To drive change in any business process you must first assess your existing program. Is it inclusive? Is the program delivering results? How can it be improved and how can success be measured?
Historically, the perception is that the quality organization owns the internal audit program, and this was also true in my organization. The team was comprised of mainly quality staff with a lack of participation from other functions and stakeholders.
Communicating the need for additional stakeholders in the process, we began to solicit volunteers to take part in the program. In most manufacturing industries, the greatest population is on the shop floor, but obtaining new members from the greater population is optimum.
Early on in the transformational process, I recognized the varying personality styles within the organization. I am very fortunate that we have a program that aids individuals in recognizing the different personalities and how to communicate effectively with them. A core element of the audit program that may get overlooked is interpersonal communication and resolving conflicts. Incorporating personality profile training can help in the recognition of the personality styles of the process owners and equip the auditor with a new skill to effectively manage various situations.
The Planning Process
Now that the team has a greater balance and training has occurred, the planning process must begin. Using prior internal audit results, plan the annual schedule with the team, paying particular attention to those areas that may have the most findings or are critical to the business. Set the start and completion of the schedule while incorporating communication of the program results to leadership. Use data to drive your process! Examples of data collection can be:
- The number of findings by sections of the standard you are auditing against.
- The number of findings by process.
- Any major findings uncovered as part of the audit process.
- On-time delivery of the audit to the plan.
Once the planning process is complete, initiate the schedule. Reinforce with the team the importance of maintaining adherence to the schedule. A common challenge is negotiating the dates and times of the internal audit.
Once the schedule has been initiated, regularly review how the plan, schedule, and audit process is going with your audit team. Provide an open forum for discussion with team members. What are the challenges they are facing? The team leader must have the authority to remove roadblocks or escalate directly to leadership.
Communicate the Results
When transforming your audit program, team ownership has to be paramount. Communicating the audit results at the end of the audit cycle to leadership is typically a sole endeavor by the audit lead or point person.
The internal audit process takes a dedicated team to be successful. They are stakeholders, and as such, should have a voice in the delivery of the program results. This provides visibility for the team members and recognizes the effort they have devoted to the program.
Develop Your Internal Auditors
Organizations need to recognize how important internal auditors are to the company’s success and allow for continuing development of their people. The main goal of any company should be that the auditors become not only content experts of the standards to ensure compliance, but also to help teams drive to root cause.
Training your auditors to become well versed in the RCCA process can lead to timely closure of audit findings and continual improvement of individual processes.
How else can you develop your audit team? Solicit feedback from your team on their wants and needs. Delivering on these items will go a long way in team members feeling like they have a voice and having their needs met. At my company, we have created an internal audit knowledge bank for our team that includes articles from thought leaders that provide tips and tools for auditors.
The Journey Continues
An internal audit process must be one of shared ownership with a multifunctional team that is well versed in the audit process. Only then can an organization reap the benefits of the process. Assess your program to continually drive the transformation you desire. Include the team in each part of the process to enable growth and development as an auditor and create valuable assets within your business.