Why are we meeting? What are the objectives of the self-assessment meeting?
Defining the meeting objectives is the most important aspect of planning a self-assessment meeting. This requires members of the audit team to meet with the auditee in advance to determine their needs and wants. For example, the auditee may ask the auditor to facilitate a self-assessment meeting at the organizational level designed to:
- Identify, source and measure the business risks threatening the company's strategic business objectives.
- Evaluate the design and operating effectiveness of the management control structure when supporting the company's business strategy and reducing business risks to an acceptable level.
- Identify and prioritize opportunities for eliminating control deficiencies and improving the cost-effectiveness of the management control structure.
In addition, the process owner (auditee) may ask the auditor to facilitate one or more self-assessment meetings at the business process level designed to:
- Identify, source and measure the business risks threatening the achievement of business process objectives.
- Evaluate the design and operating effectiveness of business process controls when supporting process objectives and reducing business risks to an acceptable level.
- Identify and prioritize opportunities for eliminating control deficiencies and improving the cost-effectiveness of business process controls.
Clearly defined and measurable objectives establish the framework for conducting the meetings and evaluating the outcomes of the meetings. The facilitator is responsible for establishing a contract with the participants at the beginning of the meetings to achieve the specified self-assessment objectives. The facilitator is also responsible for directing the meetings toward successful outcomes.
What are natural topics for discussion? What is the logical way to examine self-assessment issues?
The internal audit team must organize the flow of the self-assessment meeting in a manner that:
- Establishes the major focal points for the discussion
- Focuses the participants' attention on the key issues
The organization of the discussion will often be influenced by the participants’ needs and wants. For example, a self-assessment meeting could be organized around:
- A pre-determined topic affecting top management (e.g., foreign-exchange risks faced by the company)
- Consideration of a specific control model used by the company (e.g., the COSO control model described in Internal Control – Integrated Framework issued by the Committee of Sponsoring Organizations of the Treadway Commission)
- The key objectives or functional activities of a business process
The facilitator divides the major self-assessment issues into more manageable subtopics for discussion, using the basic elements of the process or issue as a discussion guide.
How will we gather the right information? What questions will we ask during the self-assessment meeting?
Clearly articulated meeting objectives establish the foundation for defining the right questions to use during a self-assessment meeting. The key to gathering the right information is asking the right discussion and voting questions.
The internal audit team should prepare self-assessment discussion questions prior to the meetings that address the current state of the business ("what is") and opportunities for improvement ("what should be"). The questions should be designed to focus participants' attention on the key self-assessment issues. In general, the questions should be what an auditor would ask client management during one-on-one interviews. For example, a facilitator might ask the following questions to elicit discussion about the risks of a business process:
- What are the key objectives of the process?
- What are the significant consequences of not achieving these objectives?
- What are the root causes of risks threatening the achievement of the key business objectives?
- How likely is it that these root causes will lead to significant adverse consequences if they are not adequately controlled?
In what order will we complete the major steps of the self-assessment meeting? What is our agenda?
Once the internal audit team has defined the objectives of the meeting, established the major topics or issues around the focus of discussion, and formulated the questions that will be used to lead the discussion, they should organize these elements in the form of a flow chart that represents the expected flow of the self-assessment meeting.
How do we form the meeting agenda?
Once the four elements of your self-assessment meeting have been defined, the elements can be combined to form the meeting agenda. The agenda should be formed in a manner that is presentable and acceptable to the participants. Once the agenda is agreed upon, the next steps are to set up the meeting (select and invite participants, organize logistics, etc.).
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