Better Humans ReBlog: Cognitive bias cheat sheet

I’ve spent many years referencing Wikipedia’s list of cognitive biases whenever I have a hunch that a certain type of thinking is an official bias but I can’t recall the name or details. It’s been an invaluable reference for helping me identify the hidden flaws in my own thinking. Nothing else I’ve come across seems to be both as comprehensive and as succinct…

I’ve taken some time over the last four weeks (I’m on paternity leave) to try to more deeply absorb and understand this list, and to try to come up with a simpler, clearer organizing structure to hang these biases off of. Reading deeply about various biases has given my brain something to chew on while I bounce little Louie to sleep.

Buster Benson, a platform product lead at SlackHQ, provides an interesting breakdown of cognitive biases in our thinking and why we use them. In short, cognitive biases are shortcuts that help us address problems and discern meaning from information and events. Many people are familiar with confirmation bias (favoring information that confirms your pre-existing belief and rejecting information that does not), but there are a long list of cognitive biases that influence how we perceive the world.

Cognitive biases gets a bad rap, but they are not inherently bad. Cognitive biases help us make sense of the world around us. Problem is, the world does not always comply with our sense-making efforts, and sometimes we are just dead wrong. Even auditors need to be aware of the biases they might employ to help make sense of the world.

Read more here, and check out the handy cognitive bias map below.

 

Are there any biases that you are particularly fond of (or, dare we say it, guilty of overusing)? Not sure? Check out the whole list here.

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Governing RePost: Fewer people are getting degrees in public service

The latest data from the U.S. Department of Education shows that several of the top government-related academic fields — including criminal justice, political science and public administration — have seen the number of degrees awarded level off or dip slightly over the past few years. This signals a departure from the previous several decades, including the immediate post-recession period, when schools handed out more diplomas in most fields as workers sought to enhance their résumé  during the economic slump.

While awarded degrees have slowed down somewhat in general in the last few years, public service degrees have shown slightly more of a slowdown. What affect this may have on public service employment is hard to say, but you can keep on top of trends and read more here.

 

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Oregon Office of Economic Analysis Reblog: Poverty and progress, Oregon update edition

In order to not bury the lede regarding the 2016 ACS data, Oregon’s household income and poverty numbers look very good. I don’t want to oversell the data, but they are among the best readings in Oregon’s modern history. The underlying, or internal dynamics behind the topline data are even better. This does not mean the economy is perfect, or without issues. We know there remain substantial problems and challenges. It does mean, however, that considerable progress has been made during the current economic expansion following the financial crisis.

Josh Lehner shares his analysis of the 2016 American Community Survey data recently released by the U.S. Census. The data from last year are predominantly good, and indicative of positive economic trends in the state since the depth of the recession. Read more here.

If you’d like to take a peek at the survey data for yourself, you’ll find downloadable data files here and here.

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Secretary of State’s 2017-2018 Audit Plan

Overview of the Audit Plan

The Audits Division of the Secretary of State’s Office adheres to an overall audit strategy that a high-quality and transparent annual audit plan is critical for meeting our mission.

The Division follows professional standards and guidelines for the development of the Annual Audit Plan.

These guidelines recognize that an annual audit plan and work schedule benefit the organization by establishing which agencies, programs, contracts, or other areas will be prioritized for audits on an annual basis.

Including performance, IT, and financial topics, the Oregon Audits Division will tackle 30 audits in the upcoming year, with several more possibilities lined up on the 2018-2019 horizon.

Read the Plan here.

 

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Audit Release: Department of Administrative Services Should Enhance Succession Planning to Address Workforce Risks and Challenges

Report Highlights


The Secretary of State’s Audits Division found that the Department of Administrative Services (DAS) should play a stronger leadership role in addressing key workforce risks and challenges within the state executive branch, through enhanced workforce succession planning.

Read full report here

Background

This audit reviewed succession planning within the Oregon executive branch. Succession planning is an ongoing management process used to ensure workforce continuity and effectiveness, particularly in key leadership and technical functions.

Purpose

The purpose of the audit was to determine if and how the State of Oregon could better plan for future key workforce needs, including preparing state employees to fill key roles.

Key Findings

Within the context that effective succession planning is difficult, complex and is frequently not a priority within the public sector, we found:

  1. DAS has not developed or implemented a state-level succession planning framework, despite recognizing the importance of succession planning.
  2. The lack of a succession planning framework increases workforce risks, such as not developing or retaining knowledgeable and skilled employees to perform critical functions.
  3. These risks are exacerbated by demographic and economic trends, including increasing retirement rates, and a lack of formal succession planning processes within state agencies.
  4. State agencies also report challenges, including inaccessible workforce information, that may hinder strategic human capital management practices and should be addressed at a state level.

To reach our findings we conducted interviews, reviewed documents and reported practices, researched leading practices and analyzed workforce data.

Recommendations

Drawing from national leading practices and benchmarking with other states, the report includes eight recommendations to the Department of Administrative Services focused on implementing a succession planning framework in the Oregon executive branch. Recommendations include providing guidance to agencies, monitoring workforce risks, and working with agencies to identify and address barriers at a state level.

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Internal Auditor ReBlog: The root of the matter

Complex, serious, or pervasive problems are rarely the result of a singular event or failure. Frequently, a “perfect storm” of several causes forms to create an ideal environment for the failure to occur. Moreover, simply getting to the root cause to prevent it from happening again may not be enough — the consequences have to ​be addressed.

To better understand root cause analysis, two general myths need to be dispelled — the myth of the single root cause, and the myth that fixing the root cause alone fixes the problem. Upon recognizing these false notions, internal auditors can use several methods to perform root cause analysis more effectively on their engagements.

Jimmy Parker, a senior manager for internal audits at Verizon, shares his take on how auditors can perform multiple root cause analyses on agency problems. Identification of the problem, measurement, prioritization, and developing audit recommendations that address both conditions and cause are covered. He also recommends considering how the effects of root problems drive how they should be addressed.

Internal auditors should consider that the level of the effect will drive the nature of the root cause analysis and the type of recommendation and action plan:

  • Direct, one-time effect on the process (condition-based recommendation and action plan).
  • Cumulative effect on the process (cause-based recommendation and action plan).
  • Cumulative effect on the organization (recovery-focused recommendation and action plan).
  • High-level, systemic effect (recovery-focused recommendation and action plan).

Read more here.

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Audit Release- ODOT: The Oregon Fuels Tax System Accurately Assesses and Collects Fuels Taxes for Oregon and Local Jurisdictions

Report Highlights


The Secretary of State’s Audits Division found that the Oregon Fuels Tax System (OFTS) accurately assesses and collects fuels taxes for Oregon and local jurisdictions, collecting over $564 million in 2016. However, processes for issuing fuels tax refunds and system design flaws result in minor overpayments and reporting inaccuracies. Additionally, ODOT should enhance processes for testing system backup files, granting and monitoring user access, setting user password parameters, implementing safeguards over personally identifiable information, and identifying security weaknesses.

Read full report here.

Background

In 2013, ODOT contracted with Avalara to implement a new fuels tax system for $2.8 million, replacing an outdated paper based system previously used to handle Oregon Fuels Tax returns.

Purpose

The purpose of our audit was to review and evaluate the effectiveness of key general and application controls that protect and ensure the integrity of the Oregon Fuels Tax System and its data.

Key Findings

1. OFTS accurately calculates, assesses, and collects fuels tax for the state of Oregon and local jurisdictions, but manual processes governing refund payments should be improved to ensure accurate refund payments.
2. Application design flaws result in a small number of refund overpayments and minor reporting inaccuracies.
3. Changes to OFTS computer code are appropriately managed to reasonably ensure that the system and its data will not be compromised as the result of a code change.
4. System back-up processes have never been tested to ensure system data can be restored in the event of a disruption.
5. Security weaknesses exist in processes for granting and reviewing system access, monitoring activities of internal and third-party users with significant system access, and identifying and remediating system security vulnerabilities. In addition, password parameters should be more robust, and safeguards protecting some Personally Identifiable Information (PII) need improving.

Recommendations

The report includes nine recommendations to the Oregon Department of Transportation focused on addressing weaknesses in the refund review processes, fixing system design flaws, testing backups, and correcting security weaknesses.

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