I recently conducted a great session for the Dallas IIA Chapter on using Six Sigma tools in the practice of internal audit. I always enjoy leveraging my IIA Certifications and my Six Sigma Master Black Belt to improve audit efficiency. As I was driving to the airport after the session, I got to use one of my other certifications – Certified BBQ Judge. Read on and I’ll share some world-class BBQ judging secrets (with a side of auditing too).

On my way to the airport, I saw a BBQ Joint with a lot of cars outside. Knowing this to be a good sign, I went in and ordered some BBQ. Since I was in Texas, the #1 choice was, of course, Beef Brisket. The restaurant provided me with several slices of wonderfully juicy, smoked Beef Brisket. The appearance was lovely, with a nice shimmer and a dark “bark” that captured so much BBQ flavor! I immediately applied the standard BBQ test for Brisket:

  1. Check the thickness of the slice. Good Brisket should be sliced to about the thickness of a pencil. Brisket that is somewhat overcooked will usually be sliced thicker because it gets crumbly. Brisket that is somewhat undercooked will usually be sliced more thinly because it can be tough.
  2. Pick up a slice and execute the “pull test”. Great brisket will pull apart with some gentle pressure. You don’t want it to fall apart, and you don’t want it to take substantial force to tear it asunder. A small pull, maybe the force to pull tape off a roll, should be just right.
  3. Taste the brisket. It should have a clear smoky flavor, but not be overpowered. Ultimately it should taste like beef. It sounds a bit funny saying that Brisket should taste like beef, but it’s all too common for a BBQ joint to make all their meats taste the same due to similar seasoning and/or over-smoking the meat.

After executing these tests, I would rate the brisket as 8/9, which is a very good score – the place is definitely worthy of a repeat visit the next time I’m in Dallas.

On the plane, I reflected on how this would have differed if I’d been in Memphis, Tennessee. In Memphis, the BBQ joint would have likely focused more on Pork, particularly Pork Ribs. Regardless of whether the ribs are “Baby Backs” or “St Louis Cut”, “BBQ” in Memphis definitely means ribs.

Upon ordering my ribs, I would apply the standard BBQ test for Ribs:

  1. Take two adjacent bones and separate them. Good ribs should not have a “bark” so thick that all the yummy outer portion comes off on one or the other of the two bones. It should tear easily.
  2. Pick up a single bone and take a bite out of the meat on one side. You should bite through with very minimal effort, and should see teeth marks cut out on the rib. If the whole rib meat comes off the bone, it’s overcooked. People often talk about “falling off the bone” as the gold standard for ribs, but this makes it too easy on the cook. You can always produce “falling off the bone” ribs by cooking your ribs a very long time, but finding the balance of tender ribs that slightly adhere to the bone is the mark of great ribs.
  3. The ribs should have a good flavor that is rich and not overpowered by the seasoning applied. Many rib shortcuts such as “parboiling” give the ribs too little time on the smoker, so they never pick up the rich flavor of smoked ribs. The ribs become too much of a blank canvas and don’t maintain their own inherent flavor.

What does any of this have to do with auditing?

It is all too easy to define an auditor’s area of expertise too broadly – even the auditor may be overconfident about their subject matter knowledge in a domain which is related to, but not identical to, their true capability. For example, a call center auditor will be fully versed in standard call center practices regarding Information Security, management routines/metrics, and other commonalities. (Any BBQ judge will know that the flavor of the underlying product must stand up well to the seasonings and cooking methods applied). But what about the difference between a collections call center and a sales call center? (Rib tenderness vs Brisket tenderness)

It is incumbent on audit leadership to recognize the limitations on the breadth of expertise within their audit department. An auditor who did a great job on a Cybersecurity audit last year may or may not be familiar with recent developments in Cyber. The auditor’s demonstrated capability does not always translate to adjacent capabilities, so time must always be allocated for ramp-up, possibly including co-sourcing as required. Using broadly defined competencies to squeeze audit delivery timeframes by cutting back on this background research time may reduce cycle time, but assurance quality will suffer.

Hopefully every auditor recognizes that although they may have general strengths based on study and practice, there will always be job-level particulars that require additional study and learning. Auditors learn every day – that’s part of what makes it such a great profession!

Hopefully you found this thought-provoking. Perhaps you will contemplate it further over some great BBQ from your area. As for me, I just noticed a local BBQ restaurant that serves ostrich – I’d better start studying so I can have lunch!

(Don’t get me started on slaw!)