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When changing the system becomes the new inertia

Jamie Tomlin, chair of the LSCA Technical Committee, argues that change for auditors should become second nature, the “new way of doing things”, but time is needed to avoid negative outcomes.

"Jamie

October 2019

Inertia: a tendency to do nothing or to remain unchanged

This is certainly not something which standard setting bodies have been guilty of in recent years.

It is also something which auditors cannot expect in the near to medium future as various bodies progress their (re)views of the market, commenting on what we can do, how we should do it, or who we should even be doing it with.

I won’t attempt to list the various reviews in case I omit something. Or something further has been added this week. And there is Brexit, with its myriad implications to distract us.

Change: make or become different

When written down it seems easy. Changing systems is easy. Actually, it’s not. At least it’s not where what is required from a system changes to become something that was not originally planned for!

I know where I want to get to, but I am starting from the wrong place. Although it was the right place previously! 

Challenge: a fair description of managing change

Especially change which involves the human angle. Many people have a tendency towards inertia. Not because change is feared, but because it moves us both towards the unfamiliar and away from what we know.

Periods of change create discomfort, a feeling that is rarely welcomed. This can lead to non-compliant behaviour, not a desired outcome.

For auditors, the big challenge is “getting it right first time”. With so many proposals how, does an auditor implement change, getting new requirements embedded in the way we work, the way we think?

It doesn’t happen overnight. We need to understand the change, understand what we must change, do different, and effect the change. And, perhaps most importantly, make the change so it becomes second nature, it becomes the new inertia, the “way we do things.

A firm can allocate individuals to identify and formulate change, but it is the need to embed change into the daily way of working for all that can be both the hardest to bring about and most likely to fail.

The profession may be having a difficult time, and in part reasonably so, but great care is needed to ensure that in moving auditing forward the profession is permitted to adapt, allowed to change, given an acceptable time to change.

Without this I believe there will be unforeseen, possibly negative, consequences.

Jamie Tomlin is chair of the LSCA Technical Committee and director of audit and accounting at Crowe.

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