Internal Audit’s Identity Crisis

These last couple of weeks I have not been able to get out of my head the 1984 Frankie Goes to Hollywood classic “Two Tribes”.

Not only is it a defining song of my youth but it also neatly sums up the tension that has boiled within the internal audit community over the last month or so.

Over what you ask?

Well it is over a fundamental question: does Internal Audit add value?

On one side you have the IIA and most precisely its Global CEO Richard Chambers saying that of course it does and to say anything else is hard to comprehend.

On the other side you have long time internal audit thought leaders like Tim Leech from Canada suggesting that Internal Audit has to be very careful that it doesn’t become the next Blackberry.

So who is right?

Well strangely enough for a column that is usually not short on unasked for opinions we are not going to wander the halls of this debate … not today at least.

We do want to ask: how has the internal audit profession got itself to a point where we are still debating the most fundamental question that any profession faces – why does it exist?

A secondary point is if we are still having this discussion – centuries after internal audit was conceived and decades after the IIA sought to be the voice of the profession – does it mean that we are not yet the profession that we tell everyone that we are.

What is the underlying cause of this perpetual angst (and if you think we are exaggerating review the conference topics of nearly any internal audit conference for the last 25 years and it is at or close to the top of the list of topics)?

Here comes the controversial part hidden ten paragraphs down that answers all those questions in three words.

Get over it!

If you dont think you personally as an auditor are adding value find another job.

If you do think that you personally as an auditor are adding value then keep doing what you are doing.

A colleague once did an incredible audit on a key process.

After they presented the findings to the Audit Committee we walked out with them and all they said to us was:

“That is HOW you do an audit!”

The Audit Committee was stunned by the brilliance of the observations; the depth of examination; the fearlessness of the auditor and the engagement of the business.

We reflected on this this week with a number of colleagues and one made the very important point that the real recipe for success is being constantly focused on your stakeholders; for there is a danger of being really good at something no one wants.

The best (only?) answer then to this profession self esteem destroying conversation is to drop the proverbial microphone EVERY SINGLE TIME you perform your auditing duties.

Get out there and be the single best auditor that your organisation has ever seen.

The online Windows XP simulator runs in a web browser and its operation imitates the operating system. You can use it to prank someone.

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