Planning and preparation must occur prior to any internal audit in order to have a successful outcome. It can seem intimidating to go through a mountain of paperwork looking for correct or incorrect information or documentation. Participants can certainly get better through experience, but good preparation really makes it much easier to conduct an internal audit and sets you up for success, even if you are new to it.
I’m reminded of a statement in Harvey Pitnick’s Little Red Book, where the author describes a golf swing as being ruined before the club is ever moved. Pitnick goes on to explain the way the club is handled and how the golfer sets up determines if the swing is going to be successful almost all of the time. This description and Internal Audits are very much alike.
Let’s look at these important considerations: the auditor, the scheduling, the method, and the timeline.
All successful audits start with the selection of the proper person or people to perform the audit. This is the most important aspect of the internal audit, although it’s often treated as a secondary consideration, with the task relegated to anyone who will just get it done.
When it is feasible, a team should be selected, with at least one trained auditor coming from a department other than Quality Assurance or Compliance each time the audit is performed.
Each person involved should watch a video series like this one or take an internal audit training course so they understand their role in performing the audit.
Additionally, each employee or department that will be audited, called the auditee, should be made aware of the audit, its importance to the company, and be made aware of each person or team who will be auditing them.
If the correct person is performing the audit, then in all likelihood the audit will be successful. With the wrong person in the lead, the audit will likely be disorganized or unproductive.
Ensuring the auditor has proper training is an essential aspect of the audit, but equally essential, is making sure the audit team includes at least one member who is knowledgeable enough about operations to fully understand the records and actions being reviewed.
Lastly, we also need to make sure that the auditor is independent of the area of operations being audited. So, the IT Manager is not allowed to audit the IT work they oversee. It is because of this need to avoid having employees audit their own work that it is preferable to have more than one auditor during an internal audit.
In our episode on performing the internal audit, we will look at how a very small operation that cannot pull together a team of auditors can still ensure that the auditor does not audit their own work.
In addition to finding the right person or team of people to conduct the internal audit, the organization also must effectively schedule the audit, and make sure that the schedule is followed. Scheduling for the internal audit does not require that it is performed in its entirety on a specific day. Instead, we need to determine how often we want, or need, to audit. Some organizations schedule one audit annually, others break it up and schedule audits quarterly. Audits can also be performed each month if that makes sense for operations.
The easiest approach to an organized audit is to make or download an audit checklist before you get started. All audit investigations must determine conformity or nonconformity for each question, so there will need to be a place to enter results on your audit form or checklist.
The audit method, or audit checklist, for the internal audit is usually determined by the purpose of auditing. For an organization that is performing an audit to comply with ISO 9001 quality management certification, or a food manufacturer complying with a GFSI internal audit requirement, the method of auditing would be to use the rule book for the scheme and to audit against that. If a customer requires an internal audit, communicating with that customer to understand their priorities, as well as working with the audit team to pre-select all of that customer’s product, services and related operations would define the method of auditing.
The final stage of the audit that requires planning ahead of time is the timeline of the audit and post audit reporting. Planning of post audit activities must center on performing corrective actions based on the internal audit findings. The audit results and corrective actions need to be communicated to top level management after completion. Following the audit, management needs to hold the auditors and auditees accountable for staying as close to the schedule as possible.
It is crucial that the timeline of the audit is firm, and includes the expected schedule of the audit, the time between the audit and the completion of corrective actions, and the amount of time allotted for presentation of results to management.
The ability within an organization to schedule, assign, perform and review audits is a powerful tool for maintaining control and effectiveness in an organization, and could be the difference between being a successful organization or not.
For more information on scheduling, methods, and timelines for an internal audit, please visit the Kellerman Consulting website where you can find free downloads to assist in internal auditing. You will also be able to find our other episodes on internal auditing.
In our next episode, we’ll look at how to perform the internal audit and how the auditor should behave in order to lead an effective internal audit.
Thank you for watching. For free downloads to accompany this video series, visit the free training videos & resources page of our website.