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Why are GOOD Internal Auditors so hard to find?

Sidney Vianna

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Staff member
Admin
#1
Was teaching an internal auditor training class this week and some of the discussions I triggered during the session are transposed here.

As some of us know, value-added internal audits are rare. Most of the internal auditing done out there is very superficial, dissociated from the business processes, unfocused, unthoughtful exercises, which are not well received by the auditees, the audit client, including the organization's leadership, neither provides a lot of confidence to external stakeholders such as conformity assessment bodies, customers and regulators.

The primary reason for rare in-depth audits to exist is the fact that, auditors should do a tremendous amount of preparation/"homework" before they even start asking questions. Auditors must know the process well so they can assess if the collected evidence shows conformance, effectiveness, efficiency, dysfunction, etc. or not.

Unfortunately, too many auditors mistakenly believe that checking boxes on a checklist equates to auditing. It is sad to realize that so many organizations go through the motions of performing audits and gain no benefit from it, instead of investing into competence, knowledge, skills and develop one of the most wasted continual improvement tools one could have: effective, intelligent internal audits.
 
J

JaneB

#2
Another reason I think is the generally low standard of personnel assigned to auditing.

Vicious circle: assign low-level people (meaning, zero management-type experience, insufficient background/training and competency so cannot grasp let alone see process as a whole, 'bigger picture' etc, and thus focus on what they can do: tick a box), get uninteresting results of poor value, devalue internal audit... therefore assign low level clerical type staff to do it... etc etc.

Usually, the people who'd make the best internal auditors are the ones a company will least give the job to, or the ones who least put their hand up for it.
 

Sidney Vianna

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#3
circle: assign low-level people (meaning, zero management-type experience, insufficient background/training and competency so cannot grasp let alone see process as a whole, 'bigger picture' etc, and thus focus on what they can do: tick a box), get uninteresting results of poor value, devalue internal audit... therefore assign low level clerical type staff to do it... etc etc.
How right you are! Lack of perceived intrinsic value leads to lack of investment and careful selection of internal auditor candidates, which results in a wasted effort called internal audit.

I am yet to discover an organization where top management demands more internal audits than the minimum necessary to pass an external audit because they see value in the internal audit reports.
 
J

JaneB

#4
How right you are! Lack of perceived intrinsic value leads to lack of investment and careful selection of internal auditor candidates, which results in a wasted effort called internal audit.

I am yet to discover an organization where top management demands more internal audits than the minimum necessary to pass an external audit because they see value in the internal audit reports.
I have been fortunate enough to have worked with a few. And no, they didn't assign the lowest level person (or the person on 'light duties' or the person who didn't have any other job) to them, either.

One GM even used to say of audits that he loved audits and audit reports, because they gave him good feedback on what was going on, and if things needed action, he could get on and fix them.
 
J

Jeff Frost

#5
The primary reason for rare in-depth audits to exist is the fact that, auditors should do a tremendous amount of preparation/"homework" before they even start asking questions. Auditors must know the process well so they can assess if the collected evidence shows conformance, effectiveness, efficiency, dysfunction, etc. or not.
Internal audits are added on to ever increasing workload of the person who become the anointed one for the organization. Audits that add value to the organization take time but Top Management does not allocate sufficient resources for auditing because the see a professional CB auditor move through a process in just 30 minutes. I once had a Quality Manager tell me that from the time the internal auditor receives the audit package to the completion of the audit report should only take one hour.

Unfortunately, too many auditors mistakenly believe that checking boxes on a checklist equates to auditing. It is sad to realize that so many organizations go through the motions of performing audits and gain no benefit from it, instead of investing into competence, knowledge, skills and develop one of the most wasted continual improvement tools one could have: effective, intelligent internal audits.
Why is this? It could be that two day internal auditor courses, including the one I teach, sometimes task load the student to knowledge overload trying to teach octopus, turtles, process approach etc. without first showing them how the standard fits together into auditable sections. They see 70 plus clauses of the standard, not three main process called management process, realization process, and specific realization process. Even AS9101D looks like a checklist but by some magic the IAQG say that it is not. Some auditors will do what they understand; using a check list, to complete the audit in the time allocated by management because they did not grasp the process audit concept.
 
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JaneB

#6
It could be that two day internal auditor courses, including the one I teach, sometimes task load the student to knowledge overload trying to teach octopus, turtles, process approach etc. without first showing them how the standard fits together into auditable sections.
Maybe, though ideally I'd hope that internal auditors already know the system/and relevant standard , and require training in auditing.

It takes time to become a good auditor. No matter how good a course, I think auditors need a period of time tag auditing with another (experienced) auditor looking over their shoulder. All the good internal auditors I've seen have had that in their training and have benefited greatly from it.
 
J

Jeff Frost

#7
You are correct it does take time to develop the auditor skill set and in the perfect world (ISO or AS) students come to a course with a full understanding of the International Standard with the ability to diagram the associated clause linkages. Real world finds that students are attending internal auditor courses to learn about the standard and how to audit it.

The perfect instruction model (call performance base instruction) involves independent learning, classroom participation, knowledge review, observation of the task being performed, performing the task with the instructor correcting and explaining any gaps of knowledge as the student moves through the learning process. The outcome of this method of instruction is a competent student who can perform the task.
 

Steve Prevette

Deming Disciple
Staff member
Super Moderator
#8
Who is John Galt?

Aside from that reference (which has some validity), I believe there is also the issue of management shooting the messenger, and the internal auditor that wants to keep their job knows what message management wants to hear.

Also, "Auditing" is a "one-off" job (in Scott Adams Dilbert parlance) that management does not view as a positive on the bottom line.
 
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A

adickerson

#10
I think the "audit" term caries some preconceived notions with it. In just about any other area an audit is a bad thing. Like, I am being audited by the tax authorities. Or, the Controller is going to audit our books because there was a problem.

I can not, off the top of my head, think of any case where a audit is a good thing. No one says, woopie today is Audit day. Audits being associated with something positive is odd, except in the case of Quality. In Quality we always say audits are positive and a good thing.

We even go so far as to have opening meetings and such where we try to put the audited at ease. We try to make them a positive experience and make them value added in some way.

The other side of that is when we use the big Q Quality (the methods of continual improvement) and this is seen as the little q quality (high grade or excellence). So when someone says "that guy from the quality department is coming" they don't hear "this guy is here to help me make my job and company better". Auditees here "this guy is going to look for mistakes".

Language is powerful, unfortunately our industry is loaded with buzzwords and connotations of "manger vs worker". I think modern Lean type structures try to focus on a bottom up type of Quality but there is still a lot of the legacy Taylorism :whip: "top down" management system. Top down always carries the fear of getting fired or looking bad in front of your boss.

Of course this is all just very abstract talking. The subtleties really make auditing a challenge. The sad thing for good auditors is that with casual observation it is hard to see the good from the bad. You need long term results or a deep knowledge of Quality to tell the good from the check box tickers.
 
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