In the world of Audit, a Control is basically a mechanism allowing to validate that an organization is functioning in an effective and efficient manner. It is also a way to reveal potential risks, areas of improvement and anti-patterns. Controls allow to assess the gap between the reality and the perception we have of it.
What are “soft” controls ?
We are all used to refer to skills as hard and soft. Hard skills are teachable abilities that can be defined and measured while Soft skills pertain to emotional intelligence, human qualities like communication, listening, relationship with others, they are related to feelings, emotions, insights, acumen, values, beliefs, ethics, openness …
The same classification can be applied to controls. Hard controls are tangible like the organization structure, procedures, laws and regulations while Soft controls deal with intangible aspects like culture, values, beliefs, unwritten tradition, trust, ethics.
What are soft controls useful for ?
The weight of intangible aspects (culture, values, beliefs, ethics …) on an organization overall effectiveness and efficiency (cost, delays, quality) is significant or even predominant in some cases. Having a grasp on what their actual nature is shows to be a powerful management parameter and an approach of choice to improvement.
 Audit, wikipedia
 Internal control, COSO
 Internal control, wikipedia
 Effectiveness, wikipedia
 Efficiency, wikipedia
 Anti-pattern, wikipedia
 Hard skills, money-zine
 Soft skills, money-zine
 Emotional intelligence, wikipedia
 Insight, Meriam-Webster
 Acumen, Oxford dictionaries
 Soft and Strong: A Best-practice Paradox, Tone At The Top issue 50 ,March 2011
 Control systems: ‘HARD’ AND ‘SOFT’ MANAGEMENT CONTROLS, MCA, March 2007 issue 2
 Soft controls : A Dallas/Fort Worth Perspective, The 1998-1999 Research Project