This article introduce Guidelines for auditing management systems (ISO 19011:2018) in particular it is providing an overview of desired attributes and professional behavior of individuals conducting the audit of management systems.
Confidence in the audit process and the ability to achieve its objective depends on the competence, attributes, personal behavior and skills of auditors as well as the experts supporting the audit team. Auditing profession relies on consistent adherence to auditing principles as described below and there is no excuse if those are not followed.
Professional behavior described in this article also provides the right direction for all professionals on how to perform, despite the job and industry they are coming from. Before we go deep in the auditor’s professional behavior, we shall look at the auditing principles proposed to be integrated into auditing system and performance.
Auditing is characterized by reliance on a number of principles. These principles should help to make the audit an effective and reliable tool in support of management policies and controls implementation. Where auditors are deployed independently from one to another, the adoption of principles ensures reaching similar conclusions in similar circumstances by each auditor. Adherence to these principles is required in order to make an independent, relevant and unambiguous audit conclusion.
There are 7 auditing principles:
- Integrity: the foundation of professionalism
- Fair presentation: the obligation to report truthfully and accurately
- Due professional care: the application of diligence and judgement in auditing
- Confidentiality: security of information
- Independence: the basis for the impartiality of the audit and objectivity of the audit conclusions
- Evidence-based approach: the rational method for reaching reliable and reproducible audit conclusions in a systematic audit process
- Risk-based approach: an audit approach that considers risks and opportunities
Besides of adherence to auditing principles, it is also critical for auditors to have outstanding professional behavior that certainly determines the audit efficiency. Furthermore, auditors are also expected to have a solid understanding of management standards and information regarding the auditee such as organization’s context, products and services, applicable statutory and regulatory requirements and more. However, personal attributes and professional behavior is an open filed for all professionals, auditors in particular, to consistently improve considering new learning and past performance.
Desired professional behavior includes being:
Ethical – fair, truthful, sincere, honest and discreet: Auditor should not draw conclusions if there are no objective evidences. Auditors don’t make a situation sound more difficult than it is, but also does not minimize significance of objective evidence out of fear it will not be well received. Also, auditors shall exercise discretion in the use and protection of information acquired in the course of their duties.
Open-minded – willing to consider alternative ideas or points of view: Different points of view should be considered as an audit is also a learning opportunity. The open-minded auditor takes auditee judgements into considerations and further asks open questions and looks to learn more about the organization from the auditee. With this approach, auditor is able to see the good practices and does not make conclusions by assuming the worst beforehand.
Diplomatic – tactful in dealing with individuals: Auditors should practice the art of dealing with people in a sensitive and tactful way. Evaluate a situation before speaking or acting. Paying close attention to the language used in phrasing questions, can determine if the auditee’s response will be informative or confrontational. Auditors’ manner and attitude is always respectful.
Versatile – able to readily adapt to different situations: occasionally the audit schedule is changed, unplanned leaves, production has stopped, customers are calling, etc. and the audit is ongoing. This is an opportunity for an auditor to see how well the organization controls their processes which are running out of routine.
Decisive – able to reach timely conclusions based on logical reasoning and analysis: Once the objective evidences have been gathered, the auditor must be able to conclude on the spot that either the process is established and conforms to requirements or it doesn’t.
According to the Guidelines, the following important auditor’s professional behaviors are expected as well:
Observant, i.e. actively observing physical surroundings and activities;
Self-reliant, i.e. able to act and function independently while interacting effectively with others;
Able to act with fortitude, i.e. able to act responsibly and ethically, even though these audit actions may not always be well received and sometimes could result in disagreement or confrontation;
Collaborative, i.e. effectively interacting with others, including audit team members and the auditees’ personnel
Perceptive, i.e. aware of and be able to understand situations;
Tenacious, i.e. persistent and focused on achieving objectives;
Open to improvement, i.e. willing to learn from situations;
Culturally sensitive, i.e. observant and respectful to the culture of the auditee;
Discussed behaviors are far more than “nice to have” and there are more desired skills and personal qualities, such as relationship building, excellent communication skills, time management, etc. which are important for auditing professionals to perform and excel. Having said that, self-awareness of personal qualities and flaws is a key effort in career development and outstanding performance of every auditor and professional.
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