Recently I participated in the presentation of our audit to the executive committee of a client – something we do with regularity. The presentation was fairly typical – an overview of the financial statements, explanation of the required communications, and suggestions for improvements in operations and internal controls. There wasn’t really anything in the meeting that was out of the ordinary. Unfortunately, the response of the committee members was not all that uncommon either. It was dead silence. In spite of multiple requests for comments or questions, not a single member had a question or comment.
How can this be? Those charged with governance of an organization have a responsibility to gain an understanding of the financial operations of the organization and to familiarize themselves to the best of their ability. Not every member is a financial expert, and they don’t have to be. But each member should do their best to understand what is going on.
So please, if you are on a board, audit or finance committee, or participating in other ways in the governance of an organization, ASK QUESTIONS! If you don’t know something, ask. If something isn’t clear, ask. If references are made to situations or activities that you are unaware of, ask. An inquisitive mind and willingness to ask questions is one of the greatest attributes you can bring to your organization.