I recently described to a client the method we use to improve the effectiveness of quality audits and assessments.
Often after several years of audits within a company, the effectiveness of audits decreases. Even though an auditor uses their standard-prescribed list, a company still has significant problems that urgently need to be addressed. Senior management wonder why the audits are coming through fine, and yet the problems are obvious to most staff in the company.
We had this situation occur in a local ICT company. When we analysed the issues, we took the following steps:
- we reviewed the audit instrument/form with the auditor. In this particular case the form was dominated by a checklist and standard set of questions.
- we spoke with the stakeholders in the process that was to be audited. We asked them questions and listened to what they thought was broken. This provided us with a means to improve the questions contained in the checklist and audit report.
- we reviewed the audit questions with the auditor and came up with a more appropriate set as well as leaving some open-ended areas for discussion. The questions that were answered positively each time were retired.
- we held an informal session with the auditor and the stakeholders and gathered their input – now that the auditor had been made aware of their concerns.
- we then facilitated a series of interviews as part of the audit between the auditor and the stakeholders.
- the auditor then incorporated what we had learnt back into the standard methodology and ensured the re-evaluation steps were included in the audit process itself.
The auditor was ecstatic that the stakeholders were so involved and interested in the audit. The stakeholders were happy to be involved since they felt they had a voice and this was a mechanism to raise issues with management. And senior management were happy because problems were being identified and dealt with in a positive and proactive manner.