Some years ago, while I was CAE at Tosco, I started an "Academy for Creative Auditing." It never got off the ground because the company was acquired and I left for new pastures.
But the idea still holds true: that if we, as leaders or users of internal audit services, are to get the best out of internal audit managers and staff we need them to use their imagination and creativity, not just their technical skills.
The value of internal audit is, first, in the assurance it provides that the board and top management can rely on the organization's people, processes, and systems to manage risks to the organization's objectives at acceptable levels. The second area of value is the ability of internal audit to stimulate change that will improve the organization's achievement of objectives.
The ability of internal auditors to come up with ideas is essential. While it is management's responsibility to decide what to do, there is nothing wrong and everything right with internal audit coming up with new ideas.
Here is the paper that was the foundation for the Academy. I welcome your comments — and feel free to adapt and use.
The Academy for Creative Auditing:
Recognition for Outstanding Achievement in the Practice of Imaginative Auditing
Manifesto for Getting out of the Box
The value of an auditing program, whether internal auditing or contracts consulting and auditing, lies in either the assurance or peace of mind we provide our customers, or the value we add to the organization's bottom line.
Because auditors exist outside the department or process being reviewed, they are in a position to bring a fresh approach to a business problem. Not only do they provide a different perspective but are in a position to help management with new ideas for improving the business operations. Those ideas can minimize risk or surface new opportunities.
On occasion, a single auditor's ingenuity can change the practice of auditing within the audit department itself — which is no less worthy of recognition than an idea that improves a customer's operation.
Auditors who consistently demonstrate the critical skill of imagination advance not only the operations being reviewed, but also the credibility of the department and their own career prospects.
The traditional auditor audits out of a textbook, using standard audit programs inherited from years of performing the same audits over and over again. This approach is unlikely to create new solutions.
However, the creative and imaginative auditor uses his whole brain (both the logical and the intuitive sides). He brings a truly fresh mind to every business problem. This is the type of auditor that is most likely to spark a change and add maximum value to his organization. This type of auditor is highly valued.
Created in 2001 by the Tosco Audit Department, the Academy for Creative Auditing exists to encourage and recognize those valuable contributors who bring something new to the practice of auditing. That something new can be a new way, technique, or strategy in performing an audit assignment. Perhaps it is a different, yet effective way of communicating the results of a review, such that it stimulates and energizes action. It can also be an imaginative solution to a business problem, a way for management to improve operations that they had not previously considered. It could be something the founders of the Academy have not yet thought of.
This is a certification program. It recognizes auditors for every instance of acknowledged, creative excellence. Judged by the auditor's peers, advanced certification opportunities exist for those rare individuals who are able to demonstrate a continued contribution with their intuitive side.
Every auditor is encouraged to not only think out of the box every once in a while, but to get out of the box, stay out of the box, and audit with an attitude.
How Does the Program Work?
The Academy (as represented by department senior management) appoints a Certification Board that is representative of the composition of the department. Each discipline or group or four or more auditors is represented by one member who will serve for a term of twelve months (although founding members may serve shorter terms). Appointments are staggered and made quarterly, with the goal of replacing one fourth of the Board members each quarter. The Board's chair will be elected by the Board every quarter and serve in that capacity for no more than three months.
When an auditor excels in the practice of imaginative auditing, she may be nominated for recognition by the Academy. She may be nominated by another member of the department, or by a customer. The nominations should be in writing, explaining how the auditor demonstrated ingenuity and advanced the operations of the department or the organization. Administrative personnel are eligible for nomination in the same way, for their contribution to the organization and department, in any capacity.
There is no limit on the number of pieces of work for which an auditor can be recognized. In the initial six months of the program, work performed in the last three years can be nominated. However, after that, only work performed in the last three months can be nominated.
The Board will meet (by conference call) as required. All nominations will be considered, and a vote must be taken by the Board no more than one month after any nomination. A simple majority vote is required. In the event of a tie, the vote of the General Auditor (or the chair at the discretion of the General Auditor) will decide the issue. The vote of the Board is final. No reconsideration is allowed, except by a two-thirds majority of the Board.
Awards will be announced, and certifications awarded, upon completion of the Board meeting.
What Are the Certification Levels?
The first time an auditor is recognized by the Board, they will be conferred the Associate Degree in the Practice of Imaginative Auditing. The auditor is entitled to the title of "certified imaginauditor." (Administrative personnel will receive honorary degrees.) Subsequent recognition, at different levels, will result in advanced degrees, as shown below.
Total times recognized
Each time a new level is achieved, the auditor will receive a framed Certificate signed by the chair of the Board. At intermediate levels (e.g., after two works have been recognized), a ribbon will be awarded that can be added to the frame.
Lifetime achievement degrees may be awarded at the discretion of the Board.
Every year, the Board will review nominations received in the prior twelve months (including those that did not receive a majority vote for recognition). By majority vote, they will determine whether a recommendation should be made to department management for a monetary or other prize for contributions made in the period to the practice of creative auditing. The Board may nominate none, one, or more than one individual for a prize.
Communication and Sharing
Each member of the Board is responsible for ensuring that all awards are shared with the rest of the department. This will ensure that the ideas, and the creativity they represent are shared with the rest of the staff.
Maintenance of the Program
The Board and senior department management may amend the program as required to meet the objectives of the department and the organization.