Monday, January 20, 2020

Can Internal Auditors Identify Corporate Identity Crisis?

According to a Globe and Mail article published a couple of days ago, Canada's favorite coffee shop chain ( Tim Hortons) is going through an identity crisis that could erode its long-established brand. I will not be discussing Tim Hortons's situation in this post even though the coffee shop is an important part of the life of almost every Canadian ( It serves 8 of every 10 cups of coffee consumed outside the home in Canada), but rather I will use it as an inspiration to discuss whether internal audit is equipped to identify corporate identity crisis before it impacts the organization's brand and reputation.

What is Corporate Identity Crisis?

In general, identity crisis in people describe a state of confusion about who they are, their role in society and what they want to achieve in life. When it comes to corporations it means that how the organization perceives itself and promotes itself is in conflict. This description was offered by Jeffery A. Jolton, Ph.D. and Tim L. Geisert of Kenexa in an article entitled "Corporate Identity Crises". They offer more explanation regarding the conflict:

"This conflict prevents the organization from being able to fully attain its goals. Some companies are well aware of the conflict, but either don’t see it as an obstacle (yet it is) or don’t know how to resolve it in order to move forward. Many companies, however, are clueless. Although it is something that others may see as obvious, the leadership isn’t aware there is a problem, and as a result, faces a wall in the company’s progress that it is unable to see"

There are many causes of identity crises in organizations such as a change in leadership, rapid growth, disruption, merger, and change in culture. The signs of identity crisis could be obvious and visible and in other times could be difficult to spot!

To identify the crisis. one should have a deep understanding of the organization's business, objectives, strategic plans, customers, competition and potential risks and disruptions.

Identity crisis could impact organizations negatively if not identified at an early stage and treated!

What Internal Audit Can Do?

Do you think internal auditors are capable of identifying the signs of corporate identity crises in their organizations? Were you personally involved in an identity crisis situation? If your answer is yes please share:

  • How you arrived at the conclusion that there may be an exposure to a crisis. What signs triggered your attention?
  • What audit steps and procedures did you employ to verify and measure the risk of identity crises?
  • What was the management reaction to your findings and recommendations?
  • Was the issue satisfactorily resolved?

In my opinion, the first step in identifying the issue is for internal audit to recognize that corporate identity crisis is a real risk that could happen to any organization! It should be part of the continuous risk assessment and audit planning.

Many techniques can be used to identify identity crisis such as observations, discussions with all levels within the organization, attending executive meetings, internal and external surveys, and culture audits.

These are my thoughts, please share yours!

Photo Credit: sdecoret/ Shutterstock)

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