• Auditing Leadership: A Challenge and a Privilege


Auditing Leadership: A Challenge and a Privilege


Colin Gray, President, Cavendish Scott, Inc., Denver, CO, USA


Top Management, Auditing, Leadership





Top management obviously has a key role in the success of any organization. Like everywhere in the organization, in order to be reliable and successful, Management needs to perform activities as defined and documented processes. The strategic processes that define the organization and specifically address ISO topics are the true origins and objectives of the management system.

Top management have always been a part of ISO because they are a part of the organization. They shape it and they define the system for management. They are the system for management. The current content of ISO gives a much stronger requirement for the involvement of management, processes, detailed responsibilities and accountability. And leadership!

In order to verify that the management system is effective and always improving, it is audited. More important processes should probably be audited more frequently and/or more thoroughly and they don’t come more important than top management processes.

Auditing top management is a privilege. Their insight, intuition and leadership engages the organization and causes it's direction and success. They are usually articulate, informed and interesting. While the audit has clear objectives, there is usually time for some supporting stories. This is an opportunity for the auditor to learn more real life secrets of management and leadership from people who do it every day.

Auditing top management is challenging. They rarely have a lot of time available, ISO sometimes takes a low priority. Internal auditors frequently have limited training and experience of auditing and they don’t get time for proper preparation. They are often not part of management and have limited exposure to management processes.

Auditors frequently don’t have time to insist on evidence and accept what they are being told. Distinguishing between specific examples of evidence and repeatable processes is difficult at top management levels and auditors are often uncomfortable challenging or writing findings.

Management do not get the feedback they need to be assured how good their processes are, or… to highlight risks and opportunities for improvement in their activities.

Some practical techniques can be used to ensure top management is audited thoroughly and get the feedback they should have - and maybe to ensure auditors enjoy the prerogative of talking with some talented and interested people.

Opportunities frequently exist to maximize auditing of top management. Better auditors will always help the situation and a variety of options exist for auditor development. Management can also be better prepared to be audited and better audit preparation in general will also yield benefits. Audit and interview technique are critical and different with top management and they need to be among the best auditor performances. Knowledge of management processes and responsibilities is essential to be able to facilitate comfortable discussion, and understanding and evaluation of the evidence is critical to challenging (or supporting) management's position. Conclusions need to be clear, logical and supported by evidence. Management need feedback.

This presentation will discuss all these topics, expanding the detail in each and provide practical examples and solutions in all. It will focus on the examples, solutions and opportunities that exist when auditing top management. It will give real life examples and suggest approaches and techniques to different audit situations.