Part 2 of Karen MacKenzie's series: 'The thing about auditing...' (catch up on part 1). Today, Karen explains the value of standardisation meetings for your auditors.
As an auditor, the responsibility for my on-going development, to be the best I can be, lies with me.
However there are some things organisationally that help with this, so look out for ISO 19011:2011. This is a wonderful document for any auditor; a great ‘how to audit’ reference point. Section 7 – 'Competence and evaluation of auditors' states:-
18.104.22.168 Generic knowledge and skills of management system auditors
Auditors should have knowledge and skills in the areas outlined below.
a) Audit principles, procedures and methods: knowledge and skills in this area enable the auditor to apply the appropriate principles, procedures and methods to different audits, and to ensure that audits are conducted in a consistent and systematic manner. An auditor should be able to do the following:
— apply audit principles, procedures, and methods;
One of those principles is having the ability to make reasoned judgements in all audit situations. So how do we know if we are making reasoned judgements, and doing so consistently? My experience as an auditor, a consultant, and as a trainer discussing auditing practice with trainees, reveals to me that the organisations who hold auditor standardisation meetings are the exception rather than the rule. It’s also true that it is fairly normal for those who are internal auditors to go through performance evaluation for their normal role but never experience it for their auditor role. This is rather surprising, when you think about it! We rely on auditors to deploy the highest level of skill to bring back sound judgements, because they influence key managerial and business decisions. How important it is, then, to routinely carry out performance evaluation on the individuals responsible for this activity. Not only would it evaluate how effective and efficient they are as auditors, it highlights if the auditors are auditing consistently against each other and against themselves; and it facilitates the identification of training needs – be it technical knowledge, report writing, or how to give feedback (for example).
My top 4 benefits of standardisation meetings
Standardisation meetings are wonderfully useful tools for building confidence in auditors, by:-
- Clarifying issues of interpretation of Standards or of internal criteria requirements.
- The meetings help define what is acceptable as sufficient, valid and verifiable reliable evidence.
- There is also a synergy where more experienced auditors share with those less experienced, and the knowledge then belongs to the organisation.
- It aids easier identification of root cause systemic issues and their corrective action, as well as potential preventive actions, making it truly cost and time effective for the organisation.
The role of the audit programme manager
The person managing the audit programme in an organisation is accountable for delivering a service to the organisation; a service which will allow management to determine whether their policies and objectives are being achieved, and in what way. It informs them of which processes work well and which do not; where there are strengths and weaknesses; and how they can invest to make things better. It’s the grist to the mill of P-D-C-A.
The thing about auditing is that it is an investment, not a cost. It will teach auditors and organisations about the feasibility of audits – are they worth carrying out? Well of course they are if they have a clear objective, scope, and no dubiety about the criteria and all of that is achievable within the allocated timescale. Every auditor should look hard at objective, scope and criteria and time allocated, then determine if they can deliver a worthwhile audit.
What is a "worthwhile audit"?
A worthwhile audit is a reasoned judgement based on sufficient, valid and reliable evidence. Evidence which will genuinely contribute to organisational knowledge and development, and enhance the operational processes – not just trudge through the motions.
Bury 'groundhog day' and move on
Minuted standardisation meetings will create a history of auditing practise and auditing results to describe the areas of recurring (or not) status and importance, and their root causes, so that organisations are not doomed to living in ‘groundhog day’. This way, they will genuinely grow and develop from what they learn about themselves; the way they solve their problems and deploy their good practises.
The thing about auditing is that there are hundreds of different permutations of auditing a process, and standardisation meetings are great sources of ideas, inspiration and learning, to keep auditing sharp and fresh. Hopefully the energy in standardisation meetings will be self-generating, motivating auditors to work harder to achieve accurate and useful results which ultimately ensure success for the organisation (and job security for its employees!). It may even inspire others to become auditors and contribute positively to the process of auditing, and consequently to all the other organisational processes. Where there are supplier auditors then we can create a ripple effect of good skilful auditing spreading out into those supplier organisations, and into their processes and practises.
My SQMC Standardisation Workshops are useful for teaching auditors about risk and risk based auditing too, so please get in touch if you'd like to arrange one for your auditos; and also check out part 3 of this series: risk based auditing.