Defining Internal Auditing - A Little Audience Participation

I recently led a creative problem-solving seminar for the IIA and, in an effort to embody the creative spirit I was supposed to be preaching, I came up with a different problem for the participants to solve. Unfortunately, we didn’t have time for my extra, bonus material. However, their loss is your gain.

At the end of last Monday’s blog, I threw out the question “How is it you explain what being an internal auditor really means?” And that’s the challenge I’m going to throw your way. However, this is a challenge with a twist. You see, I remember when the IIA changed the definition of internal auditing. While it was a very important endeavor, and the time and effort spent was of benefit to us all, the machinations I witnessed from afar (I can’t imagine what it must have been like to be in the actual rooms) was like watching people fight over how many consultants could dance on the head of a period. Are we consultants, are we experts, are we independent, are we risk managers, are we not men, are we Devo? Again, important considerations, but it would have driven me bugfritzed (yes, I just made that word up) to be a part of the process.
And, while the IIA’s definition does an excellent job of laying out what internal auditing is, I am a little more than sure that its application in the average conversation is limited.  In other words, I’ve never had the guts to use that definition when explaining to my friends, acquaintances, and relatives what it is, exactly, I do for a living. How ‘bout you?
Of course, I don’t have a quick answer either. Which brings us back to the challenge – a challenge with a twist:
Twelve words or less
Either define internal auditing or explain what an internal auditor does
No use of “our” buzzwords. That is, no words we understand instantly but for which the general public will just stare at us quizzically. Examples include “controls”, “assurance”, “mitigation”, “governance”…you get the idea.
So, quoting one of the Bobs in Office Space, “Well, what would you say …you do around here?”


Posted on Jan 30, 2011 by Mike Jacka

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  1. Ok, I got one: bullet proofing the organisation.

  1. Nice one (and lots of words left over)

  1. ummmm that's a tough task you've given us. I'd say, I'm the Internal Auditor and, " I raise efficiency and effectiveness of everything that encounters me( at office ! :D)"

    This captcha thing on this page is driving me nuts!

  1. Tough question, 12 words, 0 buzzwords. Ignoring the saying that anything that can be put in a nutshell belongs there, haha, here's my effort:

    "Look at processes and see if they should be improved."

  1. Some more nice definitions.  I particularly like the way everyone is focusing on process improvement, efficiency, etc., rather than just controls. 

    And they are much better than the efforts of a cynical freind of mine who just retired.  He offered these definitions on Facebook:  " Employees whose function is to report only what management wants to hear" and "An independent evaluation directed to reach a pre-determined conclusion".

    Let's see some more from all of you out there, examples that prove my cynical friend is wrong

  1. As Platon said, internal auditor is the gadfly of the gouvernance

  1. As Platon said, internal auditor is the gadfly of the management

    (sorry for the previous buzzword governance)

  1. It's a little longer than 12 words, but I like this quote from John Kenneth Galbraith:

    "In all life one should comfort the afflicted, but verily, also, one should afflict the comfortable, and especially when they are comfotably, contentedly, even happily wrong."

    I usually shorten it to "we comfort the afflicted, and afflict the comfortable."

  1. How about this:

    we tell how you're doing wrong or how you could do better.

  1. We don't do the do, we review and improve the do.

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