You Get What You Monitor . . . What Are You Not Getting?

As a recovering auditor, who still carries scars from the first years of Sarbanes-Oxley implementation, I’m well trained on the importance of monitoring. I can preach the elements of the COSO framework and evaluate processes for broken or missing controls. However, it was not until I put my auditing ways behind me and moved into management that I began to see monitoring in a whole new light.

Monitoring provides accountability. We are accustomed to thinking about this accountability for internal controls, but it applies to other management responsibilities as well, such as: performance, quality and efficiency.

About 18 months ago our department decided we would start tracking time so that we could better plan projects. The team member who built and monitored our time tracking system diligently emailed weekly reminders to everyone, and followed up with anyone who forgot to submit their timesheet. However when the time monitoring job moved to a new person, they only sent reminders to staff. As a result at least one manager *guilty look* quickly stopped filing his time reports.

What changed? I knew the importance of time tracking. I was no busier than before. But there was no monitoring. As a result, time tracking quickly dropped from my priority list.

Our global finance function routinely has to gather information and enforce policies across scores of country offices. When one of these information gathering process is not functioning properly the temptation is to mandate better performance (send out an email and tell everyone how important the process is). However in the situations where we have implemented regular monthly monitoring of the process, and tied the results to office leadership’s scorecards, the improvements were dramatic. I had one office leader tell me that he had no idea that some of these areas were so important.

Sometimes processes are not broken, they are just not prioritized. When people are faced with more tasks than can reasonably complete, they shift effort and attention away from the lower priorities. Monitoring communicates, emphasizes and enforces priorities. Management can use monitoring as a tool to help the organization prioritize those tasks which will yield the desired results.

Yes, Monitoring is important for a sound internal control environment. But I’ve learned that it is much bigger. Monitoring can be a key to driving operational and organizational success as well.


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