Is Audit a Dirty Word?

There are 2 words that my clients don’t seem to like to hear. One of them is audit. It makes people nervous, reminds them of those awful school tests they’ve tried to shut out of their memory, and it has an impact on resources and productivity.

It’s a tricky situation because internal audits (and external audits for certified companies) are a compulsory requirement of implementing ISO standards.

But with the wrong approach, they are an opportunity for the creative to hide what’s really going on, instead of an opportunity to seek better ways of working.

Over the years, I’ve tried different terminology such as ‘process review’, but whilst that might focus on the improvement we’re seeking, it doesn’t fulfil the requirements of understanding if there’s a problem and having evidence to demonstrate how big the problem might be.

Internal Audit Basics

Let’s take a step back to understand what must be included in an Internal Audit.

For starters, the audit program should plan what will be audited, not just any area of the business that is ‘ready for audit’.

Then each audit must have a criteria (what’s supposed to happen), and scope (what part of the business are you auditing).

Audits also must be conducted with objectivity and impartiality–you can’t properly audit your own work!

Report audit findings to management.

Take action to resolve problems found during the audit. This might require further investigation and corrective actions.

Document it all!

When carrying out an audit, I find it helpful to reassure the auditee that they are not being tested, and in fact, this is their opportunity to make their job easier by identifying better ways of doing things.

Internal audits that find no issues might be reassuring, but actually make me more nervous that something is being hidden.

When implemented well, audits give management good information about compliance and also provide insight into what is really happening in each area of the business. They are a key part of the continual improvement process.

In your company are audits seen as an opportunity or a dirty word?