Reaping the rewards from ‘going agile’ doesn’t necessarily mean adopting agile project methodology. How about adopting – and adapting – your team communication to take advantage of some agile principles without the pain and expense? What have you got to lose?
The ‘silo’ approach to audit report writing
Traditionally, the audit report writing process tends to go something like this:
I write ‘my’ findings. You write ‘your’ findings. We both email them to the audit team leader, who then combines all of our findings into a report. The long and often painful process of editing then begins…
- Evidence is considered.
- Wording is tweaked.
- Clarifying questions are asked and answered.
But wait: Because of time constraints, the team leader may not have been able to ensure a consistent style and content throughout the draft report. Questions such as these might not have been answered:
- Are all of the IIA attributes appropriately addressed in each finding?
- Does the language chosen take into account intercultural and other sensitivities?
- Does the language chosen match the risk level of the finding?
- Does the report have a consistent tone, connotation and formality?
- Is the language persuasive?
Then the team leader forwards the audit report to their manager.
The review cycle is repeated when, if you are lucky enough to have one, the internal quality team reviews the report, and finally, the head of audit reviews the report.
At each of these stages, questions, comments and edits are made and sent back to the team leader. Often, these loops occur with little coaching back to the team. There is no closed loop, so that the team can improve their writing skills over time.
The end result? Weeks later, a report that may not resemble the original text, intentions and conclusions.
Don’t get me wrong: Edits should be made to improve the content and quality of the findings and overall report during the process. But where is the learning?
For you and me as audit report writers, frustration often results. We worked very hard to write what we thought were clear, complete and persuasive findings. Or did we? Is it possible that we are so demotivated by the review process that we ‘phone it in’, not spending as much time as we should to write quality findings, because, heck – someone else is just going to rewrite it anyway, right?
The ‘agile’ approach to audit report writing
Two key reason for the success of agile project management are the increased collaboration and improved communication within teams. Transferring those aspects to your audit report writing process is relatively easy and painless.
By adopting a collaborative approach to audit report writing, you’ll have more transparency, accountability and open communication within your team.
Your reports will:
- be more focused,
- include relevant content only for the stakeholders,
- address all IIA attributes consistently in each finding,
- be more clear, concise, complete and persuasive,
- require fewer edits before issuance.
Work silos will be gone! Reports will be issued quicker!
Even better? You team will be empowered and motivated. They will help and coach each other and share knowledge and expertise. The benefits will flow through to other audits and throughout your team.
That means your team members should write the audit report together. In one room. For a fixed amount of time. With a facilitator who is not the team leader. Agree to ground rules. Then write. Four, six or eight eyes on a finding all at one time will ensure your team writes high-quality, value-added findings and recommendations that meet Internal Audit management and stakeholder expectations.
Back to my original question: What have you got to lose by giving collaborative audit report writing a try?
At the end of my presentation at the DIIR Congress last November in Munich, every single auditor in the room agreed: There is no risk.
If you want to find out if this process might work for your team, please get in touch. I’m happy to help.
Wishing you every success in your (agile) audit report writing.
P.S. Need training for you or your team? Contact me for in-house training, or for an open workshop in June, use this code to get 30% off: TracieIntAT2019
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