by Senior BRC Consultant Mike Haycock
As I travel I get to listen to a large variety of news and information. There was a recent news story about a motivational retreat where people were required to walk across glowing coals from a fire. (Some derivation of this has been done over the years where special wood (??) is used or there is chemical treatment of the soles of feet.) These activities are intended to be team building and show the power of positive thinking and confidence.
Sorry, but this doesn’t show motivation through positive thinking. This shows a simple lack of common sense. My idea of positive thinking would be to find a way around the fire. By the way, 9 people were sufficiently burned to require hospital attention.
It is so important for us to understand why we do what we do. If it is just to get something done, we will follow the instructions provided to us. If we understand why something is to be done, it will allow our intelligence to kick in – not just to do it, but to do it effectively, efficiently and to look for ways to improve. For internal audits, we are normally provided a set of processes or requirements and expected to get information to show the job was done…and potentially write nonconformances if expectations are not met.
Why Do We Do Audits?
I hate to say it, but most audits are done because they are required to be done by the system we have in place. Most management systems for quality, environment, health and safety etc., have a compulsory internal evaluation component.
What if the “why” to doing audits was to add value and benefit to the organization? Still need to get them done, but for every dollar of effort in, we expect at least a dollar’s value back. Make the audit a very open, pro-active event, that benefits the auditee as much as the auditor and the organization. Let them see and understand the value. While we are legally required to wear seatbelts, a better “value” reason is to keep from being thrown from your vehicle in a collision…also common sense!
From the philosophy of Dr. Demings, one of his most important mantras was for organizations to “drive out fear”. We audit the people we have to work with. If the people we audit believe we are out to “catch them”, then we become their adversaries. Again, these are the people we have to work with on a daily basis and probably had a cup of coffee with earlier that day. I have written about a positive, beneficial and “benevolent” approach to internal audits over years and probably haven’t done a very good job. I’d like to make one more attempt.
We need technical training to understand standards and audit methodology, but everything we need to know about approach, working and dealing with people, we learned in kindergarten…like courtesy, respect, to help each other and share your toys. We are expected to train our auditors. Has anyone considered providing training to help the people being audited to understand the value and purpose of the audit? The audit should benefit the people being audited: clarity about what needs to be done, the opportunity to change, particular value in continual improvement and the fact that what is being done makes sense…not just because “ISO” says so.
Standards are developed by real people, with real organizational knowledge and experience from all over the world. With a thorough knowledge and applied common sense, standards make sense for any organization. The rumours about mystical Gnomes working in the basement of a castle in Switzerland developing these documents has never been substantiated!
And Just In Closing…
A home owner was having trouble with their plumbing. There was a blockage and water was backing up. It was a mess. A plumber was called and shortly after arriving went to the basement. After a very short evaluation he took out a pipe wrench and gave the pipe a whack. Immediately you could hear water running. The blockage was cleared. He wrote a bill and gave it to the owner for $100.00. While the owner was pleased the blockage was fixed, he felt the $100.00 was quite expensive. The owners comment was, “If that’s all it was, I could have hit the pipe”, and asked for an itemized bill. The plumber took a minute and gave the bill back.
1) Hitting pipe – $5.00.
2) Knowing where to hit – $95.00.
Our intent is to try and help you to know where to hit. We’ll keep working on this and “keep on running.”