Your Role in Internal Control - Episode 7, Information and Communication

Information and communication affect all the other components of internal control. Of course, information and communication are not unique to internal control. They're essential for almost all organizational activities, as a few passages from the autobiography of a childhood football hero of mine illustrate.

Information and Communication

We previously discussed how risk assessment and control activities form the core of our internal control pyramid. Information and communication bind the components of our pyramid together. 

Internal Control Pyramid

Information and communication effects all other components of internal control. You cannot have a good control environment without an effective flow of information and communication.

Our host's initial comments about information overload are more valid now than ever in this internet age, but it's nothing new. In 1971, political and computer scientist Herbert Simon opined:

"In an information-rich world, the wealth of information means a dearth of something else: a scarcity of whatever it is that information consumes. What information consumes is rather obvious: it consumes the attention of its recipients. Hence a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention."

In other words, for discussion here, from the profusion of information available to you from numerous sources, does your internal control system provide the information you care about most? We previously discussed this theme in Pay Attention to What You Care About; Care About What You Pay Attention To.

Sending Clear Messages

Cybersecurity, conflicts of interest, sexual harassment and discrimination are high-risk areas of concern in higher education. Despite their high-risk profile and the headlines these topics generate, these risks are not going away.

WSU leaders have recognized these high-risk areas and communicated their importance to its employees. Over the past few years, WSU has implemented three annual employee requirements to address these concerns:

  • Information Technology and Security Awareness Training
  • Preventing Sexual Harassment and Discrimination Training
  • Submission of a Conflict of Interest Form (whether or not you have something to report)

The Universal Importance of Information and Communication

When I recently read Joe Kapp's autobiography, The Toughest Chicano,1 a few passages jumped out because of the direct application of information and communication to leadership and internal control.

On Making Sure Roles and Responsibilities Are Clear:

"Each player and each coach needs to know what's expected of him and how his role fits into the overall team approach. This also holds true for having clearly defined policies and procedures. For example, in our system, the coaching staff created a game plan, and within that framework, the quarterback called the plays."

On Making Sure Lines of Communication Are Clearly Defined and Open:

"A system is all about how information flows through a team. Effective leaders identify barriers to communication and overcome them."

On a Team Functioning as a Unit:

"In a well-functioning organization, values become standards. Then each individual must make a choice to live up to these standards."

Joe Kapp led the Minnesota Vikings to the 1969 NFL championship, thus prompting Sports Illustrated to dub Kapp "The Toughest Chicano" on its cover. Even if you don't remember him, you may remember this college football classic now known simply as “The Play.” Kapp was the head coach for Cal, for whom he played in college. Stanford's quarterback was future pro football Hall of Famer John Elway.

Kapp's thoughts about "The Play."

"Our coaching staff at Cal worked to instill that resourcefulness into our players. Being prepared allows you to believe in yourself, improvise your way through chaos, and enjoy it."

This three-minute video captures Kapp's grit, leadership, and style of play. 

Kapp led Cal to its last Rose Bowl appearance. He is in the Canadian Football League and College Football Hall of Fame. Notably, Kapp was an early leader in working for player labor rights.

1 Joe Kapp. The Toughest Chicano. Wise Ink, 2020.