrong I throw my resources, time, energy and brain, into sorting it out.
Perhaps I should complain to the Institute that my professional training has removed the pleasure of tolerance and the ability to live with cognitive dissonance. For I know I cannot live with suboptimal, not even a little tiny bit of it. I am naturally engaged and impressed by excellence and I have seen much of this in my clients over the years.
Part of 360 feedback I seek periodically is very consistent, that I am challenging to work with and for. Not in bad way (at least that’s not how it was flagged to me) but in the sense that I demand high standards and the very best people can do. Good enough is not good enough in my book. I put this down to training at the big 4 (back in the day when they were very strict and robust and exams were much harder – yeah, yeah, say my younger colleagues). I still remember our departmental senior manager berating us new recruits for passing our first mock examinations. ‘You work for us now, I expect top quartile results’. I also put it down to my absolute personal idol, a professor who taught me at undergraduate level, who would never berate, but always be disappointed if I did not do my very best.
So does this make me OCD? Yes. A little. In a professional setting. Does this make me perfect? No, disappointingly not. I do think, however, we as auditors should expect 120% with a view that we will get 90%.