Coaching the internal audit team to writing success.

Author:Kroeger, Lin
Position:Great Communicators

Managers who know how to help their staff members become better writers can help internal auditing to put points on the scoreboard.

WRITING INTERNAL audit reports is difficult. Each report must be precise, appropriate in tone and implications, and user-friendly. Reports must also be short enough to be readable and long enough to be complete for each reading population.

Although strong writing skills can pay enormous dividends to an audit department, few internal auditors are outstanding writers. After all, their skills are generally in technical analysis, not in communication. And training professionals how to write is costly, time-consuming, sometimes unrewarding, and often frustrating. Teaching someone how to use the language takes years of constant writing, feedback, rewriting, and more feedback.

Few supervisors, managers, or directors have the skills needed to diagnose the problem in a given audit report; translate that diagnosis into an understanding of why an auditor is writing ineffectively; and then coach that auditor so that his or her writing skills actually improve over time. Yet in internal audit shops where the management team has fully committed to improving the quality of the department's writing and has worked on personal improvement, the payoffs have been clear.

* Reversing the Focus

Most often, the audit staff is trained first and primarily. The reverse solution starts by training the managerial group, so that managers can act as role models and "coaches." When the management team writes well and has consistent expectations of what "good" writing is, audit staff members tend to learn more quickly what is expected of them and how to meet those expectations. Audit reports will be better focused, more persuasive, easier to read, and produced faster.

These tasks are part of the "reverse" solution:

* Identify the criteria for writing effectiveness for the internal audit group.

* Teach audit management how to

* write an effective audit report.

* diagnose the problem in an audit report.

* coach auditors to write better.

* Diagnose the skills problems of each internal audit staff member.

* Design and implement one-day writing, thinking, and business strategy workshops that focus on skills and knowledge.

* Incorporate achievement, performance, and improvement of writing skills into the performance appraisal process and on-the-job assignments.

* Conduct periodic group critique sessions that focus on the criteria for writing...

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