The Grandfather Dialogues
Must the Auditor be a Nice Guy, Grandfather?
by Larry Sawyer
IIA 1974

"The manager became part of the auditing operation. He contributed
to the audit results - he didn't just accept them."

Must the Auditor be a Nice Guy, Grandfather? (Chapter Fourteen)

Grandfather, remember when we talked about some people not liking internal auditors?

Indeed I do, Randy.

You said that the most important thing is for the internal auditor to be a nice guy.

If I gave that impression then I'm sorry, Randy. That's not the most important thing.

It isn't?

No, Sir. The important thing is for the auditor to get his job done and get it done right.

I don't understand.

Well, look at it this way. What does management pay the internal auditor to do?

To audit, I suppose.

Precisely. Not to be a nice guy - but to audit. Now, if the auditor will get his job done better by being nice and by not upsetting people, by understanding them and their needs - great. But first and foremost he must get his job done.

But if he gets his job done easier by being nice, isn't that a good thing?

It helps. But that isn't all.

You're mixing me up.

I don't mean to. It's just that being nice isn't enough.

You'll have to explain that, Grandfather.

0. K. Suppose you lost your baseball mitt in your sister Karen's room.

That would be the end of my mitt. She'd never let me in to find it. As a matter of fact, I don't know how it could have gotten into her room in the first place.

Now, now, this is just a suppose.

0. K.

Now suppose you were so sweet and charming to her-

Fat chance.

- that she let you into her room to look for it. What would that be?

A miracle.

Stop being a wise guy. That would be acquiescence.

What does that mean?

It means to accept or to comply - but passively, without showing agreement or real cooperation.

If I got even that from Karen it would be a miracle.

Don't be so negative. Now, suppose you went beyond acquiescence and got her to help you find the mitt.

That would be a double-barreled, brass-bound, blue-tailed miracle to end all miracles. How would I ever get her to do that?

Convince her it's to her advantage to find the mitt.

She couldn't care less.

Suppose you convinced her that if she let the mitt lay around it could make a nice nesting place for mice. Or that if Cecelia, the cat, found it she'd claw out the stuffing and mess up Karen's room. Or that if your Mom found it, she'd accuse Karen of having hidden the mitt from you.

Hey, that might work.

Would it be better than just acquiescence?



Because there'd be two of us looking for the mitt and because she knows more about her room than I do.

Splendid. That's the difference between acquiescence and cooperation. And exactly the same situation applies to auditing.


If the auditor is nice, the people will let him into their organization and let him look around to his heart's content.

What's wrong with that?

It's just like the example of the baseball mitt. He'd be looking all by himself. He'd be scouting around in somebody else's room. He'd be getting acquiescence - not hearty cooperation.

How does he get cooperation?

By pointing out to management that he's out to help. That his services can be useful to management. That management is in effect getting a business consultant for free. That if he and management formedĀ· a problem-solving partnership, then management would be getting a lot more out of the auditor's services. If he gets these ideas across, then he'll be getting hearty cooperation instead of just acquiescence.

Is this really done?

Not as much as it should be. But one case comes to mind.

Can you tell me about it?

I'd be delighted to. The auditor was making an audit in the Standard Tool Control Department.

Was that the same audit you talked about when you told me about solving problems?

Yes. But that story told about zeroing in on the solution of the problem. This story is about the preliminary work that led to the solution - that part of the audit where it was necessary to obtain cooperation in order to get the needed evidence.

Okay. But I'm not sure I remember all the details. What were these standard tools?

Files, drill bits, drill motors, burring machines, micrometers, and the like. They were stored in tool cribs.

What do they do with them?

Crib attendants in the tool cribs lend the tools out to the workers to use in manufacturing products.

What if the workers need the same tool day after day?

Then the crib attendant lends those tools out to a production supervisor who keeps them in a locked cabinet.

I remember now. The production supervisor is then responsible for the tools in the cabinet.

Right. The crib attendant is responsible for the tools in the crib and the production supervisor is responsible for the tools in his cabinet.

Oh, yes, the auditor found that the cabinets were a mess.

You do remember, don't you, Randy.

Some of it. But I don't remember how the auditor knew what to look for.

The rules for maintaining cabinets were very strict, and the auditor had studied the rules and knew how to look for violations.

For example.

Well, there's supposed to be a chart hung on the cabinet door, showing each compartment in the cabinet as well as the tool number of the tool that's supposed to be in the compartment.

What else?

There should be a compartment number on each compartment. There's supposed to be a tool number stencilled on the compartment to which the tool is assigned.

Any more?

There are supposed to be locks on the doors and a lot of other things.

Were the cabinets kept that way?

A lot of them were not. Doors were left unlocked, compartments were unmarked, tools were missing. You name it - the auditor found it.

Why didn't the manager of Standard Tool Control do something about it?

The auditor asked him that.

What did he say?

He said that he was responsible for the cribs and that the Production people were responsible for the cabinets. But even so he said that he used to have his people examine the cabinets and write letters about the bad ones. But nothing was ever done about them.

So what did the auditor do?

He told the manager that the Production supervisors may not have been given good instructions on how to keep their cabinets right. Maybe they needed some help.

As I remember it, Grandfather, the solution to the problem was that the supervisors weren't being charged for lost tools.

Right. But the auditor hadn't found the solution yet. He was still gathering facts.

Well, what did the manager say?

He said he'd work with the auditor in any way he could. The auditor had gotten to his self-interest. They were beginning to form a problem-solving partnership.

Then what happened?

The auditor suggested that he take two photographs: One of a well-kept cabinet and one of a messy cabinet. They could then use them as examples of how cabinets should and should not be kept. Then the auditor asked him if he'd help.

What did the manager say?

He was delighted. He went out with the auditor and showed him what were good and what were bad examples. He paved the way for the auditor with the Production managers and he stood by as the auditor took the pictures.

Then what?

He examined the pictures and explained the good points of the good cabinet and the bad points of the bad cabinet.

So he really helped, didn't he?

You bet. He didn't just acquiesce. He personally participated. He got away from his desk. He tramped around the factory with the auditor. He found examples much sooner than the auditor would. And then later, when the auditor found some problems right at his own doorstep, he was just as cooperative and helpful in trying to clean them up.

And how did this help in finally solving the problem you told me about last time?

The pictures helped get people's attention. It proved that the condition really existed. It managed to get cooperation in other areas as well.

But what does that have to do with being a nice guy or not being a nice guy?

I'm just trying to show that being nice is all right, but that it's not the end. Just being nice will get you acquiescence. But it may not get you cooperation. And hearty cooperation is much more important than indifferent acquiescence. The manager became part of the auditing operation. He contributed to the audit results - he didn't just accept them.

Sounds great. But the auditor had a selling job to do, didn't he?

What have I told you about that?

How can I ever forget: Nothing ever happens until somebody sells something.

Exactly. If you're not a salesman you're not a modern internal auditor.

0. K., Grandfather. I'm going to try your system. I think I'll throw a baseball through Karen's window and see if she'll help me find it.

Audit Wisdom