I have seen people tense up and metaphorically hold their cards to their chest when you approach them as an internal auditor. When I tell them that together we are trying to assess if things are working around here and to see if they could be improved people lighten up. I am not auditing them as people I am auditing the process and procedures that have been wrapped around them to allow them to do their jobs in order to see if they are effective and to see if they can be improved. Just as importantly I am asking the very people charged with executing the procedures if they think they can can be improved. When asked to do some internal auditing for a customer recently, I attended site and was immediately met with some suspicion by the site manager who had assumed I was there to catch him out. Nothing could have been further from the truth. When I didn’t pull out the dreaded “checklist” and didn’t start by going through his site file his mood started to change. When I just started a conversation and asked him how he was finding things, how the office was supporting him, and how easy his job was made by their new integrated management system he opened up completely. We had a very productive chat and lo and behold he had some great suggestions for, yes, improvements. Now of course there were things that had to be checked in the conventional sense, especially around health and safety, and environmental issues as the company was contractually bound to do certain things. And the business had as a whole decided that certain reports were expected from the site to the office. But they were details; admittedly important details and some issues arose that had to be put right. The main point was that with a focus on what was effective for the site manager in terms of giving him the wherewithal to do his job properly a very productive “audit” ensued. Instead of asking are you doing such and such, ask why are you doing it, and what would happen if you did it differently. When you are speaking to the people at the coalface ask them how they would like things to be improved. What irritates them? Are they being listened to?