Recently, I was talking to a couple of auditors. The subject was audit objectives. I was putting forward what I considered to be a rather conventional, uncontroversial proposal that objectives should be stated in a positive manner — the objective of this audit was to ensure controls were adequate, the objective of this audit was to ensure the effectiveness and efficiency of processes, the objective of this audit was to help the organization achieve its objectives, the objective of this audit was to show that internal audit was part of the team, not a part of the problem.
The people I was speaking with were quite adamant in their disagreement. To quote them (okay, to misquote them — I can't remember exactly what they said, but this is real close), "We would not be able to get anything accomplished if we stated our objectives in that way; we have to tell them that we will find what they are doing wrong and make them correct it."
I suddenly envisioned my new-found friends wearing the garb of Revolutionary War soldiers, muskets in hand, bayonets poised, approaching a battlefield where the battle was already over, ready to do the duty they had been assigned.
Maybe it is because I was lucky enough to work in a forward-looking audit department, maybe it is because of my involvement with cutting edge organizations operating with The IIA, maybe it is because my name is Pollyanna and I believe all is sweet and wonderful and full of gumdrops where audit shops actually work as members of the organization's team.
Whatever the reason, I was shocked by their approach to auditing. No wait. Let's remove some of the sugarcoat from this morsel. I was shocked by this Neanderthalic approach to internal audit.
And the scary thing, the thing that made me want to hide under the bed, the thing that made me want to run screaming from the room, was this reminder — they are still out there.
I am firmly convinced that few audit shops still work in this type of environment. I am naive enough to believe that the "new" internal audit departments (new as of at least 20 years ago) are the way most people get things done.
But this was my slap upside the head reminder. We must be constantly vigilant. We must vigilantly look for those who have not seen the benefits of being a true partner. We must vigilantly help ensure other organizations understand the benefits. And we must vigilantly ensure that such a mindset does not infiltrate our own organizations.
Our purpose is not to find fault. Our mission is not to find errors. And our objective is not to bayonet the wounded. We only succeed when we are a true partner, helping our organizations drive towards excellence.
And this we cannot forget.