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How Agents of Change Can Shape Internal Audit's Future

Blogs Richard F. Chambers, CIA, QIAL, CGAP, CCSA, CRMA Mar 22, 2021

​As most of my readers are aware, I will be stepping down as president and CEO of The IIA in a few days.

While I am looking forward to beginning a new chapter in my nearly 50-year career in internal auditing, I am happy to have completed a significant goal before my final day on the job at The Institute.

Last week, my latest book, Agents of Change: Internal Auditors in an Era of Disruption, debuted at The IIA's annual General Audit Management virtual conference. The book is being described as the third in a trilogy. When I put pen to paper on my first book, Lessons Learned on the Audit Trail in 2014, it was not my intent to create a series. However, in retrospect, my published works do reflect the rapid evolution of the profession over the past decade. And, humbly, I submit that they tell a powerful, intriguing, and important story.

Lessons Learned was a semi-autobiographical story that shared a bit of wisdom I had gleaned from a career that included public-sector, private-sector, and nonprofit internal auditing. Five years later, I offered an updated look at the audit trail in a second edition to the original manuscript, titled The Speed of Risk. In between, in 2017, I wrote Trusted Advisors: Key Attributes of Outstanding Internal Auditors, which examined the characteristics of internal audit leaders who had earned a seat at the corporate table. Those two books were intended to inspire readers to grow professionally and spark a drive for continuous growth and learning.

The final installment, Agents of Change, is much more a call to action. From my vantage point, I have seen a tumultuous start to the 21st century. The first decade brought corporate scandal and a bevy of new financial control regulations, characterized by the U.S. Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002. The second decade brought ubiquitous cyber threats, a new focus on protecting privacy, corporate failures brought about by toxic cultures, and a reckoning of sexual assault and harassment in the workplace with the #MeToo movement. The third decade is proving to be even more disruptive, with powerful social justice movements; a shift in how corporations and investors view environmental, social, and governance issues; and the impact and consequences of a global pandemic.

One does not need to be overly perceptive to understand that change and disruption are happening faster and faster. What I see for the profession in the next decade is a critical turning point. Powerful forces driven by technology, macroeconomics, geopolitics, disruption, and rapidly accelerating and complex risks will reshape internal auditing. It is up to us to decide whether we will lead in that reshaping, or allow others to determine our fate.

Agents of Change takes a hard look at how the profession must adapt and change to meet the growing needs of our organizations and stakeholders. Frankly, it sets a high bar that will require updating processes, transforming internal audit's relationship with technology, learning to promote and market the value of independent assurance, and becoming catalysts for transformational change that creates value for our organizations.

This will not be easy. Indeed, there are many among us who will need to reinvent themselves to become agents of change. However, I sincerely believe the desire to effect change burns within every internal auditor. It may be a raging passion for some, or a smoldering ember for others, but it is there. It is nourished by the core principles articulated in the International Professional Practices Framework — integrity, competence, objectivity, alignment, quality, self-improvement, communications, insights, being proactive, and promoting improvement within the organizations we serve.

The cover of Agents of Change features a diverse group of people, each with a look of steely determination. If the image suggests a collection of would-be superheroes, that was the intent. Now, more than ever, internal audit needs to be led by superheroes.

In the weeks and months ahead, you can expect to hear more from me as I seek to illuminate the potential for this important profession that serves the public interest around the world. In the meantime, I urge you to pick up a copy of Agents of Change from the Internal Audit Foundation and answer the call to action outlined between its covers.

Richard F. Chambers, CIA, QIAL, CGAP, CCSA, CRMA

Former president and CEO of The IIA, the global professional association and standard-setting body for internal auditors.