Book Summary - Lessons from the Audit Trail by Richard F. Chambers

Lessons Learned from the Audit Trail by Richard F. Chambers, President and CEO of The Institute of Internal Auditors, is an engaging blend of an autobiographical accounting of an industry trail blazer combined with a business handbook to help anyone who has or wants a career in internal auditing.

Cynthia Cooper writes in the foreword, “Richard champions high professional standards and ethical conduct, and his passion for the internal audit profession comes through on every page. He shares often hard-won lessons learned while on the audit trail, and principles that can help you transform your career, take advantage of opportunities, and be well-prepared for the challenges ahead.” 

After recounting his background and how his career developed over the last forty years, Richard discusses what it takes to be an exceptional internal auditor or chief audit executive. He thoroughly explores important characteristics like integrity, innovation, communication and ethics and how they relate to both roles. He also describes many key issues that are central to the profession today – everything from understanding stakeholders and building relationships to risk management and reporting.

Readers who are new to the profession, as well as seasoned vets, will certainly appreciate Richard’s depth of expertise when it comes to auditing techniques and best practices. He provides real world examples of internal auditing in action to illustrate what worked…and what didn’t. He also explains the extraordinary value that this function brings to any company’s table and he reinforces how important it is for CIAs and CAEs to deliver that value.

Throughout the book, Richard highlights 35 “life lessons” that provide readers with valuable takeaways, such as:


You measure success not by where you ultimately arrive, but by the journey from where you started. 


You make your own breaks. If you are not willing to try anything new, success may pass you by.


It is the CAE’s responsibility to develop with his or her team a comprehensive strategic plan for providing real value to internal audit’s stakeholders and meeting their expectations.


For internal auditors, it is absolutely necessary
 not only to be able to articulate a problem—what the potential impact is and how it can be fixed—but also 
to inspire corrective action. If we fail to inspire change, the entire audit process is a waste of time.


Don’t become paralyzed by fear of failure; a person’s character and confidence are built mainly by overcoming adversity.


He concludes with an assessment of where the profession began compared to where it is now. “The flexibility and resilience of internal auditors have been tested many times in recent decades. Some of the change has been evolutionary, but some has been revolutionary…we are not what we used to be. Regardless of how the lives of future internal auditors might differ from ours, I expect our profession to continue adding value as long as those in it approach their work with open minds and positive attitudes. I believe that, above all, the internal auditor of the future will be an agent for positive change.

For more internal auditing insights and wisdom, visit Richard’s blog, Chambers on the Profession.

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