What Does Golf Have to Do with Internal Control?

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Last month I had the chance to attend the US Open. Everything was great, the weather was perfect and I was ready to sit back and watch when I realized one thing: they had to take my cell phone away from me. The first day I complied, I begrudgingly gave up my cell phone to the men at security and stepped through the metal detector. I looked down and noticed I still had my belt on, something I was supposed to have given to security. To my surprise nothing happened- no buzzers went off and I was free to enjoy the golf, cut off from my social network.

I noticed something as I sat on the sidelines, everyone had their cellphones out. How is it that I had to give up my prized possession when all of the people had theirs on them still? I wanted my phone.

The next day I had a plan. I wasn’t going to be phone-less among a crowd of text messages and twitter updates. I was going to get past security. My plan was to keep my cell phone in my back pocket and slide through security. When it was my turn to step up, security asked me to empty my pockets, I was ready for this. Everything but my cell phone was in one pocket; my phone was tucked away in a back pocket.

I walked through the metal detectors and was immediately confronted with a buzzer announcing my guilt.

Inevitably security asked me to empty my back pockets, I emptied one. They asked for the other. Sheepishly I produced my contraband cell phone. I wasn’t getting away with it.

Their metal detector was smart enough to differentiate between my belt, which didn’t trigger it, and my cell phone, which did. They expected these encounters and they were ready.

As I was getting the shake down two of my friends snuck through security, cell phones in hand. Because of my distraction they were able to spend their day snapping photos and writing emails. They had beaten the system, mostly because of my unwilling help.

This got me to thinking about internal controls. The US Open was prepared; they had anticipated a sea of cell phones they had to get away from people. They had sensitive equipment ready to uncover stashed phones and to ignore harmless things like belts – but it wasn’t enough. Cell phones were everywhere at the US Open, banned or not.

Strong internal control is essential for the security of a company. It safeguards and insures that the company will achieve its mission. Designing and implementing an effective system of internal control is a daunting endeavoring but necessary for success. Sometimes we hit road blocks and realize our systems aren’t working.

What could have the security team at US Open done differently to insure that cell phones were kept off the premise? What weaknesses are in your own internal control system?


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