A CIRCLE OF ADVOCATES: Internal audit's value is often best conveyed by the clients it serves.

Author:Jacka, J. Michael
Position:Insights/The Mind of Jacka - Column
 
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Internal auditors spend a lot of time trying to convert people. In some cases, the conversions are small: "Here are the findings--let's come to agreement on what is wrong and how to make it better." In other cases, the conversions are much larger: "In spite of what you think, internal audit is not here to bayonet your wounded; we're here to help the organization achieve its objectives." When we do that job well, we build a circle of advocates who become our best promoters.

We talk a lot about how to make those conversions--how to sell internal audit to the naysayers who see us as the enemy. And honing that sales pitch is important, as many clients will respond well to our efforts. But we seldom discuss when we should stop selling and just simply walk away.

The nasty truth is that some people will never buy what internal audit sells. They have been burned, they have their own agendas, or they just refuse to see internal audit as an ally. And as the old saying goes, never try to teach a pig to sing; it wastes your time and it annoys the pig. Internal auditors must recognize that some clients, no matter how much we try to convince them, will never sing the praises of internal audit. And once we have identified them, we must be willing to walk away.

Of course, ours is a risk-based approach, and if the risks lie within the purview of someone who just doesn't like us, we can't abandon the person, department, or organization. No, even in the face of dislike and even pure hatred, we must still do our work, maintain our standards, and continue to move forward. But that doesn't mean we should waste additional...

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