I would make the argument that, no matter how many years of experience each of us may have, we still run into numerous situations where we could consider ourselves "new". We learn of new risks, we discover white space, we audit new areas, we talk to new people, and we find ourselves in new situations. That is why I found this quick blurb from Harvard Business Review's Management Tip of the Day so interesting.
3 People to Talk to When You're New on the Job
When you start at a new company, there is so much new information that it's difficult to know where to focus. Here are three important sources you don't want to overlook:
•Frontline employees. People who develop and manufacture products or deliver services can familiarize you with the organization's basic processes and relationships with key customers.
•Integrators. Colleagues who coordinate interaction across functions (think project or plant managers) can tell you how different areas mesh—or don't. They can shed light on the true political hierarchies.
•Natural historians. Keep an eye out for "old-timers" who have been with the firm for a long time. They'll be able to teach you about the company's mythology and the roots of its culture.
Let me jump in here with an apology. I copied the information, but I did not keep the link. If you are interested, you can go to HBR's web site and do a search under "Management Tip of the Day" and look through the archives. (I'd also suggest you sign up for the tip of the day. I'm not going to say they are all smack-your-forehead-in-astonishment great, but there is usually information that will remind you what good management is all about, along with some solid ideas you may not have thought of before.)
But now let's talk about that tip. You probably noticed that, yes, this is good advice for anyone new to a job. If you aren't using this approach when you first come into a job, or not helping your new hires find these people to talk to, then you need to take steps to rectify the situation.
It also becomes quickly obvious that these are some of the most important people we can talk to while doing audit work. (And, while I am primarily thinking about forays into new areas, it may well be just as true when going back into tried and true areas.) When you are planning your audit work – when you are planning the interviews – look for the frontline employees who will tell the truth about what is and what isn't working; integrators who can help you learn what is falling through the cracks; and historians who will tell you how it was before, why things changed, and whether any of those changes were for the better.
I've seen far too many situations, particularly when doing reviews over areas previously unexplored, where auditors leaned too heavily on the information provided by the executive/director/etc. After being advised who to speak with, the auditors spoke with those individuals and no one else.
Sometimes it worked; sometimes it didn't. But it is all a reminder that internal audit is about listening to everyone the auditors can reach. And it is a reminder that audit is an action verb – one that requires more than passively accepting the direction provided by the auditee.
What's that you say? You don't have plans to audit any new areas? Well, that's a whole 'nother problem, isn't it?