Wednesday, August 15, 2007

On Auditing

I've been auditing Quality Management Systems for about 15 years.
  • My earliest experiences include ISO 9002:1987.
  • Then I worked on a Certified Supplier Program geared toward Dock to Stock.
  • That was followed by a stint with ISO 9001:1984.
  • In the past 6 or 7 years I've been involved with both ISO 9001:2000 QMS audits and supplier audits to meet project requirements per the customer's specifications.

Okay, so I have quite extensive quality audit experience. Now you may be asking, what's the point of this, or do I even have a point. Well, I'll tell you, I find several aspects of auditing quite frustrating...

The auditors (my team and me) are diligent about reviewing the processes to assure compliance to the specific standard. Is this enough? I say NO!

So we take it further, we bring out 'Profound Knowledge' to the audit and share with the auditee our life experiences to help him/her improve the processes.

So, where is the frustration? It lies with the auditee. Typically, they go through the motions and listen without hearing your input and fail to take actions to improve their methods.

Is this a failure of the audit? I say NO, again!

It is a failure of our management systems. We do not take the function of auditing seriously enough and do not escalate the findings to an organizational point were real action will be taken. This applied both internally (internal audits) and externally (audits of suppliers).

Okay, so I'm being a bit generic, some organizations are serious about their audit program. From my experience, these organizations are few and far between. Most do their audits and take basic corrective action to meet the minimum requirement of the standard or the contract. This is not enough.

Auditing is the purest form of Quality. It provides us with a look (deep or shallow, whichever we choose) into our designed system in order to identify opportunities to improve the system. Auditing is not about:
  1. Pointing fingers;
  2. Laying blame;
  3. Searching for defects, errors or faults.

Auditing is all about:

  1. Assuring compliance;
  2. Process verification;
  3. Identifying opportunities for improvement.

In a nutshell, the function of auditing itself is the pure form of quality. However, without follow through on improvement opportunities the audit itself can be rendered meaningless.

A final note on this sure that the audit itself has added value to your overall business management system. Auditing for the sake of auditing is as much a waste of time and resources as failure to follow through with implementing improvements.


  1. As I have discovered after many, many years of performing and teaching the audit, two things are required to change the situation you describe. Both are auditor changes, not auditee.

    1) Audit reports will be more powerful when they show the disease, rather than a bunch of symptoms.

    2) Auditees will pay attention and actually change when auditors show how the disease (see above) causes pain (cost, production, and risk).

    Good to see another quality blogger. I'll add your link to my blog site.

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