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Why Do You Audit?

Articles Mike Jacka, CIA, CPA, CPCU, CLU Aug 10, 2021

Let's try a little experiment. No idea if it will work or anything will come of it, but let's all play along.

Take a blank sheet of paper (a blank word document if you must) and write a list of answers to this question: Why do you audit? Quick clarification. I do not mean what the purpose of an audit is. I do not mean what the role of the auditor is. I don't mean why you have the job of being an internal auditor. I mean why you, personally, audit.

No pauses. Write them down as fast as you can. Clear, assertive statements. Some of them might not even be true. But write them down.

Why do you audit? On your mark, get set, Go!!!

I hope that, in the space between the previous sentence and this paragraph, you played along. But if the question does not make complete sense (welcome to my blog), here is a list I put together that might work as an example. Some of this came in about 30 seconds. Some I had to stop a bit and think about. (Yeah, broke the rules, but I put those rules in place, so I have the prerogative to ignore them. And the point is to do whatever you need to do to get yourself writing a list.) Anyway, here, in the order I thought of them, are the reason I came up with for why I audit.

  1. To get paid.
  2. I like being right.
  3. I like digging and testing.
  4. I've done it most of my career and I'm afraid of changing.
  5. It feels right. (By the way, that's a lousy answer – but I said write them all down.)
  6. It is second nature and I seem to do it even when I'm not on the clock.
  7. My father was a deputy sheriff, and I may have followed in his footsteps.
  8. I like details.
  9. I like ticking and tying.
  10. I like knowing about everything.
  11. I like learning.
  12. I like being the umpire.


There it is, an example of what this exercise is meant to produce … kind of. Your list will be different. This list is me; your list will be you. And if you haven't made that list yet, do it now. Again, Go!

OK, pencils down everyone. Let's look at what we've got.

If you have been honest, if you have done this quickly without thinking too hard and have gotten to some truths about yourself, if you are surprised by the answers that are true (because writing them quickly means some may not be true), then you should be getting insights into why you are sitting in the position of being an internal auditor. Not about what is expected of you, but why you, personally, are in this role.

You are starting to explore the foundations of why you like and stay with the profession.

Of course, as you explore these, there are three big questions/truths that may come up.

  • Are you in the right audit department?
  • Are you in the right organization?
  • And the big one, are you in the right career?

Because one of the things these answers may show is that, actually, internal audit isn't the career for you. You don't like internal audit, you are realizing there may never be a fit, and you don't want internal audit as a profession. One of my worst hires was in the wrong profession. I found this out when I learned that her main purpose for taking the job was to tell other people what to do. If she had gone through this exercise and that answer was given, we'd have all saved ourselves a lot of trouble. (And it raises questions about my answer No. 12, but let's not go into all that right now. There's a reason I pay my shrink as much as I do.)

But, if this is, indeed, the profession for you, the answers should provide insight into why you actually stick with this crazy profession. (The right organization and department are discussions we can have later.) And once you understand why you stay, you can better understand how to get more from the job and the work you are doing. And you may find new motivation to help you get up in the morning, go to the office every day, open another spreadsheet, start writing another report, etc., etc., etc.

And, just maybe, the next time you find yourself wondering why you waste your time (and we've all been there), go back through the list, come up with a few more reasons, and renew your acquaintance with why the job is important to you — reasons that can get you past the clients that don't change, won't change, or wouldn't know change if it smacked them upside the balance sheet.

This was just an experiment, but I think that, if you really played along, you may have learned something. (I know I did.) And I think that, done correctly, it can strengthen your department, as well as your own resolve and perseverance.

That is, if you are in the right place and the right profession.

Mike Jacka, CIA, CPA, CPCU, CLU

Co-founder and Chief Creative Pilot, Flying Pig Audit, Consulting, and Training Services (FPACTS), based in Phoenix.