So my team and I have just despatched our latest set of audit committee papers for our last audit committee meeting before the Summer. Producing audit committee papers, I was reflecting, is part of the rhythmic heartbeat of any auditor’s life. It’s been part of mine for nearly 20 years. The Summer break, however, got me thinking about what it would be like not to have that.
I like the Summer. Yes the longer days, the sunshine, the general positivity of being in nicer weather. I like it as an auditor, especially as it gives me a chance to do audit work without the ‘distraction’ of reporting to a committee or the senior management team, and in my current role, ministers. Sure people in the audit team are on holiday, but there are always some around at any point in time. My current team is split between London and Glasgow, so even these holiday periods are naturally staggered. Yet there just seems to be a little more quiet time to do project work. To sit, pause, think, and gather our collective thoughts.
I was asked to do a lessons learned paper about my and my team’s work this week. I think we as a team are a learning team and I am a learning individual. As a consequence sitting and doing a lessons learned thing seems alien to me as we and I learn and adapt constantly. Every audit and counter fraud investigation is a project, from which we learn, tweak, adapt and improve. Yet the stepping back, in the space that Summer affords, does strike me as a useful thing. A chance to pull together and enhancement plan, a set of lessons from the audits and counter fraud work of the year.
Summer will also be a time to reflect on my team. Where do we need to be? What does next year demand? How best will we be shaped to meet that demand? I am not one to leap to restructure, as this is often an attempt to look busy and is a lazy way of creating change. There may be some restructure, but actually I think our team collectively thinking about what the future looks like will be important.
So whilst Summer, our Q2, can appear relatively quiet, actually in audit terms it is when the fieldwork really gets done and change and enhancements to the processes and systems are able to be done. Our CEO likes to suggest or at least, post Summer share, his Summer reading. I think, for those of my team not studying (and most will have sat examinations this month) it’s a good chance to take some reading on. At present there is precious little new thinking I’ve seen in internal audit. No one is really pushing the profession on, or doing the blue sky stuff. Perhaps Summer might be a chance for us collectively to write, rather than read?
I am now also a member of three audit committees. This is a great thing for any auditor, to be the other side of the table. It’s a chance to engage with other auditors, which I think is a good thing, a chance to have a sense of what it is like to be a non executive (it’s a hard role actually). There are lots of charities, housing associations etc. that need good audit input, I would recommend all auditors do one as part of their public service as well as professional development. I will have had my first taste of these committees before Summer comes along, so Summer will be a chance to reflect on these initial experiences and then engage with the organisations fully in the next year.
So yes Summer is, for many, a chance to refresh and recharge batteries, but in audit I think it’s a crucial period for the heavy lifting that makes a real difference to the rest of the year, to be done. Yet I would not be without the rhythm of audit committee cycles. All professions have them (management accountants, IT, marketing, HR etc), they also give a real framework within which to work and organise yourself. So yes Summer, for me, is a great period of structure free reflection, which I intend to use well this year but I will look forward to the start of the new ‘term’.
So what will you be doing for your Summer?