communication teamwork tracie marquardt

From Vague to Value-Added: An Audit Report Writing Success Story

Wow! This morning I reviewed the first audit report from a team that has been working for a year on designing and implementing a new audit methodology and reporting framework. The results are impressive.

  • A shorter report overall
  • An executive summary that clearly highlights the main audit findings and risk to the business
  • Factual and persuasive findings
  • Action-oriented recommendations that will be easy to follow up
  • A satisfied Head of Audit for a global financial powerhouse

It’s results like this that drive me to keep doing what I do: Sharing my proven techniques and strategies to write more clear, concise and persuasive audit reports. But it’s the journey to these results that motivates me to share such a successful result.

The need for change

I started working with this organization a year ago. The Head of Audit came to me knowing their reports needed to be shorter, add more value to the business, and result in fewer and shorter reconciliation discussions. The added complexity of this project? The organization consists of five legal entities in a highly regulated industry in multiple countries.

Audit reports were typically over 20 pages long, with single-spaced text, and pages more of appendices. A lot was written, but it was vague, wordy and barely actionable.

And this client had an additional challenge: Reports were sometimes issued five months after the audit because of pushback from auditees and an unwritten policy to have management agree to every finding.

Addressing the pain

As for any team desiring to get to the next level, it started with support from the top. The new Head of Audit had a clear vision of what needed to change, and worked with her team to identify and agree pain points and areas for improvement.

I interviewed auditors at every location to better understand how they create their audit reports and what challenges they faced from each legal entity and in each location. We shared with the audit teams the outcomes that would result, and what the impact would be: to the auditors themselves, to their auditees, and to the organization as a whole.

A team of change agents was assigned to the project including committed team members from audit, an audit methodology specialist, and an audit communications specialist.

Winning over hearts and minds

We began our work together with a three-hour presentation on where to start making changes in their report writing, from content, language, and style to the impact of culture. It was dipping our toes into the changes to come. Using their own reports as examples held up the mirror so they could see how change would look.

Then we ran audit report writing training sessions with 40 auditors. Two-dayInternational Audit Report Writing workshops were held off-site, with team building activities in the evening. Coaching of actual reports with feedback followed, for both individuals and report writing teams.

We even ran a calibration session for the five senior audit team members responsible for reviewing and giving feedback to the remaining 35 auditors. As a result, the entire audit team will receive consistent feedback no matter who the reviewer is.

A recipe for success

Over 40 people have come together to achieve the impressive results of this project: a veritable village.

  • The Head of Audit led with her passion, commitment and belief in the project.
  • Every auditor participated in the process.
  • Communication throughout the change process was consistent and continual.

Add in a couple of experts, a LOT of time and effort, and a supportive, inclusive environment, and you have a recipe for successful change that can continue long after the experts have left the building.

Consistent results over the long haul

To sustain this improvement over time, the Head of Audit, the audit team leaders and the entire audit team must consistently work to the new standards that have been agreed.

This means meaningful reviews of audit reports before they are published, with feedback in line with the standards and learning from the last year. Using their new Audit Report Writing Style Guide I developed from our work together will help them stay on track.

Keeping team members motivated and inspired to continue achieving value-added results for the audit team and the organization will also serve to keep their momentum going. The benefits of writing more efficiently, getting easier agreement on findings and recommendations, and achieving shorter audit report turnaround times are sure to support this goal.

Achieving these results for your team

If you want your audit reports to be clearer, more concise and more persuasive, now might just be the right time for an assessment of your current audit reports. Are they achieving the results you want for your team and the organization? Contact me today to find out.

All the best,

Tracie Marquardt

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Tracie Marquardt

I've been living outside of my home country for over 20 years. I've lived in 3 countries and 10 cities. Falling in love with Paris is what led me to Europe (and I go back often). I think Germany is an amazing country, and a great hub from which to travel to the rest of Europe. I started my own business in the Heidelberg region in 2013. My mission is helping international professionals communicate their key messages clearly and concisely in English. I believe that language and culture are huge factors in the success of our communication, and must be taken into account when we interact with and build relationships with others. By networking together from around the world, we are able to build bridges, add value to each others lives, and I hope, contribute to each others success in life, no matter how that success is defined. So let's get started!