An audit is an audit

Abstract: Previous studies within auditing have indicated that actors located in the center of the organizational field are more likely to have the resources needed in order to instigate change. Although it is acknowledged that actors located in the periphery might have incentives to change the organizational field, they are often viewed as unlikely change agents, as they are presumed to lack enough leverage. Furthermore, a view in institutional theory is that change from within an organizational field is regarded to develop incrementally, through a step-by-step process. This monograph overthrows the above assumptions by showing how change within auditing can originate from peripheral actors and succeed through an intertangled process involving multiple players. The empirical material consists of 45 interviews and extensive documents, gathered during 2014 – 2020. By using a qualitative method, the studied process illustrates how standard setting within auditing have changed from a notion of one size fits all, according to ‘an audit is an audit’, to a possibility to use more than one audit standard issued by the International Auditing and Assurance Board, (IAASB). By using institutional theory as theoretical framework the process is analyzed through the concepts of institutional change and institutional entrepreneurship. As the studied process includes both peripheral and central actors, that act because of different agendas, but ultimately work together to advocate an idea of change in the organizational field, a new perspective on institutional entrepreneurship is formed. In contrast to previous literature and the perception that institutional change through institutional entrepreneurship is about one actor or one organization, that succeeds to change the organizational field, the dissertation show how change is made possible because of the engagement of several actors. These actors are responding to the same precipitating jolts that enables institutional entrepreneurship, but for different reasons. The different actors also theorizes the need for change with connection to the same underlying argument, i.e. that the way an audit of less complex entities (LCE) is performed is in need of improvement – an argument that was not highly valued in the beginning of the change process. The studied change therefore concerns a shift in institutional meaning that makes room for a diversification of audit standards and the possibility of a separate standard for the audit of LCE, with the aim to facilitate auditing in this segment. Hence, the analysis also deconstructs the meaning of the mantra ‘an audit is an audit’ and shows how the meaning has shifted from the institutional meaning of ‘an audit is an audit – according to ISA’ to ‘an audit is an audit – according reasonable assurance’.