Management guidance pieces have long promoted key metrics, scorecards, “measure what must be managed”, and so on. Even in the internal audit environment, once you get beyond that “tone at the top” fallacy, increasing comprehensive transaction and data coverage is always a very good thing. Subsequent efforts can then optimize the use of people resources to analyze the exceptions, anomalies, and things that auto-analysis just cannot address. In management and consulting efforts, the “data tells you where to spend your time,” but, you must prioritize, and then execute.
I recently had the privilege to hear two C-level presentations; one from a key officer of a global soft-drink and branding goliath, and the second via a good friend who brought the CFO of a regional power utility to an organization event. Beyond the data (and transactions, and background, and control environment, and funding, and dealing with analysts, and so on)…the most important thing each of them saw as primary was communicating. One of those C-level people further conditional-ized his specific commentary on the topic as you MUST be able to take the complex and communicate so that (all) others could understand—and he consciously looked for talent who could do just that. (Now that reminds me of the definition of a good writer—wish I could attribute this paraphrased recollection: it’s someone who can tell you to go to hell, and have you looking forward to the trip.)
Finally, in a recent small group setting, I had the opportunity to hear from the CFO responsible for orchestrating the largest IPO the Southeast has seen this year. One question posed to him was: how have you had to change your style in the midst of all this change? He responded with two things: “I had to prioritize…and I had to communicate.”
All these people possess decades of experience (that’s a very good thing), but “at the end of the day” (I hate that phrase), their most important, logical recommendations, and contributions, come from making simplified sense of complexity, and being able to ‘splain it.
Going from the business world — to the scientific method — and even further — to philosophy (and you can), a recent piece from one of my favorites: “Real Clear Science/Real Clear Religion” caught my attention. The article was written by M. Anthony Mills, and embedded in his comments was a posited solution to what I perceived as an oft-encountered conundrum…what do you do when the facts are insufficient? Mills attributed his answer to Pierre Duhem and G.K. Chesterton’s recommendation.
In essence, if facts alone don’t convince you, rely on: