Internal Auditor ReBlog- Ratings in Audit Reports: Lights or Lightning Rods?

…an audit committee chairman observed that ratings can “shine a light” and help the audit committee quickly focus on the most important findings in a report. However, while ratings may be a “light” for some, they are ultimately a “lightning rod” for others.

Ratings can be a powerful tool, but if management and the audit committee place undue emphasis on them, they tend to have a polarizing effect on line and operating managers whose performance ends up being summarized in a single word: “unsatisfactory.”

Even the most useful tools have their limitations. In this post, IIA CEO Richard Chambers ponders the benefits and drawbacks of the use of ratings systems in internal audits. Read more here.

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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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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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Oregon Smoke Information: Info Share

Hurricane Harvey’s dramatic rain event over the city of Houston has (justifiably) consumed much of the national and local media attention this last week. However, Oregonians may also be noticing the side effects of an event much closer to home; fire season. It’s been a hot, dry summer across Oregon, with little rainfall, and as the summer extends into a possibly hot and dry fall, several large fires have erupted across the state. This not only poses imminent danger to lives and livelihoods for those individuals in the path of the fire, it poses a risk to wildlife and forest ecosystems, shuts down roads and forest trails, worsens air quality, costs millions of dollars to combat every year, and prompts mass evacuations. Here in the Willamette Valley, the air quality has been pretty awful.

City, county, tribal, state and federal agencies have aggregated their data on a blog devoted to keeping Oregonians informed about potential fire and smoke effects to their communities. The blog includes links to all kinds of handy fire-related info generated by separate agencies, as well as tips on how to keep yourself safe and breathing easy during fire season. Check it out here.

Wildfire smoke in Oregon on the last day of August

Additionally, last August we released an audit of the Oregon Department of Forestry that examined the strain of several consecutive severe fire seasons on staffing and fire prevention efforts for the state agency. One of the audit’s findings was the need for more focus on mitigating forest fire risks. Ideally, one of the positive effects of a severe fire season could be a renewed focus by states, counties, cities, and individuals on steps that can be taken to prevent  fire related devastation in the future.

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