Cognitive split between concepts ”meaning of internal auditing” and ”meaning in internal auditing” paves the way to a deeper professional and personal meaningfulness in performing internal audit activities.

The success of internal auditing in an organisation is based on clear communication and agreement with the Board and senior management on the ”meaning of internal auditing”. In addition, it is rewarding to elaborate the other concept ”meaning in internal auditing” both on an internal audit activity level and on that of individual practitioners. The chief audit executive (CAE) has a pivotal role in enhancing the reflection regarding the meaning of and meaning in internal auditing for all relevant stakeholders.

Some time ago I attended an inspiring work-shop on the topical subject Meaningful work and how to lead it. The session started, naturally, with the fundamental question on the purpose of life. The instructor, Dr. Frank Martela, divided that question interestingly into two concepts: the meaning of life and the meaning in life. The first question is a universal one with apparent links to philosophy and theology, whereas the latter one relates to individuals and how they perceive their living.

And now to the brainstorm I had that very same morning: the same split can be used for internal auditing! Let me share my reflections.

Meaning Of Internal Auditing; Captured In The Professional Guidance

The meaning of internal auditing is discussed and articulated in the International Professional Practices Framework (IPPF) including the following elements:
• Mission of Internal Audit,
• Core Principles for the Professional Practice of Internal Auditing,
• Definition of Internal Auditing,
• Code of Ethics, and
• International Standards for the Professional Practice of Internal Auditing (Standards).

The professional guidance helps us to define formally the purpose, authority and responsibility of internal auditing. That´s the easy part, I think.

Meaning In Internal Auditing; Rewarding To Elaborate

According to the scientifically proofed study presented that morning, [Martela, F., Ryan, R.M. & Steger, M.F. J Happiness Stud (2017).] the meaning in life can be derived from satisfaction of Autonomy, Competence, Relatedness, and Beneficence. Now I try to apply that approach to our profession.

Meaning in internal auditing can be discussed in relation to the internal audit activity as a whole (i.e. department, group of consultants or other practitioners), and – maybe more interestingly- in relation to the individuals performing internal audit activities.

Autonomy: A Professional Corner Stone And An Important Motivation Factor

Autonomy refers to the sense of freedom. On the internal audit activity level, organisational independency is, literally by definition, one of the professional corner stones. According to the interpretation, independence is the freedom from conditions that threaten the ability of the internal audit activity to carry out internal audit responsibilities in an unbiased manner. Clearly, on internal audit activity level, the autonomy is freedom from circumstances hindering the professional conduct of internal auditing.

Autonomy is one of the most important motivation factors for work performance. Opposite to the internal audit activity level freedom from certain conditions, the freedom on individual level is maybe more freedom to something. That something could be the opportunity to be able to take advantage of one´s inherent personal characteristics and values. Freedom to play with his or her own strengths in internal auditing is one performance success factor and a source for finding the personal meaning in internal auditing.

Competence: A Professional Necessity And Source Of Fulfilment

Competence is also strongly highlighted as proficiency and due professional care in the Standards. The internal audit activity collectively must possess or obtain the knowledge, skills, and other competencies needed to perform its responsibilities.

This activity level competence is manifested through diverse background of auditors, quality assurance and improvement program in place, and obtained professional designations. Competence and more specifically sense of it is a great motivator. Everyone likes to do thinks he or she is good at. Experiences of success in challenging tasks and circumstances are important. That also refer to the own desire to learn and educate oneself further continuously. Appetite to maintain and increase professional competence is a clear demonstration that an auditor is perceiving personally the meaning in internal auditing. This is an apparent prerequisite for successful conduct of internal auditing.

Relatedness: Staying Relevant And Connected

Relatedness calls for relationships. The spirit of the Standards speaks for internal auditing as a team work with a collective set of knowledge, skills and other competences to meet the responsibilities of an internal audit activity. Relatedness is also emphasised especially for the Chief Audit Executive to maintain effective communication and reporting relationships to the Board, Senior Management and other stakeholders.

On the individual and personal level, feeling related is vital for high work motivation. Besides the relatedness to the IA activity, it is crucial that an auditor feels connected to and relevant in the organisation he or she is working for. However, the personal meaning in internal auditing can be jeopardised if the auditor feels that his or her role and mandate (i.e. meaning of internal auditing) in the organisation is not fully recognised.

Beneficence: Adding Value

Beneficence is ability and willingness to contribute. On the internal audit activity level this is written in the professional DNA as it is summarised in the mission of the profession: To enhance and protect organizational value by providing risk-based and objective assurance, advice, and insight. The definition is also emphasising the adding value dimension: The internal audit activity adds value to the organization (and its stakeholders) when it provides objective and relevant assurance, and contributes to the effectiveness and efficiency of governance, risk management, and control processes.

Beneficence refers to the human need to make meaningful contributions to the others. This again is a strong motivation factor to an auditor: to see that his or her work has an impact on the performance of the organisation. Another arena where an internal auditor is able to contribute is the profession as a whole and the work of local Institutes of Internal Auditing in particular. That is rewarding. Being an active contributor both in organisational and professional settings can be a sign of finding the meaning in internal auditing.

How would you and your internal audit activity describe the meaning in internal auditing?
What could be the professional and personal development process to identify and remove those constraints that limit the likelihood to fully perceive the meaning in internal auditing?


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