Are your audit reports effective? Are you communicating your findings in a clear and concise manner?
Sometimes our reports can be written in a watered down way that ends up diluting the points we’re trying to make.
In today’s #jammingwithjason #podcast episode we speak with Sara James who can shed some light on how we can better utilize the words we use in our report writing.
Sara has a background in languages and literature who has studied and taught at universities in France, U.S.A and U.K.
Having then moved into IT and Finance, Sara turned her focus to internal audit. Currently she runs a business called “Getting Words to Work” that is centered around internal audit report writing.
Reach out to Sara and connect on her website: www.saraijames.com or on LikedIn.
00:00:01.380 –> 00:00:04.500
Jason Mefford: Welcome to another episode of jamming with Jason.
00:00:05.910 –> 00:00:15.780
Jason Mefford: A today, I have a very special guests with me Sarah James and i’m not really sure where this podcast is going to go exactly but we’re going to talk about.
00:00:16.890 –> 00:00:35.940
Jason Mefford: Music probably is going to come up communications how we’re working as teams and so stay tuned because you are going to want to listen to this episode because it’s going to entertain you as well as educate you so with that let’s roll the episode.
00:00:38.160 –> 00:00:45.990
Jason Mefford: All right, Sarah welcome i’m excited to be talking with you today, I know we’ve talked a few times before, and.
00:00:46.800 –> 00:01:00.450
Jason Mefford: We both like to go down little rabbit holes so i’m i’m excited for today’s episode because i’m not sure what exactly we’re going to talk about but it’s gonna be beneficial for people right so so welcome Sarah how you doing.
00:01:01.140 –> 00:01:04.170
Sara I. James: i’m all the better for being here with you Jason Thank you.
00:01:04.170 –> 00:01:05.070
Sara I. James: So much.
00:01:05.100 –> 00:01:16.860
Sara I. James: for inviting me it is such an honor, especially given some of the great and good that have already appeared on your podcast and from whom i’ve learned a lot really I think it’s fantastic thing you’re doing here.
00:01:17.340 –> 00:01:20.640
Jason Mefford: Thank you that’s a good way to start stroking my ego to get us going right.
00:01:21.960 –> 00:01:22.620
Sara I. James: no bad thing.
00:01:24.300 –> 00:01:27.690
Jason Mefford: Well before we get started just you know for people that aren’t familiar with you.
00:01:27.690 –> 00:01:40.380
Jason Mefford: Already just just give kind of a brief background as to who you are what you do and then like I said let’s jump in because because we talked before there’s a lot of different places, we can go here and we want to.
00:01:40.380 –> 00:01:44.790
Jason Mefford: make this pretty conversational entertaining as well as educational for people.
00:01:45.630 –> 00:01:49.890
Jason Mefford: So yeah tell tell people a little bit about yourself and then let’s start going down some rabbit holes.
00:01:51.030 –> 00:02:01.260
Sara I. James: Excellent rabbit holes await and in the meantime yeah so i’m Sarah I James and I run a business called getting words to work see what I did there.
00:02:02.070 –> 00:02:09.510
Sara I. James: And my thing my obsession is internal audit report writing because I know how to have fun.
00:02:10.590 –> 00:02:11.160
Sara I. James: and
00:02:12.420 –> 00:02:25.500
Sara I. James: i’m fortunate enough to be able to run tailored internal audit report writing training, but also training for risk and compliance specialists and even people outside assurance functions.
00:02:26.490 –> 00:02:38.160
Sara I. James: across the globe, so a lot less travel over the past year, but i’m still delivering the training and last count I delivered it to over 5000 people globally everyone’s still alive.
00:02:38.490 –> 00:02:39.750
Sara I. James: No visible bruises.
00:02:41.010 –> 00:02:48.150
Sara I. James: and, more to the point, they say that you know when they follow the tips and techniques, I share and really practical exercises.
00:02:48.690 –> 00:02:59.700
Sara I. James: That it makes their lives there a little bit easier and you know who doesn’t need that especially these days, so you asked a little bit about my background, which you will not be surprised, as kind of international.
00:03:01.020 –> 00:03:09.750
Sara I. James: Real emphasis on languages, I speak several some open for debate how much sense I making any of them, I suppose, depends what.
00:03:10.350 –> 00:03:25.200
Sara I. James: time of the day, you catch me but yeah but my background, maybe not the traditional path into audit, so I started as an academic specializing in languages and literature so already there was that passion for the word.
00:03:27.210 –> 00:03:43.020
Sara I. James: And I researched and taught universities in France and the US and the UK and also worked in academic and research and reference publishing in France, the US and the UK and then what I like to say is I got tired of being poor.
00:03:43.650 –> 00:03:44.250
00:03:45.750 –> 00:03:52.560
Sara I. James: I ran away to what people call the real world, which still makes me laugh and I worked in it, and then in finance sure.
00:03:52.620 –> 00:03:56.310
Jason Mefford: To the sector easy and finances, the real world.
00:03:56.760 –> 00:04:03.690
Sara I. James: Yes, the real world and, as we know, they they use language so carefully and judiciously and elegantly not.
00:04:05.430 –> 00:04:13.650
Sara I. James: But when I was in both of those sectors in different companies and I started getting a taste of internal audit and.
00:04:14.850 –> 00:04:29.760
Sara I. James: So i’ve been a member of the Institute of internal auditors for quite some time now, of course, i’m a certified internal auditor and for an extra free soul of amusement i’m on the technical guidance working group in the UK.
00:04:31.020 –> 00:04:40.380
Sara I. James: So we do a lot of good stuff, I think, or we try to for the members and put out lots of guidance about internal audit engagements but also about.
00:04:42.120 –> 00:04:58.680
Sara I. James: fun things like you know, data protection and tax law and really exciting stuff like that, but you know, trying to help make our Members lives easier so yeah that’s what I do in between all of the teaching and the training and the coaching and the consultancy.
00:04:59.730 –> 00:05:04.950
Jason Mefford: Well, I know it’s interesting because you said you know you transition and it finance they obviously have.
00:05:04.950 –> 00:05:11.580
Jason Mefford: Their own language internal audit as well, has their very own specific language right, and I think.
00:05:11.970 –> 00:05:19.170
Jason Mefford: You know we’ll jump into that more because I think a lot of the language we try to use is put off.
00:05:19.650 –> 00:05:23.460
Jason Mefford: So to most other people right because we use certain words.
00:05:24.660 –> 00:05:32.070
Jason Mefford: You know, to mean certain things, but the rest of the world uses those words to mean something completely different right and so.
00:05:32.460 –> 00:05:40.950
Jason Mefford: When you don’t get people to listen to you or people are kind of you know scratching up their nose, when you say something you’re like what i’m just talking right.
00:05:41.190 –> 00:05:43.650
Jason Mefford: that’s part of the reason for it right.
00:05:45.030 –> 00:05:51.930
Jason Mefford: But, but I love what you do too, I mean it’s I don’t do much training anymore, but if I do it’s only going to be customized training.
00:05:53.100 –> 00:06:02.580
Jason Mefford: which you know again there’s diamond doesn’t stuff that’s out there there’s not very many people that actually really customize it.
00:06:03.000 –> 00:06:13.200
Jason Mefford: and make it to what you’re doing so i’m i’m glad that there’s somebody else like you out there that’s helping people actually customize this to where where where people need to go.
00:06:13.950 –> 00:06:22.260
Sara I. James: I think that’s interesting what you’re saying, because the customizing i’ve just realized, as you were speaking.
00:06:24.840 –> 00:06:32.160
Sara I. James: It gives me a particular insight and it helps me see how internal audit and other assurance functions are developing over the years.
00:06:32.700 –> 00:06:44.640
Sara I. James: Because typically i’ll receive about a dozen writing samples from a client, so I can tailor the training to their needs and what I see is certain things developing.
00:06:46.230 –> 00:06:59.880
Sara I. James: I also see when people respond to maybe two periods of crisis, either by trying something that’s completely out there, or by going back to what has tried and tested, but maybe not best, for you know that.
00:07:00.870 –> 00:07:13.170
Sara I. James: That situation, I mean i’ve got lots of experience of teams across the globe and all sorts of sectors and so of course they’re huge cultural differences, not just nationally, regionally, but within you know sectors and organizations.
00:07:15.090 –> 00:07:20.160
Sara I. James: And i’ll adapt to those differences but i’m also seeing the commonalities you know what.
00:07:20.670 –> 00:07:33.060
Sara I. James: brings internal auditors together across the globe and one thing i’m thinking is what you were just referring to is the sheer tone deafness that we can sometimes exhibit.
00:07:34.050 –> 00:07:54.630
Sara I. James: When we i’d like to think I don’t do it so much because i’m attuned to it after nearly 33 years of working with language and languages, but we do fall back on certain terms that sound at best dry and it were slightly grudging i’m thinking, for instance, the term adequate.
00:07:55.170 –> 00:07:58.500
Sara I. James: um when we assess a control is being adequate.
00:08:00.090 –> 00:08:01.230
Sara I. James: If somebody I don’t know.
00:08:02.250 –> 00:08:11.010
Jason Mefford: I don’t know about you, but I love to be considered adequate right isn’t that just like one of the biggest compliments, you can give somebody oh Sarah your adequate.
00:08:12.600 –> 00:08:17.460
Sara I. James: Jason I think we said that you know this isn’t the therapy moment.
00:08:17.790 –> 00:08:19.080
Sara I. James: That our childhoods.
00:08:20.010 –> 00:08:21.000
Jason Mefford: yeah yeah.
00:08:22.590 –> 00:08:31.890
Sara I. James: But it, it does tie into people’s insecurities and you think you know when you’ve come across somebody is put their heart and soul quite sadly.
00:08:32.250 –> 00:08:37.710
Sara I. James: into developing actually what is a very rigorous well designed well thought out control.
00:08:38.610 –> 00:08:47.190
Sara I. James: And you say yes that’s adequate what a let down, you know what’s stopping us saying okay that’s really thorough, I see how you brought in all the relevant.
00:08:47.640 –> 00:08:59.130
Sara I. James: You know, regulation and you’re looking at best practice you’ve benchmarked it so if you can actually get people to do that that’s a really good control, you know what’s stopping us saying it, and the answer is nothing.
00:09:00.720 –> 00:09:09.210
Jason Mefford: Well, just just preconceived notions right, I mean again it’s it’s the, this is one of the reasons why i’m trying to shake people a little bit and wake them up.
00:09:09.600 –> 00:09:15.420
Jason Mefford: right because because we just go and use words like adequate rice.
00:09:15.780 –> 00:09:28.560
Jason Mefford: And, and we don’t think anything of it, but to the person who’s hearing it that’s such pretty offensive right, you know, like like you like you said somebody’s been working really hard it’s like.
00:09:28.740 –> 00:09:31.020
Sara I. James: it’s like it’s so quick yeah.
00:09:31.140 –> 00:09:41.430
Sara I. James: Right it’s a C plus on something you thought was at least to be plus or maybe an a minus if you call it the teacher on a good day and they’re telling you it’s a C plus whereas maybe it’s a minus.
00:09:44.100 –> 00:10:01.470
Jason Mefford: Well, so so like you said, I mean you, you, you call your business getting words to work right so so here here’s one of those things right is I mean again we look at that word adequate what are some better words that we could use instead of saying adequate.
00:10:03.660 –> 00:10:06.480
Sara I. James: I would say it depends show me.
00:10:07.770 –> 00:10:22.170
Sara I. James: Show me your working papers show me your thought process tell me about the context tell me about your audience tell me what it is you want to inspire them to do to improve things in their organization.
00:10:22.680 –> 00:10:30.540
Sara I. James: because all of those things will influence the words you choose and I always say in the transaction between writer and reader.
00:10:32.070 –> 00:10:36.840
Sara I. James: And one thing I didn’t mention is i’m still a professional writer and and copy editor.
00:10:38.910 –> 00:10:42.960
Sara I. James: In between the other things I do the only person who matters is the reader.
00:10:44.010 –> 00:10:48.450
Sara I. James: And I think, very often writers get in their own way, and then they get the readers why.
00:10:50.400 –> 00:10:55.380
Sara I. James: I think fear is behind a lot of things, so people in risk.
00:10:57.090 –> 00:11:00.420
Sara I. James: or assurance or audit functions are very risk averse.
00:11:02.130 –> 00:11:02.790
Sara I. James: and
00:11:03.810 –> 00:11:13.080
Sara I. James: I see people falling back on a very narrow sometimes impoverished vocabulary that they feel is safe.
00:11:13.740 –> 00:11:24.840
Sara I. James: And they say, well, if I pick from say this column of pre approved words and then I tack on something from this column of phrases that my manager is signed off in a previous report.
00:11:25.410 –> 00:11:32.550
Sara I. James: And then I maybe add a buzzword or two that’s making the rounds in the organization, nobody can object to that, but the thing is.
00:11:33.030 –> 00:11:44.250
Sara I. James: Their own thoughts their own insights their own personality is not coming through its last you know so they think they’re playing it safe but actually what they’re doing is.
00:11:45.420 –> 00:12:01.590
Sara I. James: What George Orwell referred to is you know gumming together prefabricated words and phrases and it’s tempting because it’s saves us the trouble of thinking really hard about what we have to say, what are the fewest words to say it.
00:12:02.970 –> 00:12:14.400
Sara I. James: But it helps us fill up the page pretty quickly with black barks and we can convince ourselves we’ve done the job we’re rarely delivering good news so there’s another fear element there.
00:12:15.810 –> 00:12:24.270
Sara I. James: You know we’re rarely telling someone in the first line that their risk and control framework is a thing of beauty and joy forever.
00:12:25.320 –> 00:12:31.770
Sara I. James: You know, at best, we might admit parts of it are adequate and they’re even some controls, the proof to be effective.
00:12:33.900 –> 00:12:34.290
Jason Mefford: you’re in.
00:12:34.470 –> 00:12:46.200
Sara I. James: The lesson, but you know, usually we’re finding fault and it’s, how do we convey that clearly and concisely, without fear or favor.
00:12:48.690 –> 00:12:51.510
Sara I. James: And also, without you know.
00:12:52.620 –> 00:12:58.680
Sara I. James: creating unnecessary conflict or thoroughly discouraging the recipient.
00:13:00.390 –> 00:13:02.160
Jason Mefford: Well it’s interesting because you brought up Orwell.
00:13:02.700 –> 00:13:06.000
Sara I. James: Right, so you know again he’s he’s actually one of my.
00:13:06.810 –> 00:13:07.800
Jason Mefford: My favorite authors.
00:13:09.150 –> 00:13:14.520
Jason Mefford: Several but but it’s interesting because you know Orwell, what was the term that he used.
00:13:14.940 –> 00:13:16.740
Jason Mefford: Word speak, I think.
00:13:17.730 –> 00:13:19.020
Sara I. James: we’re speak.
00:13:19.350 –> 00:13:21.600
Jason Mefford: yeah where it was kind of the dumbing down of the.
00:13:21.600 –> 00:13:32.220
Jason Mefford: Language as well, right in the future, and he wrote dystopian novels so again we don’t want to live in a George rr we Orwellian dystopia.
00:13:33.090 –> 00:13:35.340
Jason Mefford: But he was kind of describing right.
00:13:36.420 –> 00:13:40.590
Jason Mefford: What what could happen, and I think what actually is happening, where.
00:13:41.730 –> 00:13:57.960
Jason Mefford: We dumbed down language you talked about you know pre approved words buzz words other things like that right because we’re we’re trying to soften it so much that we’re actually not really saying anything at the end of the day, right.
00:13:58.620 –> 00:14:02.070
Sara I. James: Instead, right, and so, whether that’s good.
00:14:02.520 –> 00:14:12.750
Jason Mefford: Or whether that’s bad we’re kind of dumbing it down both ways and so again like you said, instead of giving somebody prays we use a word like you’re adequate.
00:14:13.080 –> 00:14:23.730
Jason Mefford: Right, I mean Come on, if you if you’re in a relationship with somebody and they say, do you love me and they say well you’re an adequate lover I mean come on that’s that relationships not going to last probably.
00:14:23.760 –> 00:14:26.760
Sara I. James: What if they said you were effective as well Jason oh.
00:14:26.850 –> 00:14:27.810
Jason Mefford: I was effective.
00:14:28.170 –> 00:14:28.710
00:14:30.180 –> 00:14:31.500
hey we can all dream.
00:14:33.540 –> 00:14:36.060
Jason Mefford: it’s very it’s very analytical, though.
00:14:36.270 –> 00:14:44.190
Sara I. James: Right it, it is and it’s although no it’s not it’s clinical it’s not analytical.
00:14:44.190 –> 00:15:02.520
Sara I. James: So I think if it were analytical there to be greater variety and freshness in the vocabulary, and let me make clear i’m not asking people to fancy pie there i’ve just made up a word they’re writing i’m not asking people to to dredge there you know.
00:15:03.630 –> 00:15:17.310
Sara I. James: SA T vocabulary lists out of deep dark memory, people often think that the longer the words and the fancier the sentences, the more they’re going to impress the reader but again they’re thinking of themselves, not the reader.
00:15:18.120 –> 00:15:31.320
Sara I. James: And so I always say just imagine the reader and what you want them to do the minute they finished reading the report and then think of the fewest best words to inspire them to do that because you’re talking about.
00:15:32.880 –> 00:15:50.610
Sara I. James: The dumbing down, and I would call it the diluting and the neutering our language, because what I want to get to is is for people to answer the questions, so what see here’s me the auditor swinging in saying what’s the risk, so what Why do I care.
00:15:51.930 –> 00:16:04.590
Sara I. James: And it’s actually really serious because, when people write on autopilot and they churn out these word eternity sentences that could mean anything, and nothing.
00:16:05.610 –> 00:16:15.660
Sara I. James: What we eventually say is the reader reading something time and again, and still having no idea what they’re supposed to do so that’s a huge waste of.
00:16:16.620 –> 00:16:29.040
Sara I. James: resource so that’s a loss to the organization in purely financial terms it’s wasted time is wasted money and then, if they don’t actually know what they’re supposed to do what are they going to do either the wrong thing or nothing.
00:16:30.180 –> 00:16:38.160
Sara I. James: So, you know as an auditor you failed because your reader who is supposed to correct the problems you found.
00:16:39.030 –> 00:16:47.910
Sara I. James: is either going to do nothing, so the risk remains on mitigated or they might hair off in the wrong direction down the wrong rabbit hole and burn up.
00:16:48.780 –> 00:17:01.500
Sara I. James: Time and budget and resource correcting the wrong thing, and the risk still remains the mitigated so you know, we really do have these problems and I i’ve got two concrete examples that just popped into my head.
00:17:02.220 –> 00:17:17.220
Sara I. James: That I can share that might really bring this to life for some listeners and make them think oh wow I saw this recently in working papers or a draft for maybe we shouldn’t do that when I worked in finance, something I saw.
00:17:19.350 –> 00:17:24.480
Sara I. James: Just countless times was the weasel phrase.
00:17:27.030 –> 00:17:34.080
Sara I. James: issues around resource and leaving aside, you know that weird preposition what are issues.
00:17:35.580 –> 00:17:39.930
Sara I. James: Do you mean problem, but you don’t have the spine to say it, do you mean a finding.
00:17:40.590 –> 00:17:50.910
Sara I. James: Do you mean the topic of conversation, do you mean children, he died without issue in 1756 you know if something has four meanings it has no meaning or less, meaning that you might think.
00:17:51.660 –> 00:17:57.330
Sara I. James: And issues around resource okay you’ve got a problem with resource, what is it either you don’t have enough people.
00:17:58.020 –> 00:18:07.500
Sara I. James: You have them, but you haven’t trained them yet or you have them you’ve trained them and guess what they are still naughty puppies and you still have to put the newspaper down every morning.
00:18:08.790 –> 00:18:20.670
Sara I. James: In which case, why so unless we actually say specifically what the problem is, how can we possibly work with the first line on a solution through a recommendation.
00:18:22.440 –> 00:18:24.570
Sara I. James: Another example I thought of was.
00:18:26.040 –> 00:18:40.050
Sara I. James: Somebody very senior in order it wasn’t a chief audit executive but someone may be a level below who, I think, after numerous bruising encounters with first line managers who are really resistant to findings.
00:18:41.580 –> 00:18:54.180
Sara I. James: He was just he was like a poor kicked puppy and his way of dealing with it was to water down every report to the point of nothingness.
00:18:55.470 –> 00:18:57.510
Sara I. James: And I remember looking at one report.
00:18:58.530 –> 00:19:06.900
Sara I. James: And i’m thinking of one person in particular it’s not the only time i’ve seen it i’ve read about two and a half thousand reports at this point i’m still standing.
00:19:08.310 –> 00:19:08.850
Sara I. James: and
00:19:10.680 –> 00:19:17.160
Sara I. James: He talked about a risk of financial loss due to manual error.
00:19:19.020 –> 00:19:31.590
Sara I. James: I thought Okay, and then I kept reading and I saw the all the suggested actions to correct this were really to do with tightening up Anti Fraud measures.
00:19:32.910 –> 00:19:38.400
Sara I. James: And so I said well i’d read it, as people are making mistakes with manual entry.
00:19:39.480 –> 00:19:46.470
Sara I. James: You know there’s a problem with the system problem with training, what is it the answer was, oh no actually, the problem is fraud.
00:19:47.910 –> 00:19:55.800
Sara I. James: And I said well how does manual error come into it has somebody mistakenly keyed in their own bank account details, instead of customers.
00:19:56.070 –> 00:19:57.990
Jason Mefford: It wasn’t an error if it’s fraud.
00:19:58.440 –> 00:20:10.140
Sara I. James: Did somebody you know manually make an error by dropping their moral compass in the street on the way into work, how you know how did you get from fraud to manual error.
00:20:10.800 –> 00:20:18.690
Sara I. James: And the responsible as well, they react so badly, when we talk about risk of financial loss due to fraud and I said that this are two vastly different things.
00:20:20.040 –> 00:20:22.410
Sara I. James: In a you’re actually obscuring the truth.
00:20:24.090 –> 00:20:34.800
Jason Mefford: Well, and so here’s here’s here’s The interesting thing when you say that right is auditors, you know we’re we’re you know we’re objective.
00:20:35.850 –> 00:20:39.360
Jason Mefford: You know we all these words that we’d like to use.
00:20:39.960 –> 00:20:56.250
Jason Mefford: But the fact just what you just said right shows that that person was dumbing it down so much that they were actually almost being a little fraudulent themselves by not accurately describing what was going on right.
00:20:56.790 –> 00:20:58.350
Jason Mefford: And so we can end up.
00:20:58.590 –> 00:21:00.480
Jason Mefford: You know not not.
00:21:01.650 –> 00:21:11.310
Jason Mefford: not communicating and actually not having that professional skepticism and due diligence that we are supposed to have in there because again.
00:21:11.910 –> 00:21:19.770
Jason Mefford: However, you communicate whether it’s you know verbally or in a report, it is supposed to reflect the work that was actually done.
00:21:20.310 –> 00:21:32.310
Jason Mefford: So if if you’re watering it down so much that it’s actually not explaining what what what actually happened like risk of financial loss due to manual entry a know.
00:21:33.330 –> 00:21:36.930
Jason Mefford: Right fraud related to ml or whatever it happened to be right.
00:21:38.220 –> 00:21:55.110
Jason Mefford: The the message isn’t coming across and in fact I would argue that by doing that you’re outside of the standards that you’re trying so so badly to follow by dumbing it down you’re actually not following the standards.
00:21:55.830 –> 00:21:57.900
Sara I. James: yeah the code of ethics.
00:21:58.200 –> 00:21:58.410
Jason Mefford: yeah.
00:21:58.440 –> 00:22:05.760
Sara I. James: You know, plays a role here should play a role, I mean, in this case I was coaching the person and.
00:22:06.420 –> 00:22:21.630
Sara I. James: The reason they were behaving in this way was because, as I said they were like an office kicked puppy poor thing, and you know it was from anxiety and defensiveness so it wasn’t going to help for me to say you know you’re basically making yourself an accomplice.
00:22:21.780 –> 00:22:25.140
Jason Mefford: In fraud does happen, because I don’t think that would have helped.
00:22:25.620 –> 00:22:34.470
Sara I. James: But you know I said Okay, why do you think this is more effective because surely you know if I were a senior manager I would want to know where the holes are.
00:22:35.640 –> 00:22:47.700
Sara I. James: In my processes in my area that I need to plug to stop fraud happening, I said you’re not telling them they’re committing fraud you’re not accusing them of anything you’re just showing where the vulnerabilities are.
00:22:48.390 –> 00:23:05.790
Sara I. James: so that they can respond and the response was Oh, we found if we soften it they receive it better, I said i’m sure they do, and my question is, do they then address it in the way you expect, or do you get repeat findings and I think you know what the answer was.
00:23:06.030 –> 00:23:07.440
Sara I. James: Of course repeat findings.
00:23:09.300 –> 00:23:24.540
Sara I. James: So those are two concrete examples that i’ve seen I mean I might associate them in my mind with you know some specific people i’ve worked with but I certainly seen them in numerous organizations in numerous sectors, and I think this comes back to.
00:23:26.280 –> 00:23:42.180
Sara I. James: You know, a point I made when we were having a conversation, one day, which is the human element, the human dynamics and you were saying we auditor, as you know, we see ourselves as objective we try to be, but you know.
00:23:43.680 –> 00:23:52.560
Sara I. James: we’re we respond to things intuitively and emotionally as well, and I think we need to be aware of that and not think that we’re somehow above.
00:23:54.150 –> 00:24:02.340
Sara I. James: Common human responses and blind spots and assumptions, you know we just have to be alert to them.
00:24:03.540 –> 00:24:09.510
Jason Mefford: Well, and it’s interesting because you know I use the word analytical a lot that I think a lot of times we are.
00:24:10.020 –> 00:24:19.830
Jason Mefford: way more analytical than we should be, we need to be more emotional not not to be emotional, but we need to acknowledge and bring in emotion.
00:24:20.370 –> 00:24:35.460
Jason Mefford: right but but, but the word that you use to clinical is even stronger than the analytical which I think is a better way of saying it right so let’s just kind of pause for a minute and let’s just make some silly ass.
00:24:37.350 –> 00:24:42.810
Jason Mefford: analogies analogy here right that again if we are dumbing down our words.
00:24:43.500 –> 00:24:47.520
Jason Mefford: If we’re using particular words like adequate.
00:24:47.550 –> 00:24:56.580
Jason Mefford: Or, I mean again there’s a whole bunch of words that we’re using right findings issues you know all kinds of stuff right great.
00:24:57.210 –> 00:25:01.110
Jason Mefford: risk and in general to right and we need to get away from using that risk.
00:25:01.170 –> 00:25:04.530
Jason Mefford: That word and probably start talking about certainty management, but that’s.
00:25:04.620 –> 00:25:05.970
Jason Mefford: A whole idea for another.
00:25:06.030 –> 00:25:07.200
Sara I. James: episode, I know.
00:25:07.890 –> 00:25:09.900
Jason Mefford: you’ll hear me talk about that more in the future.
00:25:09.990 –> 00:25:11.160
Sara I. James: that’s another whole.
00:25:11.370 –> 00:25:18.060
Jason Mefford: yeah that’s another rabbit hole we don’t have time to go down today but up, but I will write listen listen to future episodes i’m going to be going down that hole.
00:25:18.540 –> 00:25:30.420
Jason Mefford: But so imagine again right that, if we are being so clinical in how we’re doing it that our work papers probably look like medical records okay.
00:25:31.140 –> 00:25:45.480
Jason Mefford: And so, again I audited some hospitals and other medical facilities over the years and I will tell you it is Greek to me right you’re reading those those files and you have no clue what they’re actually talking about they’re using.
00:25:46.200 –> 00:25:46.800
00:25:47.910 –> 00:25:51.210
Jason Mefford: yeah well I used to say great but yeah It really is Latin for.
00:25:52.350 –> 00:25:52.980
Jason Mefford: That stuff.
00:25:53.670 –> 00:26:06.150
Jason Mefford: But so again, our work papers are probably very clinical you know analogy guys to a a medical record now if we’re using those same terms.
00:26:07.080 –> 00:26:13.710
Jason Mefford: If you’re the doctor you’ve got the medical record you’ve got your work papers quote unquote right your medical records.
00:26:14.280 –> 00:26:28.350
Jason Mefford: Now, if you go into your patient you’ve done all of these different tests you’ve done all this stuff you’ve got all these fat and fancy Latin words that you use in medical terms right.
00:26:29.070 –> 00:26:34.080
Jason Mefford: And, and you know you you sit down with the person, that is your patient.
00:26:34.770 –> 00:26:42.030
Jason Mefford: And you’re trying to communicate to them what what is going on right so i’m i’m communicating to that well.
00:26:42.390 –> 00:26:57.060
Jason Mefford: If I if I sit down and say, well, Sarah in my professional opinion as a surgeon, for the last 45 years and I happen to be, you know, a board certified doctor of the American physicians association blah blah blah bullshit right.
00:26:57.780 –> 00:27:09.750
Jason Mefford: And, and we ran a battery of tests on you and found out that you have a you know left contusion hemoglobin blah blah blah blah blah blah I don’t know I don’t even know what the terms right.
00:27:10.410 –> 00:27:19.140
Jason Mefford: But if I say that to you you’re going to scrunch up your nose and go what the hell, are you telling me do I have cancer or not right it’s like.
00:27:19.200 –> 00:27:24.810
Sara I. James: i’ll just tell you to go away and i’ll just tell you to hand over the papers, so I can read them for myself yeah.
00:27:24.870 –> 00:27:34.530
Jason Mefford: In the in the patient’s not going to know right, so how many of our otter reports are just like that, where somebody reads them and they’re like I don’t even know what you’re saying.
00:27:35.400 –> 00:27:42.660
Sara I. James: I love that you raised this point because an analogy, I use all the time, with my clients.
00:27:44.550 –> 00:27:57.630
Sara I. James: Is a medical one because time and again I look at executive summaries that are nothing more than a condensed russ recital of the findings.
00:27:58.830 –> 00:28:00.870
Sara I. James: And what I say to them is.
00:28:01.950 –> 00:28:03.270
Sara I. James: The findings.
00:28:04.410 –> 00:28:06.510
Sara I. James: are coming from your test results.
00:28:08.880 –> 00:28:11.040
Sara I. James: The executive summary is the diagnosis.
00:28:12.270 –> 00:28:16.440
Sara I. James: And you need to use your insight and your judgment and at that point.
00:28:17.190 –> 00:28:34.200
Sara I. James: People start freaking out because they say that subjective that’s personal that’s my opinion, I say yes What else do you think you’re being paid for, besides your opinion, you know not based on today’s horoscope but based on your experience based on your extensive and thorough.
00:28:36.060 –> 00:28:44.220
Sara I. James: Engagement work based on the test results I said, because otherwise, you are like a patient or.
00:28:44.760 –> 00:29:03.210
Sara I. James: You know the first line is like the patient who goes to the doctor and says i’m not feeling well or it’s a routine checkup and, as you say Jason the doctor orders a battery of tests and then calls the patient back and says right we’ve got your results and then recites a litany of numbers.
00:29:05.730 –> 00:29:06.210
Jason Mefford: There isn’t.
00:29:07.200 –> 00:29:08.580
Jason Mefford: there’s 2.3 you.
00:29:08.790 –> 00:29:09.960
Jason Mefford: Baba Baba Baba yeah.
00:29:10.080 –> 00:29:11.040
I mean exactly what.
00:29:12.420 –> 00:29:20.940
Sara I. James: The litany of numbers and the exact summary should be saying you’re healthy you’re not well if you’re not well this is how bad, it is, and this is what you need to do.
00:29:22.560 –> 00:29:24.990
Sara I. James: And that seems to.
00:29:26.670 –> 00:29:46.800
Sara I. James: That seems to ring a bell with them, but to get from their comfort zone of being able to quantify things and again putting that very objective clinical gloss on things to insight and judgment and putting some of your own personal slant on it.
00:29:47.940 –> 00:30:02.880
Sara I. James: And i’m not talking about prejudice or assumption or bias, but talking about you know you Jason with all of your experience in all the different fields you worked in you’re bringing up a body of work and knowledge to bear.
00:30:03.990 –> 00:30:11.100
Sara I. James: That can’t be quantified but it’s an essential part of bringing that executive summary that diagnosis to life.
00:30:11.760 –> 00:30:23.430
Sara I. James: But it’s really hard, I think, to get people in assurance functions to do that, especially I find if they’ve got accountancy backgrounds, they cling to the quantifiable, as if it’s their lanky.
00:30:25.440 –> 00:30:31.740
Sara I. James: And I do have to say, often to junior auditors that just because you can count something doesn’t mean accounts.
00:30:34.170 –> 00:30:43.080
Sara I. James: and especially with risk based internal audit, you know, very often, the biggest and scariest risks might not be easily quantifiable.
00:30:44.670 –> 00:30:46.380
Jason Mefford: Typically they’re not then that.
00:30:46.920 –> 00:30:50.250
Jason Mefford: scares people and that’s why they why they tend to go away from it and go.
00:30:50.640 –> 00:30:57.780
Jason Mefford: Audit something silly like $100,000 thing over here when they’re ignoring a $50 million issue over, on the other side yeah.
00:30:58.110 –> 00:31:01.860
Sara I. James: Absolutely, and you know one thing I can think of is.
00:31:03.450 –> 00:31:05.550
Sara I. James: A finding that I use from.
00:31:06.810 –> 00:31:17.430
Sara I. James: A public audit body, not in the US, but they publish my law all of their reports and they published a report on the criminal justice system.
00:31:18.420 –> 00:31:29.310
Sara I. James: In that jurisdiction and they talked about the fact that all of the different organizations involved in criminal justice in this country, and there are hundreds of them.
00:31:31.080 –> 00:31:37.740
Sara I. James: don’t have any adequate or effective means of communicating with each other, one example, they gave was they discovered that.
00:31:39.750 –> 00:31:40.590
Sara I. James: During a.
00:31:41.820 –> 00:31:42.870
Sara I. James: Pilot They ran.
00:31:43.950 –> 00:31:47.370
Sara I. James: A third of the people who.
00:31:50.220 –> 00:31:55.350
Sara I. James: Court officers went to fetch from their homes to appear in court were already in prison.
00:31:56.700 –> 00:32:08.970
Sara I. James: So they thought they were at home, they were in prison and they had been for some time, but the core officers didn’t have that information so it’s not too much of a stretch to say, well, if they think people are in prison and they’re out.
00:32:10.020 –> 00:32:12.720
Sara I. James: or they think people are home and they’re in prison.
00:32:13.440 –> 00:32:15.300
Jason Mefford: Maybe they’re actually sitting on.
00:32:15.540 –> 00:32:27.870
Sara I. James: their will and they’ve had cases like that, where people they thought were in prison were actually released and nobody told the responsible parties and bad things happened, and yet the risk statements.
00:32:28.410 –> 00:32:38.940
Sara I. James: were all about efficiency and how many hundreds of thousands, we could save if our communications process was more streamlined and i’m reading this and i’m thinking.
00:32:39.450 –> 00:32:49.800
Sara I. James: you’re talking about people being in prison, when you think they’re at home and vice versa, and you honestly don’t see any risks such as public safety.
00:32:51.540 –> 00:33:06.630
Sara I. James: You know, trust in the justice system people’s chance of getting a fair trial, because if all the parties involved in criminal justice are supposed to share information, you know our Defense lawyers getting all of the prosecution’s information.
00:33:07.680 –> 00:33:12.450
Sara I. James: You know, there are all of these things going on, I mean data protection out the window.
00:33:14.040 –> 00:33:23.250
Sara I. James: None of that was mentioned, it was purely quantified Oh, you know, we could save 100,000 every three weeks if we improve this process.
00:33:24.390 –> 00:33:24.510
Sara I. James: well.
00:33:24.960 –> 00:33:26.520
Sara I. James: Some people getting killed as well.
00:33:27.090 –> 00:33:33.960
Jason Mefford: Well, and that’s where I was going to go right is again that’s a very clinical way of kind of saying it right well again.
00:33:34.290 –> 00:33:46.380
Jason Mefford: Oh, we could save a couple hundred thousand dollars i’m just throwing numbers out there right people probably aren’t going to care about that as much as did you realize that we have 50 you know.
00:33:49.290 –> 00:34:00.390
Jason Mefford: what’s the right term rapists, who are actually like violent rape us who we think are supposed to be behind bars but or not, and so.
00:34:00.780 –> 00:34:10.470
Jason Mefford: Are people going to care about $100,000 of savings, because of the communication breakdown or the fact that there could be 50 violent criminals that are out there.
00:34:10.800 –> 00:34:13.830
Sara I. James: yeah maybe the next victim from.
00:34:14.040 –> 00:34:15.150
Jason Mefford: Being victimized.
00:34:15.540 –> 00:34:18.900
Sara I. James: And maybe they’ve served their sentence and they’ve been released appropriately.
00:34:19.530 –> 00:34:27.630
Sara I. James: But if you haven’t told a probation officer, if you haven’t told the people who are supposed to arrange you know secure housing.
00:34:28.890 –> 00:34:34.350
Sara I. James: If you haven’t told the people who are supposed to provide support, you know what do you think’s going to happen.
00:34:35.010 –> 00:34:45.270
Sara I. James: Things are going to fall between the cracks and the consequences are a little bit worse for everyone involved, then some you know missed opportunities to make savings and.
00:34:46.140 –> 00:34:58.710
Sara I. James: I think that’s an extreme case but certainly public sector is where all the scary stuff happens isn’t it it’s where you know, in the UK, where we have the National Health Service that’s where people get their healthcare.
00:35:00.120 –> 00:35:08.430
Sara I. James: These public sector it’s where you have prisons it’s where you have child and family services is where you have probate probation services.
00:35:09.510 –> 00:35:15.870
Sara I. James: it’s where you have social services, you know the things that you know, try to keep people alive and safe and well.
00:35:18.360 –> 00:35:23.820
Jason Mefford: Well it’s it’s it’s you know again it’s just a good good reminder we’re gonna have to kind of wrap up because we can’t.
00:35:25.020 –> 00:35:26.910
Jason Mefford: i’d love to have two or three hour episodes but.
00:35:26.910 –> 00:35:28.500
Jason Mefford: Nobody will listen to them all the way right.
00:35:30.090 –> 00:35:32.070
Sara I. James: So some people like to know.
00:35:32.220 –> 00:35:34.800
Jason Mefford: Well, and some people like Joe rogan do have them but yeah.
00:35:34.890 –> 00:35:36.930
Jason Mefford: Most of the people that listen to this, or like.
00:35:37.200 –> 00:35:40.620
Jason Mefford: hey i’m done exercise and I gotta get back to work now or whatever it is so.
00:35:41.070 –> 00:35:41.400
Sara I. James: But it’s.
00:35:42.120 –> 00:35:48.810
Jason Mefford: But it’s just very you know interesting I mean to kind of recap, a couple of the things that you said you know.
00:35:50.640 –> 00:35:56.940
Jason Mefford: The person who really matters is the reader you know i’ve heard that, over and over and over and over again.
00:35:57.540 –> 00:36:07.800
Jason Mefford: But the fact that you know again we’re doing our organizations, a disservice when we dumb down or when we make things too clinical.
00:36:08.160 –> 00:36:15.270
Jason Mefford: When we never actually call out the things that need to be called out we’re actually hurting our organization.
00:36:15.750 –> 00:36:27.540
Jason Mefford: We think you know, and again I understand, like the guy you were talking about that you said is like the kicked puppy we can sometimes you know feel like gosh you know I can’t say that because i’m going to get beat up again.
00:36:27.750 –> 00:36:36.660
Jason Mefford: yeah but at the same point, think about what’s our job right and so again if we’re not saying the things that need to be sad.
00:36:37.140 –> 00:36:47.880
Jason Mefford: Then, who else is going to say them that’s the whole purpose for having this kind of a function in place right and so again it and you got to think about.
00:36:48.330 –> 00:37:05.670
Jason Mefford: communicating to the people in a way that is going to move them as well right, I mean think about the last great novel that you read was it clinical in nature, I don’t think you probably read it, if it was clinical right.
00:37:06.360 –> 00:37:18.810
Jason Mefford: It brings in some emotion, you know, but again there’s the whole thing, like, I think it was Mark Twain That said, you know I apologize because i’m i’m writing you a long letter because I didn’t have the time to write you a short one.
00:37:19.260 –> 00:37:21.480
Sara I. James: Exactly it’s hard to do.
00:37:21.570 –> 00:37:25.380
Jason Mefford: it’s hard to do and there’s certain authors, you know, like steinbeck.
00:37:25.740 –> 00:37:25.980
Sara I. James: yeah.
00:37:26.310 –> 00:37:27.210
Jason Mefford: He only wrote two.
00:37:27.570 –> 00:37:38.460
Jason Mefford: Big books right what he called big books, most of his books were like 100 hundred and 50 pages why he could say what he needed to in that timeframe.
00:37:38.910 –> 00:37:49.440
Jason Mefford: elicit the emotion tell the story get the reader to take the action have the feelings from it in a very short.
00:37:50.340 –> 00:38:08.280
Jason Mefford: period of time right Hemingway was kind of the same way, his books were typically smaller books as well, because both of them, you know were of the opinion that look the book is only as long as it needs to be you don’t just keep blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah right.
00:38:08.700 –> 00:38:20.040
Sara I. James: But it takes so much awareness and discipline and hard attention to detail.
00:38:21.090 –> 00:38:39.090
Sara I. James: To distill what wants to say into something that is only as long as it needs to be and hits the mark, and I mean just sort of recap or not even recap, but just you know if I can leave listeners with with two thoughts.
00:38:41.250 –> 00:38:42.570
Sara I. James: it’s keep it simple.
00:38:43.770 –> 00:38:52.830
Sara I. James: and keep it human and those are really the two hardest things to do so, no long words no long sentences.
00:38:54.270 –> 00:39:08.010
Sara I. James: You know, keep things active brief concrete that takes a lot of discipline, as you say it’s harder to do than just rambling page after page after page, and when I say keep it human.
00:39:08.580 –> 00:39:15.630
Sara I. James: talk to people we don’t always want to do that, we want to send an email send a report, but one pleasant surprise.
00:39:16.290 –> 00:39:24.570
Sara I. James: i’ve been running some webinars with the head of professional practices at the IAA UK over here during lockdowns and it’s been about.
00:39:25.110 –> 00:39:35.910
Sara I. James: what’s changing and reporting during coven that people can take with them afterwards, because in times of crisis, things change and sometimes it’s for the better.
00:39:36.480 –> 00:39:47.880
Sara I. James: And what we’re seeing is people talking more to their audit colleagues, which they didn’t do enough before and talking to the first line, and the second line.
00:39:48.510 –> 00:40:00.990
Sara I. James: And, ironically, now that they’re physically not in proximity having richer and more useful exchanges, whether it’s over the phone or via zoom or teams, or what have you.
00:40:01.800 –> 00:40:11.760
Sara I. James: and keeping that human connection and human communication, going so that then there’s a sound basis on which the report can be.
00:40:12.540 –> 00:40:20.160
Sara I. James: You know, written and read and some of the reports going out i’m just punching the air and cheering because these are one or two pagers.
00:40:20.790 –> 00:40:29.280
Sara I. James: And there was nothing stopping them from doing it before but it took coven to force people to say right, how can we distill what we’ve done into a one pager.
00:40:30.150 –> 00:40:36.870
Sara I. James: And the recipients, the senior people in their organizations, the regulators have been delighted.
00:40:37.710 –> 00:40:52.200
Sara I. James: Because they’re getting something that’s clear, concise relevant if they need more info they can go and say hey, can I just see some of the test results that back that up and it’s there but they don’t have to wade through it throughout you know 20 or 30 or 70 pages.
00:40:53.520 –> 00:41:01.110
Sara I. James: So you know that’s that’s a really good thing that’s come out is the simple human side of it simple but not easy.
00:41:02.220 –> 00:41:08.430
Jason Mefford: Well, it is and it’s you know that gets back to what you’re saying you know about the person who matters, the most is the reader.
00:41:09.120 –> 00:41:11.520
Jason Mefford: And again if you’ve got a busy executive.
00:41:11.910 –> 00:41:13.920
Jason Mefford: I don’t have time to read 50 pages.
00:41:15.210 –> 00:41:26.640
Jason Mefford: Right and so again if you’re going to be human about it realize the situation that you’re putting other people in you wonder why people aren’t aren’t reading your reports, because if it’s 50 pages they’re not going to read it.
00:41:27.450 –> 00:41:41.340
Sara I. James: They can I worked for two and a half years with the group Chief Executive of a global Bank who would say if somebody can’t tell me what is happening and half a sheet of paper then either they don’t know or they’re trying to hide something.
00:41:41.820 –> 00:41:44.550
Sara I. James: And at first, I thought he was being really harsh.
00:41:45.180 –> 00:41:52.200
Sara I. James: And then within a week or two, I saw what some of his divisional chief executives are sending me in response to.
00:41:52.830 –> 00:42:05.160
Sara I. James: What I thought were straightforward and as some questions and i’d have to call them up and say you come across as though you tried something and I know you’re not, but this is not going to work seriously, you know.
00:42:06.990 –> 00:42:10.110
Sara I. James: Just Whittle it down half a page no more.
00:42:11.670 –> 00:42:23.220
Jason Mefford: Well, great stuff Sarah I know we got to kind of wrap up for this time we didn’t even get to talk about music, this time, maybe do another one in jump more into we talk more about writing so we talk we’re talking about today instead.
00:42:23.580 –> 00:42:31.200
Jason Mefford: and good answer good ones to that right steinbeck war well Hemingway we talked about any other ones, some of my favorites.
00:42:32.250 –> 00:42:36.150
Sara I. James: Oh there’s so many, but that is a topic for another.
00:42:37.470 –> 00:42:40.740
Sara I. James: Another podcast I think you can see some of the shelves behind.
00:42:40.770 –> 00:42:52.530
Sara I. James: me so yeah that might need to be a bit of a marathon if we get on to other books or music, we will be here sometime it’s been such a pleasure Jason Thank you so much, well, it is, and thank you for the practical.
00:42:52.650 –> 00:43:01.440
Jason Mefford: side of it too right because, again, I think, sometimes we end up just being too theoretical there’s some practical things that you threw out there today.
00:43:01.830 –> 00:43:06.960
Jason Mefford: That you know again if you missed on the first time, go back and re re listen to this right because.
00:43:07.590 –> 00:43:19.860
Jason Mefford: When you listen to it again something is going to jump out at you as something practical that you can actually start working on this week and just little bit at a time chip away at it.
00:43:20.280 –> 00:43:28.440
Jason Mefford: and eventually you’re going to be writing I don’t want to use the word novels great novels like reports because that’s not the intention but.
00:43:29.010 –> 00:43:44.850
Jason Mefford: But it’s going to be much more relevant to the reader much more valuable to your organization, people are actually going to get it and they’re going to take action and change, instead of just ignoring your reports like they might be doing right now.
00:43:45.120 –> 00:43:58.950
Sara I. James: Absolutely, and just an invitation to your listeners, and they want to know more or get some top tips or ask any questions or even spoke some reading lists all they have to do is get in touch with me on my website.
00:43:59.700 –> 00:44:02.640
Jason Mefford: and your website again what, what is your website so people can know.
00:44:04.050 –> 00:44:22.500
Sara I. James: www dot Sarah I james.com and i’m going to spell that out it’s SA ra H I J a m E S, but you can also Google me on Sarah James getting words to work and you should find me.
00:44:23.040 –> 00:44:28.320
Jason Mefford: sweet well, I know there will be people reaching out so thanks again.
00:44:29.220 –> 00:44:30.900
Jason Mefford: thanks again Sarah for your time.