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  • Jennifer M Mueller-Phillips
    Facilitating Brainstorming: Impact of Task Representation on...
    research summary posted May 31, 2016 by Jennifer M Mueller-Phillips, tagged 05.0 Audit Team Composition, 05.09 Group Decision-Making, 06.0 Risk and Risk Management, Including Fraud Risk, 06.08 SAS No. 99 Brainstorming – effectiveness, 09.0 Auditor Judgment 
    Facilitating Brainstorming: Impact of Task Representation on Auditors’ Identification of Potential Frauds
    Practical Implications:

    The results of this study are important due to the requirement of members of the audit engagement team to identify potential fraud. The results of this study identify a method of improving auditor performance of identifying potential frauds at both the individual brainstorming stage and the subsequent group brainstorming stage. Because the effectiveness of the group brainstorming session is dependent on the quality and quantity of inputs from the individual auditor brainstorming sessions, the present study suggests a simple intervention regarding task representation to improve the performance of these inputs. Specifically, auditors considering potential fraud categories (e.g., revenue recognition, inventory, etc.) one by one, as opposed to all at once, identify a greater quantity and quality of potential frauds. By improving both the individual and group brainstorming stages, auditors are less likely to overlook potential fraud.


    Chen, W., A. S. Khalifa, and K. T. Trotman. 2015. Facilitating brainstorming: Impact of task representation on auditors’ identification of potential frauds. Auditing: A Journal of Practice & Theory 34 (3): 1-22.

    Brainstorming; task representation; fraud identification; fraud risk assessments
    Purpose of the Study:

    Members of audit engagement teams are required by auditing standards to discuss the client’s susceptibility to potential frauds, usually referred to as “brainstorming.” The purpose of this study is to examine individual auditor brainstorming prior to the brainstorming session of the group. The specific preparation stage prior to a group brainstorming session is an important input to the group session itself and may alter the effectiveness of the subsequent group brainstorming session. The authors of the study predict that a sequential unpacking approach (consideration of fraud categories one by one) to identifying potential fraud improves the quantity and quality of potential frauds identified at both the individual brainstorming stage and the group brainstorming stage.

    Design/Method/ Approach:

    The experimental evidence was collected prior to 2013 at either the Melbourne or the Sydney office of a Big 4 firm in Australia. The experimental design was a 2 x 1 between-subjects design with task representation manipulated as sequential unpacking (categories considered one by one) or simultaneous unpacking (categories considered at once). Auditor participants included seniors, assistant managers, and managers with an overall average of 4.83 years of audit experience.

    • The authors find that sequential unpacking improves auditor performance at the individual brainstorming stage compared to simultaneous unpacking.
    • The authors find that auditors in the sequential unpacking treatment tend to distribute identified potential frauds across categories more evenly than those in the simultaneous unpacking treatment.
    • The authors find the benefits of sequential unpacking to extend beyond individual brainstorming to the group brainstorming session.
    • The authors find that the perceived likelihood of fraud is lower for auditors in the sequential unpacking treatment than those in the simultaneous unpacking treatment.
    Audit Team Composition, Auditor Judgment, Risk & Risk Management - Including Fraud Risk
    Group Decision-Making, SAS No. 99 Brainstorming – effectiveness
  • Jennifer M Mueller-Phillips
    Group judgment and decision making in auditing: Past and...
    research summary posted February 17, 2016 by Jennifer M Mueller-Phillips, tagged 05.0 Audit Team Composition, 05.09 Group Decision-Making, 09.0 Auditor Judgment, 09.09 Impact of Consultation on Judgments, 09.11 Auditor judgment in the workpaper review process 
    Group judgment and decision making in auditing: Past and future research.
    Practical Implications:

    The insights highlighted in this paper from research on audit groups/teams inform one’s understanding of how best to design group interactions between auditors within the firm and with professionals outside the audit firm, including management, audit committees, and inspectors. These insights are important given the criticism audit firms have faced from regulators and inspectors over the past decade and the multi-person setting present in auditing. Further, while a large literature exists on single-person decision-making, these studies may not generalize to multi-person settings. The review also highlights the need for continued research in this area and the importance audit practitioner involvement with future research efforts.


    Trotman, K., T. Bauer, and K. Humphreys. 2015. Group judgment and decision making in auditing: Past and future research. Accounting, Organizations and Society 47: 56-72.

    Review process, brainstorming, consultation
    Purpose of the Study:

    This paper examines experimental research on audit groups/teams. The paper focuses on three main areas: 1) the hierarchical review process, 2) brainstorming as part of the fraud detection planning process, and 3) consultation within firms. The authors define research on audit groups/team as those papers where two or more individuals within the audit firm interact with one another face-to-face, electronically, or where on person prepares/reviews working papers for another. In addition to summarizing research to date in each of the three areas, the authors suggest directions for future research within the three areas as well as future research on within-firm group interactions. These areas include shared mental models, audit team diversity, and interactions with groups outside the audit firm, such as audit committees.

    Design/Method/ Approach:

    The paper summarizes research on group audit JDM experimental studies published in Accounting, Organizations, and SocietyContemporary Accounting ResearchJournal of Accounting Research, and The Accounting Review from 1970 through 2015. Relevant working papers are also discussed.


    Note: Given the breadth of this review paper, only select subsections are summarized below.

    • Hierarchical review process:
      • What performance gains result from the review process?
        • The review process generally improves audit effectiveness.
        • However, it is not always effective as biases may not be mitigated by the review process, such as the recency effect.
      • Alternative forms of the review process: Includes research on comparing reviews with and without discussion, specialized versus all-encompassing reviews, and electronic versus face-to-face reviews.
      • Effects of the preparer on the review process:  
        • Studies investigate the attributes of the preparer and the effects of preparer stylization on the review process.  
        • Overall, preparer attributes and stylization have a significant impact on the review process.
    • Brainstorming:
      • Face-to-face interacting versus nominal brainstorming: Nominal groups generate more unique ideas than face-to-face interacting groups, due to process losses (e.g., production blocking) occurring in the face-to-face interacting context.
      • Interacting face-to-face brainstorming compared to alternate brainstorming formats: While unstructured face-to-face brainstorming is the most common method used by audit firms, other methods (e.g., providing guidelines or instructions) outperform this unstructured method with respect to the quantity of fraud risks identified and fraud hypotheses generated.
      • Electronic brainstorming:  
        • Positive consequences of electronic brainstorming include minimizing production blocking and evaluation apprehension, however social loafing is a potential negative consequence.
        • Evidence supports the claim that electronic brainstorming is superior to face-to-face interaction, however as with non-electronic brainstorming, nominal electronic brainstorming outperforms interacting electronic brainstorming.
    • Consultation within firms:
      • Willingness to follow consulting advice: Auditors tend to incorporate advice received, however receiving advice can increase the tendency to follow aggressive client preferences.
      • Willingness to seek consulting advice: In general, auditors are more likely and willing to consult when related risk is high.
    Audit Team Composition, Auditor Judgment
    Auditor judgment in the workpaper review process, Group Decision-Making, Impact of Consultation on Judgments
  • The Auditing Section
    Globalization and the Coordinating of Work in Multinational...
    research summary last edited May 25, 2012 by The Auditing Section, tagged 05.0 Audit Team Composition, 05.05 Diversity of Skill Sets e.g., Tenure and Experience, 05.09 Group Decision-Making, 10.0 Engagement Management, 10.03 Interaction among Team Members 
    Globalization and the Coordinating of Work in Multinational Audits
    Practical Implications:

    The results of this study are important for audit firms to consider when conducting multinational audits involving several different local offices. The results suggest that local offices of audit firms may modify inter-office instructions and firm audit methodologies to suit the needs of their local client, including adapting materiality levels. Additionally, results suggest that while some local offices see the worldwide audit team as their “client” other offices are focused on meeting the needs of their local client.


    Barrett, M., D.J. Cooper and K. Jamal. 2005. Globalization and the Coordinating of Work in Multinational Audits. Accounting, Organizations and Society 30 (1): 1-24.

    International matters, audit team composition, globalization, international business enterprises, auditing, international relations, accounting, international affairs, and structuration theory (communication)
    Purpose of the Study:

    Many of the largest companies today are multinational, with operations in different countries. Because of this, auditors must be able to conduct their audits on a global scale, coordinating with auditors in other countries. This paper takes an in-depth look at how auditors coordinate across countries to perform an audit for a multinational company, and how effectively the auditors are able to communicate. The paper focuses on relationships between the local offices by looking at two key coordinating mechanisms: 

    • Inter-office instructions
    • The firm’s risk based audit methodology 

    The paper also looks at how the inter-office instructions are interpreted and how closely they are followed at different locations, also how any changes are communicated back to the coordinating office. The paper also discusses how different offices adapt the firm’s risk based audit methodology.

    Design/Method/ Approach:

    The authors observed the audit team conducting their audit from July 1996 to September 1997. The authors spent time in the offices of a Canadian audit firm, attended firm trainings, and spent time with the Canadian, U.S., and worldwide engagement teams at the client sites. Throughout this time period, the authors also conducted interviews with the auditors, as well as several senior financial officers and the chief internal auditor of the client.

    • The firm’s risk based audit methodology and inter-office instructions were designed globally, but adapted at the local level based on auditors’ experiences with the client, including changing materiality levels.
    • North American audit teams (Canada, U.S.) were able to suggest changes to the worldwide engagement team that affected the worldwide engagement team’s approach to business advisory services.
    • While the study was being conducted, the audit firm changed to a “review by interview” method, where managers and  patners reviewed the work of staff and seniors on the spot, by asking them direct questions rather than leaving review notes. Most of the staff interviewed seemed uncomfortable with this new review process.
    • The audit teams (particularly in the U.S. and Canada) focused on trying to identify consulting opportunities with the client w while conducting their audit. Staff interviewed seemed less confident in their ability to provide value-added consulting services to the client.
    • The local audit team in the U.S. viewed the worldwide audit team as their “client” and built their audit around satisfying their requests (via the inter-office instructions), while the local audit team in Canada viewed the local office of the company as their client, and adapted inter-office instructions to fit their local client.
    Audit Team Composition, Engagement Management
    Diversity of Skill Sets (e.g. Tenure & Experience), Group Decision-Making, Interaction among Team Members
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