06 Feb What are audits good for?
Today we are going to talk about what audits are useful for because, in spite of being a hassle, we believe that if they are correctly focused they can help us improve.
But first, we would like to draw your attention to the Merriam Webster English dictionary definition of the word audit: “a formal examination of an organization’s or individual’s accounts or financial situation; a methodical examination and review”.
Clear, right? But in order to focus even better what we want to explain to you we thought we’d also tell you about the etymology of the word since this will help us understand it better. So where does the word audit come from? From the Latin verb “audire”, which means “hear”, which at the same time, and in the subject at hand, has its origin in what the first auditors did while exercising their role of judging the truth or falsehood of what was being submitted to them for verification, principally by hearing or listening.
And that is what we wanted to get to: “…judging the truth or falsehood …” Doesn’t that make you think?
As we said before, most often we see audits as a hassle, as a kind of punishment. “Why does somebody have to come check how we work? What a waste of time!” we say.
Furthermore, once the audit is finished and non-conformity reports, comments or opportunities for improvement are issued is when a period of “extra work” starts. Again we say: “What a waste of time!”
Hasn’t this ever happened to you?
And of course, now that we don’t just have one audit per year –“thanks 9000; it all started with you”- but instead we have several (ISO 9001, ISO 22000, BRC, ISO 14001, OHSAS 18001, FSC, DPG, etc.) we practically need to have a person, a department or a team that is constantly preparing them.
So what we propose to you is a change of mentality so that, with it, we may be able to see not only the benefit that an audit provides us, but we may also be able to make this benefit tangible.
Obviously, nobody likes being audited and having to dedicate time to the auditors. And, evidently, we have to comply with the requirements established by the regulations. But if we have to do it anyway, why don’t we keep this in mind from the moment we start defining the activity? Wouldn’t that be easier?
From my point of view, if we want certification, if we want to comply with the expectations or requirements of our customers, we have to work thinking about the benefit that we are going to obtain and what this will bring us in order to work better in the near future. We shouldn’t focus on the hill we have to climb but rather on the reward we will find at the end.
For this there is a first step we have to take, and this is that every person in charge must prepare, by themselves, their documentation, be that a process or instruction and, if possible, create it from the beginning. If they don’t do this, it will never be their own document. And if it isn’t theirs, they will not care if it is followed or not. However, when it’s their own they will make sure that it is followed. Furthermore, in this way, each time they introduce a change in the process, they will remember that there is a document or an instruction that must be updated. This first step is fundamental.
And this leads us to being able to benefit from the audit because, since everything they come to check is well worked through by us, instead of being preoccupied with defending ourselves, covering up our shortcomings or our ignorance or even selling what we don’t do, we will be relaxed and open to explaining what we do.
Now you’ll say: “But they may find something that is not correct”. Sure, there is always room for improvement. And that’s where the second great step we have to take comes in – opening our mentality towards improvement. We don’t do things wrong, instead there are things we can do better. In my previous post about Attitude we said that “Errors don’t exist; they are merely decisions based on which we have something to learn”.
Therefore, through these lines I want to invite you to reflect on what I have stated so that you may profit from the visits by people from outside the organization – and not only those that come to do audits but also other visitors such as suppliers, technicians, people from other plants in the group, etc.- so that with training, vision and experience different from ours, something we do may surprise them and cause us to reflect on the sense of what we do. If after this reflection we see it as OK, that’s perfect. If not, we have an improvement to implement.
Personally, when I receive all new employees, I invite them not to assume anything and ask about the reason behind everything. I am convinced that this helps us grow and improve. Do you agree?
We ask you to reflect and let us know your opinions, so that among all of us, we may grow together.