Internal Auditing in Vietnam - Interview
Interview with Jean Yves Le Corre, Consultant and Trainer specialised in cross-cultural auditing based in Shanghai, about his recent training experience in Ho Chi Minh City running the seminar: "Effective Governance, Internal Control and Auditing in Vietnam" in association with Peligo Training and Vietvalues.
What are the cultural challenges faced by internal auditors in Vietnam?
Peligo Training: How would you situate Vietnam today in terms of its internal audit practices?
Jean Yves Le Corre (bestofmanagement.com): The cultural gap is probably even higher than what we can see in the large cities of Mainland China where the Western influence on management practices is clearly visible. This is due to the more recent development in Vietnam comparatively, and still nowadays Vietnam is lacking the structure and legal frameworks which supports the internal audit functions, although things seem to progress rapidly as Vietnam is taking the steps towards a more open economy.
Peligo Training: Which aspects of the culture are most likely to impact?
Jean Yves Le Corre (bestofmanagement.com): When it comes to culture, we always need to recognise firstly how necessary it is to be culturally aware and clarify the implications (and then let's see which solutions we can provide to mitigate the impact of the cultural differences on the internal audit process, if any...). Let me recap in simple words: there is a cultural challenge every time when we think what is normal behaviour, or what should work on behalf of 'common sense', might actually not apply and or some reasons are not directly visible. Let me provide an example. In internal audit, we suppose that the internal auditor can provide recommendations based on objectivity; that supporting your findings with the right level of quality of the evidence is far enough for the management to be forced to implement. But we assume several things here which should be considered from a cultural angle:
- the decision making might be severely influenced by the way you communicate those findings, not about the findings themselves
- the consequence of the 'high culture' context: most important is not what you say, but how you say it, and what you do not say.
- dealing with subjectivity: it is mostly probable that management will react to subjective aspects
It is incredibly important, that, however, as an internal auditor you know what is going to positively or negatively impact the level of acceptance of your recommendation, and how to develop a learning curve for you to maximise your contribution. Like leadership development, cross cultural skills are more like a process. It seldom comes by chance, but by integrating those new parameters that will allow you to interact more effectively with your environment
Peligo Training: How does it apply to Vietnam?
Jean Yves Le Corre (bestofmanagement.com): Two important aspects of the culture of firms in Vietnam seem to have been evidenced by our discussions with trainees, and they are difficult to avoid if you want to make the internal audit process really effective:
- power distance and the relation to the boss: some Vietnamese internal auditors complain about their boss 'becoming angry' when presenting audit findings to them.
- Individualism: interestingly, it seems Vietnamese employees tend to behave more individualistically than in other Asian cultures and that teamwork might not be the natural way to foster participation in the internal audit recommendation decision process.
Peligo Training: How can we overcome those difficulties?
Jean Yves Le Corre (bestofmanagement.com): Empathy and the capacity to 'turn around' our minds are the best ways to help overcome the difficulties: why do you think your Vietnamese boss will become angry? And how to avoid this situation? You probably better look at the relationships side or how your communication could also give opportunity to give more face. Coaching and training will help analyse those situations, consider several options and finally gain the confidence in what you do.
Bestofmanagement.com is a community website which provides a platform for internal audit professionals in Asia to better localize the internal audit practice, i.e. adapting to various cultural contexts and situations to make the job more effective.