This Is Draft #35
Blogs Mike Jacka, CIA, CPA, CPCU, CLU Jun 08, 2022
I have ranted, raved, raged, and railed against the unending deluge of reviews that exist in internal audit. My primary focus has been on the re-re-re-re-re-re-rewrites that occur while trying to deliver the final audit report. (Quick contest: Can you beat our record at Farmers Insurance? It was 35 rewrites.)
How do all these rewrites benefit anyone? Surely not the writer, the reader, or the reviewer. And, when it is all over, how is anyone supposed to know what good writing or a good report looks like? And how is anyone supposed to perform in such an environment?
Unfortunately, the report review barrage is just the surface of the review fatigue that we inflict on internal auditors. How many review notes do you write? How many review notes do you receive? How many of those review notes are repeats of what has already been said? How many of those review notes are picky? How many of those review notes are cleared to just get them out of the way? How many of those review notes are a waste of everyone's time, having no more effect than a feather on the ocean?
How many review notes and reviews do we really need?
Like the weather, everyone seems to talk about it, but no one stops creating all those notes. When was the last time your team got together and talked about review notes? When have you ever discussed their purpose, the value they should add, their role in internal auditor development, the ones that are not adding value, the ones that are a waste, and the ones that exist to serve no other purpose than to make someone feel they've done something?
Let's change channels for a second.
Lately, there has been a lot of discussion in the business world about employee burnout. As we all try to adjust to whatever normal is going to look like, the new pressures are hitting all employees. Internal audit is not immune, and much ink has been spilled and conversations had specifically related to internal auditors. Of course, we are facing the same issues as others. But I wonder if we have added our own twists to the issue, twists that were causing internal auditor burnout long before we began hiding behind Zoom calls.
Allow me a simplistic approach to significantly reducing burnout: Get rid of review notes.
Take a cold, hard look at the reviews that are occurring. What are you accomplishing with all those notes? Are they adding value/actually making things better? Are they instructional in any way? Does the auditor come out of the process being a better auditor? What happened in the first place that allowed the audit to go so wrong, requiring so many notes?
The auditor looks at the blizzard of review notes and thinks, "I'm constantly criticized. I don't know what is expected. I'm doing my best. There are always corrections." And let's not forget that the clients are unhappily waiting to find out what is going on. And, meanwhile, another deadline goes zipping by like a bullet train to oblivion.
And then, after confusion reigns, egos are crushed, and failure is the only option, the auditor is faced with all that rework.
Burnout is not a surprise; it is an inevitability.
Now, there are some fundamentalists out there who are quaking in their boots as they raise the red book and proclaim, "We must document!"
Well, not really. That's the great thing about the International Standards for the Professional Practice of Internal Auditing; they allow us the flexibility we need in order to achieve our work in the best manner. But you know what, I'm not sure I care if such documentation is required or not. Don't get me wrong, I'm a firm believer in the Standards. (Just ask my friends with whom I have battled in the past.) But the Standards are not immutable law. Or, perhaps, this is one of those areas where we all assumed there were certain requirements only because "We've always done it that way."
And one more thought about elimination of review notes. I'm not saying get rid of the reviews; I'm saying get rid of the notes. Because I have a feeling that, rather than being a means of documentation, they are a crutch we lean on in lieu of having real conversations about what's going right, what's going wrong, and everything in between.
Our job is tough enough. Let's find a way to make it easier. Let's find a way to communicate that is not bound in systems that come from the antediluvian age when paper ruled the world. Maybe we can just talk to each other. And maybe we can make it so burnout doesn't even cross our minds.