Last week in part one of the three-part article series, Six Tips for Effective Internal Audit Program Management: Part 1 of 3, I discussed the importance of clarifying purpose and maintaining resources. If you haven’t done so already, you can read it here.
In the second blog post, I’m going to discuss the importance of strengthening your auditors and using consistent methods to keep an effective audit program as your management system matures.
Internal auditors are usually developed through a combination of attending courses and practicing with more experienced auditors. Classes teach the methods outlined in ISO 19011 for planning, conducting, reporting, and closing audits. They review requirements from ISO 9001 or TL 9000 to make sure auditors understand the criteria underlying the organization’s management system. Students complete classroom exercises in creating checklists, identifying non-conformities, and properly documenting findings. Internal auditors need to demonstrate these basic competencies so they can even begin to develop a more complex set of skills.
Unfortunately, competency development too often ends with the initial formal training class so that even the experienced auditors are just following the basic techniques they were originally taught. If auditors are only held responsible for verifying compliance with procedures and accuracy of records, they never learn to deliver on the bigger purpose of auditing , which is to evaluate process effectiveness and to identify risks that can lead to costly waste.
To build a team of auditors who can truly add value to the business, the audit program manager needs to plan and carry out ongoing competency development activities that bring in new ideas, reinforce effective techniques, and encourage auditors to deeply investigate both compliance and effectiveness. Examples of such methods include:
Include technical experts who deeply understand process risks on each audit team
Hold peer reviews of audit planning activities, audit reports, and corrective action responses Lead workshop on remote auditing: applicability, tools, and best practices
Demonstrate the analysis of process performance data to evaluate effectiveness
Study business objectives and key process measures as a group and discuss applicability in audit planning and reporting. Conduct briefings on changes to standards, customer requirements, organizational goals, etc.
Audit program managers often rely on volunteer auditors who report to other managers. Competency development is especially important for people who audit infrequently. Highlighting the value of these methods, not just for the audit program but also to for the departments that auditors belong to, can help audit program managers get the support they need from the broader management team.
Use Consistent Methods
Internal auditors should have flexibility to plan and conduct audits using their full range of experience, but you can save everyone a lot of time by giving them tools and templates that have been optimized to simplify planning and reporting.
The DESARA Group offers a set of downloadable templates. These can be used “as is” or they can just be thought starters to guide you to customize your own tools. Our list includes:
Applicable Clause Matrix: a reminder to verify compliance with ISO 9001 / TL 9000 clauses as they apply to each business process Audit Checklist Template: a guide to help auditors translate requirements into a checklist of the types of evidence that should be gathered, and from where, to verify compliance and effectiveness
Opening and Closing Meeting Checklists based on ISO 19011 Audit Findings Summary: a guide to ensure that requirements are identified, objective evidence is specifically noted, and the risks associated with findings are captured
Internal Audit Report Template: a Word document to support formal narrative documentation of audit findings. Surprisingly, even organizations with mature audit programs sometimes fail to give their auditors much in the way of planning and reporting tools. While you don’t want to box auditors into using complicated forms, you don’t want them to either start from scratch or to cut and paste from last year’s audits. Creating simple templates and encouraging the use of consistent methods among audit team members will simplify time consuming tasks and give auditors more time to focus on using their expertise to evaluate processes.
If this is something you’re looking to implement but are struggling to find the time, drop me a note or simply go old school and give me a call – (631) 909-3570 – to learn how The DESARA Group help!