I still don’t care what keeps you up at night

Again…better questions to ask your audit clients

I recently wrote an article titled “What Keeps You Up At Night…Who Cares!  6 Better Questions to Ask Audit Clients”.  The major premise stressed the fact that auditors truly need to ask the questions they really want answered.  Asking a client “What keeps you up at night” is terrible, for one, because that is not what you really want to know.  After reading the article, many of you agreed with the following suggested approach:

1) Identify risks
2) Inquire about the controls
3) Ask about their concerns related to the risks and controls
4) Ask about any other concerns

Following this approach addresses the true concerns.  Nonetheless, I had a few (a very small few) set of people email me and explain why this was a good question.  Let’s be honest, the fact that the question (what keeps you up at night) required so much more explanation regarding its legitimacy only proves the point that it is an ineffective questioning technique to begin with.

In this article, I want to explore why this is a bad question.  For one, it is too broad and does not make it easy for audit clients to provide an answer.  It does not provide choices.  People like and respond to choices.  For example, try asking someone what they want for dinner.  Unless they have a craving for something special, most people will initial respond “I don’t know” or “Let me think about it”.  They have to work to come up with an answer.  However, asking “Would you like chicken, beef or turkey” will elicit a better and more engaging response.

It is the same with our audit clients.  Asking them, “What keeps you up at night?” makes them think too much about the answer.  Asking about risks and then drilling down to their concerns regarding the risks eases the task of answering your question.

To further solidify this point, I want to share an interesting Linkedin.com posting from a CEO.  He essentially commented that he sleeps well at night and any who do not should seek another career (see screen print below).

So I ask the question again…Do you really care what keeps them up at night?  Of course you do, but find a better way to ask.

I still dont care what keeps you up at night

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Robert Berry (107)

Robert (That Audit Guy) Berry is a risk, compliance and auditing advocate, educator and innovator. He helps good professionals become better by creating articles, web services and training that allow them to expand their knowledge network.

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