It’s easy to focus our attention on shiny objects since everyone is talking about them and they just seem sexy. Elephants in the room are rarely sexy, but can represent a much bigger risk to your organization, and are often ignored or overlooked. In this episode you will hear how to determine if you are spending your time chasing shiny objects, or focusing on the elephants in the room.

How does the elephants and shiny objects analogy relate to internal audit? Quick answer: it’s about what’s on your audit plan. To get the rest of the story, check out the episode.

To access and fill out your application for membership in the Chief Audit Executive (CAE) Forum visit: As a reminder, open enrollment period is only open for a couple of weeks, so get your application submitted today.

If you’d like to sign up to be interviewed for the CAE podcast series, send an e-mail to: [email protected]

To listen and for complete show notes and links to downloads, visit:

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To listen to this and other Jamming with Jason episodes for CPE credit, visit:

The #1 #internalauditpodcast in the world has interviews and discussions (jam sessions) relevant to Chief Audit Executives and professionals in #internalaudit, risk management, and compliance.


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Hello my friends and welcome to another episode of jamming with Jason. Hey, I am glad and so grateful. Actually, that you are choosing to spend the time with me.

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Today to go through and spend a few minutes actually learning and improving yourself so that you can be a better auditor.

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Now, today I want to talk about kind of the theme that I want to talk about is an analogy about elephants and shiny objects.

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And one of the reasons that I like to use analogies a lot, you’ll hear me use a lot of different analogies is it’s a way for us to be able to understand and process, some of the different things.

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That we need to do. So when we create a story when we, you know, have have a story that has a meaning to it when we think about an analogy.

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It makes it easier for us to actually understand and implement those concepts which can lead to a transformation in us.

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And in the way that we actually do our job. Okay, so today I want to talk about elephants and shiny objects and I’m going to use that as an analogy to be able to describe and talk about an issue.

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That all of you need to kind of address and think about, and as part of that. I’m going to go through and actually give you some different questions for you to ask yourself.

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So that you can determine, are you dealing with elephants, or are you dealing with shiny objects. And I’ll get into that and kind of explain what those are.

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And just a minute. Now before we get started into our actual discussion today, there’s a couple of things that I wanted to make you aware of

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The first one is, I’m starting to record a new series of podcasts, it’s going to show up here in the jamming with Jason

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But they’re topical and what the topic is is it’s lessons from a chief audit executive. So what I’m doing is interviewing chief audit executives.

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So that we can understand kind of the career path on how they became a chief audit executive lessons that they learned along the way that helped them to become a chief audit executive

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And then the lessons from actually being a chief audit executive

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Because I know a lot of you that are an internal audit, you know, you kind of think about your career path and you think, Oh, someday I want to be a chief audit executive

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I know I felt that way, you know, coming out of public accounting and going into corporate life.

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That’s the job that I got was a chief audit executive to begin with coming out of public accounting

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And so I was really excited. I was stoked about my career that I’ve made that move, but I didn’t really know what I was getting myself into.

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And so one of the purposes of these is to again help those of you that are on your career path and want to become a chief audit executive

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To understand what it takes to get there, but also a little bit more about what the job actually entails.

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Now, for those of you that are already chief executives these sessions will actually

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Provide and give you a context. Maybe if some of the things that other chief executives are going through or have gone through

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And what they have been able to do to help make them successful. So like I said, I’ve already got the first few interviews.

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Scheduled and going to be recording these and releasing these out over the next few weeks or months.

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And it’s going to be one of those that I’m going to, you know, continue to do so I’ll continue to interview chief out of executives. So you’ll see those popping up as some of the different episodes.

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Just like you’ve already seen some in the past when I was talking about what to Chief on it executives, but usually we were talking about a particular topic. Okay, so

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The reason that I’m bringing this up is I need to find people to interview right so if you are a chief audit executive and would like to contribute and be interviewed on the show.

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Send me a message, you can either email me or send me something through LinkedIn.

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But also if you’re not a chief audit executive, but maybe you work for someone and you think, wow, you know this person would

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Would do great. They’ve done some great things they should be somebody who’s actually interviewed and on the podcast as well.

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Reach out to them. Let them know about this opportunity, connect them with me and we’ll get something on the calendar, because I’m really excited about this session, these, these upcoming sessions, because I think

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You’re going to be able to learn a lot from the experience of others. And I want to be able to share that with everyone. So again, if you’re already a chief audit executive and would like to participate, let me know.

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And we can go over the details and we’ll talk about that and get the get the recording session done

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And or if you know someone else who you think would be a great person to come on the show, then let them know about that as well and connect us together so that we can get that going.

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So that’s kind of the first thing. The second thing is I today actually kind of formally announcing

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That the chief audit executive forum that I run is actually open for new enrollment.

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Now what does that mean, right, is well the chief audit executive forum is a group of Chief audit executives, so you must be a chief audit executive to participate.

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But it’s a group where we can actually talk about some of the frustrations challenges and opportunities of being a chief audit executive

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But it’s in a confidential environment. So again, you’re able to have this community of peers, where you can talk about maybe the things that are frustrating or challenging you

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And get feedback from others in your peer group. Now this is a confidential environment. So you can feel comfortable actually sharing

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What’s going on and and some of the things that you’re dealing with and be able to get that help from other people.

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Now again, that can be in lots of different ways. It can be, you know, related to you know you as an executive leading a team and maybe some of the things that you’re dealing with. There

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It can be, you know, a lot of times we might talk about things related to our relationship with the audit committee.

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And how we can you know maybe improve the relationship there. Get them to listen to us, you know, because I know sometimes

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Chief audit executives. They feel like they’re being like, they’re like they are a trusted advisor, but the executives and maybe the board don’t treat you that way.

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Or you’re kind of getting ignored and you’re not really sure why. Well, this is a forum where we actually go through and talk about that.

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And, you know, if you’re not being invited to the big kids table and you’re being excluded. We talked about ways to get included and to be able to provide more value to your organization.

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Now it’s called the chief audit executive forum. Some of you may have heard of things like roundtables and so a lot of different you know some II chapters or professional service firms run what they call her for roundtables

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And those are those are great, but a lot of times, you know, they’re a free sort of thing that people volunteer their time or if it’s from a professional service firm. They’re really using it as as a way to

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Do practice development and try to sell you other things. And that’s not what this group is about this group is about having a community where you can actually feel connected

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Where you can actually build friendships that will last throughout your career where you can be open and honest with other people, but it’s in a confidential space.

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Now, this is also something that’s different from a lot of those free roundtables that are out there.

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In that it doesn’t require a bunch of your time. You know, a lot of times the free roundtables require a lot of people, you know, either assigning people on your team, or you have to do it to try to drive and get things going.

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That’s not what this is for. Right. We know that you are an executive you’re busy. And so all of the heavy lifting is actually done by my team. You just need to show up and participate in the group calls

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Or in the group discussions that we have online between the calls. And so there’s usually about 10 to 12 different calls during the year.

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Where we really get into and discuss, like I said, some of these real challenges. Some of the stress and pressure that you might be feeling

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And political landmines that you want to make sure that you avoid so that you don’t have an issue in your career going forward.

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Now you know for me I was when I first became a chief audit executive I was fairly young in that meant I was also naive and so I knew how to audit, but I didn’t understand.

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Some of the political land mines that were in the organization. And honestly, I made a lot of mistakes and even as I grew in my career I continued to

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Experience different things that I never thought or dreamed of that I would actually encounter.

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And you know, when I’m coaching chief executives. This comes up a lot. I remember one person said, you know,

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I’ve had, I’ve had a 30 year career and i’ve you know learned all these some of these textbooks and I’ve worked for all these companies but holy smokes. I never

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Learned any of these things in my textbooks or through my experience. And that’s just really kind of the reality of what it is.

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So again, wanted to make sure if you are a chief audit executive and for and are looking

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For a community to be able to actually participate with and get that support not only from me. But from your peers.

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The open enrollment period is now it’s starting now and and so I’ll include in the show notes down below where you can click on the link to be able to go out and fill out your application.

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Now there’s a couple things that are different about this group. The first one is, we only accept new members into the group, a couple times a year. So that’s why I’m giving you this announcement right now.

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Because in a couple of weeks. It’s over. And we’re not going to accept new members into the group for several more months.

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So if this is something that you’re interested in, you need to act on it now and actually fill out your application.

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The other thing is, again, it’s not a hey, this sounds really cool add me to your, to your group that’s not the way this works either

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Everybody in the forum actually has to fill out an application. They go through an interview process with me to make sure that they are a good fit for the group.

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Because again, if we’re going to have this confidential community. We have to make sure that only the right people.

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That should be in the group are actually in the group. And so again, there’s a process, you have to go through. It’s not just like raising your hand and saying, Hey, add me to your list. That’s not what this is. So again, if it sounds like something that you’re interested in.

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Go out, look at the information, click on the link below in the show notes and fill out your application, you have to fill out the application and go through the interview process.

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To see if will actually accept you into the group as well. So again, that’s out there and and there’s more detail on the website that you can go through

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If anybody has questions you can obviously send me a message or an email and I’ll try to answer that, as well.

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But like I said, because this is only open a few times a year, and it’s going to close within a couple weeks. So make sure that if this is something that sounds like you’re interested in

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Go check out the website and get signed up, fill out your application and get signed up for your interview.

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So okay, so that’s our kind of the two things that I that I really wanted to make sure and and get out there today because those are kind of some time sensitive things

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If you want to come on to the podcast and share on the lessons from a CH E Series or if you want to get into the chief audit executive forum, you need to take action on that pretty quick. So now let’s get back into the discussion today now.

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This, this has kind of come up again from some of the things that I’ve been seeing as I’ve been working with Chief audit executives and internal audit teams either do it through coaching or training.

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It’s also kind of related to some of the stuff that I’m seeing online as well. And in some of the, the things that I’m that I’m really hearing

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So again, it’s about elephants and shiny objects. So let me explain what those two

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Concepts actually kind of main and then we’ll talk about how that analogy actually relates to you in your internal audit profession. Okay.

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So you might have heard the term before an elephant in the room right and so that term really kind of means that you know you’re you’re in this room. Imagine that you’re just in this room.

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And there’s this huge elephant in the room that everyone is ignoring okay everybody sees it. But everybody’s kind of ignoring it because they don’t want to admit

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That there’s actually an elephant in the room, and so they usually try to avoid it. It’s like a big problem that you need to address.

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But most people don’t want to go there and they don’t want to deal with the elephant. Okay, so, so when you think about the elephant. Think about that. That concept of the elephant in the room.

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So what’s a shiny object. Well, a shiny object could again be something if you’re imagining that you’re in the room with this big

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Elephant. There’s also some sort of shiny objects, something that is is reflecting the light there might be flashing lights on it.

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Could be something that’s metallic in nature. And so, the sun is like, you know, glaring off of it and

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And what ends up happening is, is we tend to see those shiny objects because they they attract our attention. And again, if we don’t want to focus on the elephant, we’re going to want to focus on

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The shiny object. So what are, what are some examples of shiny objects. Well, a lot of times you can think about them as those things that are getting maybe a lot of press

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There’s a lot of articles about it. Everybody’s really talking about it. They’re these new buzz words that really

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A lot of times a buzz word is just a new term for something that we’ve been dealing with before. So I’ll give you an example of that.

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A lot of people are talking about our p a robotic process automation and that is a buzz word that’s out there, right, because when you actually stop and think about what is robotic process automation. Well, yes, it may be some new

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tools that are out there, but really robotic process automation how most people are talking about that is no different than we were talking 20 or 30 years ago.

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About how we could use. Here’s an old term cats computer automated auditing tools and so some examples of those from the times before things like idea.

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ACL. Right. And again, those are kind of some brand names of these cat applications. Now what did they do for you, robotic process automation. Right. You could use them.

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To actually automate audit steps, use that technology to be able to help you in your auditing. So, so our PA today is being used as this buzzword, and you’re hearing it all the time.

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And most of the time the people that are talking about it are just trying to get you to buy their software. Okay, and so and so stop and think about it that way. Right.

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Is but but again if you have multi million dollar marketing budget because you’re trying to sell somebody a product you’re going to get that new fancy buzzword out there in front of people all the time.

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When you step back and look at it, you can go well, hold it. Just a minute, this is what we’ve been doing all along, right, with some of these other tools.

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But it’s it’s maybe a different technology. So maybe, maybe there’s a new software program that helps you

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You do data analytics better. Okay, great. Right. But it doesn’t mean that we haven’t been doing data analytics before

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So that can be an example of a shiny object. Right. It’s something that you’re hearing all the time. It’s something that sounds sexy and kind of fun. Right.

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Another example of that is I heard an old term very early in my career called managing by magazine.

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Okay, managing by magazine. Now what did that mean that meant that the CEO of the company, happened to be on an airplane.

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And they were reading a magazine. Maybe it was Harvard Business Review. Maybe it was the you know the the whatever magazine, happened to be in the airline

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And they read some magazine article about some new business concept some new whatever thing. And again, that whatever new thing is probably going to be considered a shiny object.

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They come back to the organization and they say, we need to start doing this right. And so they keep changing the strategy or the operations of the organization.

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Based on the latest article that they’re reading, that’s another example of a shiny object. And so again you can see what people are talking about what people are thinking it’s a big deal now.

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A lot of times those things are actually recycled thoughts from before. Okay, that’s, that’s just a reality. So again,

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If you think about concepts like centralization of an organization versus decentralization

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Okay, for several you know for a certain period of time. Everybody says, Oh, we have to decentralize we have to decentralize we have to decentralize

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And so everybody focuses on that shiny object and they they change the organization and decentralize it

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Now, what ends up happening is a few years later, somebody comes out and says no decentralization is not actually working. We must centralize again.

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And so all of a sudden, all these organizations that just decentralized now start centralizing and so again you can see. What’s old is new and history repeats itself.

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Usually when history repeats itself somebody tries to assign some fancy word to it like a buzzword, to be able to get people’s attention. And again, usually

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Their motive is to sell you whatever that thing is right.

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So if I’m an HR consulting firm and I want to decentralize a centralized company. I’m going to tell you, you must be centralized so I can come in. Do that project decentralized everything

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And a few years later, I’m going to say, Oh, whoops, you know, decentralization doesn’t work as good as we thought it was so how about if we centralize now.

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And they go back and they sell the same company now a centralization consulting package where they just helped them decentralize. And so it really doesn’t actually make a lot of sense.

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When you stand back and think about it that way, but that tends to be the mentality of a lot of people in organizations.

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There’s a shiny object. There’s some flashing thing over there in the corner and they’re drawn to that and they go over there and they focus all of their attention on that.

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Now, when you are focused on shiny objects. What are you also doing you are ignoring the elephant in the room.

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The elephant is not sexy. But the elephant is huge and imagine the damage that that elephant could do in the room.

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If they start to go crazy and start you know stomping around and swinging their, their trunk around

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There’s going to be a lot of damage or we could use the word impact if we’re talking about risk management.

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To the organization from that elephant that shiny on that little shiny object over in the corner is probably not going to have a big impact.

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On the organization. It might be sexy. It might be cool, but it’s not going to have nearly the impact that the elephant does. So why am I talking about this and why am I using this analogy.

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I see that there are lots of people out there in in organizations who are focused on the shiny objects there they’re redoing their work to try to go and deal with those shiny objects.

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And they’re ignoring the big impact risks in their organizations, those things that are like a big gray elephant.

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They’re not sexy. They’re not cool. And they look at it and go, well, look, the elephants just standing there and it’s fine. Anyway, and the CEOs talking about this shiny objects. So let’s go over there instead

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And what I’m here to tell you is don’t ignore the elephant you ignore that elephant. It’s gonna it’s gonna beat up that room. Okay, now

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Let me give you some practical advice for you to kind of help you understand Are you focusing more on shiny objects or are you focusing more on the elephants. Okay.

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Excuse me. So here’s a couple of questions that you might ask yourself. The first one is, you know, is what we are doing really focused on the strategic objectives of the organization.

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So again, if you’re in an audit department. I want you to kind of look at what’s your audit plan for the quarter for the year.

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And are the projects and the things that you’re doing. Are they actually tied back to strategic objectives in the organization.

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Or are you just doing busy work right. Are you just auditing payroll again because we audit payroll every year.

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Or are you looking at what are really the key strategic initiatives in our organization because that’s really where we should be focused

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Instead of either something that’s mundane like doing payroll testing again because we do it every year.

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Or some shiny new object, maybe like cyber security because everybody’s freaking out about cyber security right now. Okay.

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So, so that’s the first question is what we are doing focused on the strategic objectives of the organization.

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Second question, are we focused on an area to try to impress others with what we can do. Ooh. Now that’s a hard question. Right.

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And you really need to be honest with yourself. Because, are you doing things just to try to impress other people in the organization.

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Sometimes again when I see chief audit executives going after these shiny objects. Their goal for doing that is yes. People are talking about it.

00:24:22.410 –> 00:24:30.960
But hey, I want to take this sexy project and I want to show everybody in the organization. How cool we are and how much value we add

00:24:31.380 –> 00:24:41.160
Well, I’ll tell you right now, if you if you’re going down that path. And that is your primary objective, you’re gonna fail because you’re doing something that’s fake

00:24:41.460 –> 00:24:48.450
And people are going to see a lot of times you’re in over your head. And if that particular project doesn’t work out.

00:24:48.750 –> 00:24:54.150
You may be looking for a new job. Okay, that’s the reality of it. So again,

00:24:54.480 –> 00:25:05.610
Why are you focused on that, on that particular area. If it’s to impress people, you’re probably looking at the wrong area. Instead, you should be looking at the areas that are strategic objectives. That was the first question.

00:25:06.420 –> 00:25:17.130
Third one. What are actually the biggest impact risks to the organization. So again, you’ve got to be honest with yourself about thinking, what are the elephants to our organization.

00:25:17.580 –> 00:25:30.660
And like I said, sometimes they’re not sexy and but if that really is the thing with the biggest impact to the organization that’s where you need to be focusing your attention. Okay, another one.

00:25:31.740 –> 00:25:43.830
What forces are going on in the world that could lead to events and impacts in the organization. Now, because in today’s business environment. We are so interdependent.

00:25:45.420 –> 00:25:54.570
Across the whole world. You really have to be looking at and thinking about more what’s going on around the world.

00:25:55.080 –> 00:26:05.160
Because some of these other forces and events that are going on can now have impacts to your organization or maybe 20 years ago they never did. Okay.

00:26:05.580 –> 00:26:22.680
And so you have to start getting better at looking at and thinking about some of those things now. Honestly, this is risk management one on one. And so I’m going to give you another little analogy here to think about when you’re when you’re trying to go through that process.

00:26:23.820 –> 00:26:37.380
When I wear a tie. I usually wear a bow tie. And so again, I want you to picture what a bow tie. Looks like it’s fat on one end, it goes down to a to a knot and then there’s a. It goes back out to a fat and on the other side.

00:26:38.400 –> 00:26:44.910
So when you think about the bow tie. You can think about, you know, if you start on the left hand side of the bow tie.

00:26:45.420 –> 00:26:56.970
There’s a lot of different forces and conditions that are going on in the world that are leading or driving or correlated or causing certain events to happen.

00:26:57.630 –> 00:27:05.700
Now when those events happen. They have impacts to your organization. Some of those impacts are going to be good. That’ll be opportunities.

00:27:06.000 –> 00:27:13.110
Other ones are going to be threats which we then start talking about in the form of risk and how we’re going to manage that risk.

00:27:13.470 –> 00:27:22.920
Versus the opportunities, how we’re going to write operationalize that and take advantage of those things kind of through performance management.

00:27:23.700 –> 00:27:35.760
So you have to be thinking about that because, again, little events that may happen halfway around the world now actually have an impact on your organization.

00:27:36.180 –> 00:27:45.810
You know, if you just look at the supply chain for most companies now. You know, I heard the example before, you know, you take some device like an apple iphone

00:27:46.320 –> 00:27:54.300
And when you start tearing it apart and thinking about all of the different pieces and parts that go into make that particular product.

00:27:54.780 –> 00:28:03.510
Those things are actually sourced all over the world. You know, you can go back to the component level from the components. What did it take to actually create that component

00:28:03.810 –> 00:28:13.050
Where there were probably metals and silicone and all this other stuff. Well, where did that stuff come from and you start to realize that to get an end product like an iPhone.

00:28:13.440 –> 00:28:19.500
Literally it’s probably 30 or 40 places in the in the world where all of this stuff is coming from.

00:28:20.070 –> 00:28:35.940
And any little hiccup in that supply chain could cause you a problem, right. So again, what forces are going on in the world that can lead to events that could impact your organization that’s going to help you identify maybe what elephants are already in your room.

00:28:37.230 –> 00:28:44.310
The last one, then, is are you actually auditing based on magazine articles. Okay, so that kind of goes back again to

00:28:44.970 –> 00:28:58.320
What I talked earlier about with, you know, managing by magazine, are you putting things on your internal audit plan because you read some article online or in some magazine.

00:28:58.680 –> 00:29:09.240
And somebody somewhere in the world said, Oh my gosh, everybody’s got to do this right, if that’s what you’re doing. You’re going about your internal lot of plan wrong.

00:29:09.690 –> 00:29:24.780
You have to think about the things that are actually relevant to your organization and those things that have the biggest impact don’t do something just because somebody else does it or somebody with you know that you recognize

00:29:25.890 –> 00:29:33.930
Your you know from the name as an industry expert says something on a webinar in a magazine article in something else.

00:29:34.380 –> 00:29:54.150
take that information and determine again is what they’re talking about. Is that a shiny object to my organization or is that an elephant. Now, what I will tell you to is with my analogy here about elephants and shiny objects those same events. Okay.

00:29:55.620 –> 00:30:03.390
What is a shiny object to one organization may be an elephant to a different organization.

00:30:03.930 –> 00:30:11.370
And it goes the other way to what may be an elephant to one organization may be a shiny object to the other one.

00:30:11.880 –> 00:30:17.070
So really, you have to go through. You have to start asking some of those questions that I just outlined here.

00:30:17.610 –> 00:30:32.910
To be able to help you figure out for your organization. Are these things shiny objects or are they elephants and then again from a using that analogy to be able to have you get much more clarity.

00:30:33.360 –> 00:30:43.290
On where you need to be spending your time and again I will tell you as we kind of wrap up here. I know that the elephant in the room is not sexy.

00:30:43.800 –> 00:31:03.330
It’s not exciting, necessarily, but that’s where we need to be focusing our attention if you get distracted with the shiny objects eventually that elephant is going to start running around and kicking and it’s going to severely impact and damage your organization.

00:31:04.560 –> 00:31:13.440
So that’s what I got this week, my friends and appreciate you hanging out with me. So this week, you know, kind of as a takeaway go back

00:31:14.040 –> 00:31:18.360
You know, if you listen to the episode. Again, if you need to write down those questions.

00:31:19.200 –> 00:31:30.990
And, you know, be serious about actually looking at and trying to determine what are the elephants and what are the shiny objects in your organization.

00:31:31.410 –> 00:31:40.320
focus your efforts on the elephants in the long term. That is where you’re going to provide more value to your organization.

00:31:40.710 –> 00:31:52.890
Than focusing on the shiny objects. So go forth. Have a great rest of your week. Ask yourself these questions and I will catch you on the next episode of jammin with Jason. See you.

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