Auditing can very easily get a bad name for itself. Auditors are perceived (sometimes understandably) as seeking to find fault, of not being satisfied until they have identified a nonconformance. The basis for this belief is also linked to the focus that many audit reports seem to place upon delivering bad news – listing nonconformance’s and asking for corrective actions.
ISO 19011, the international standard with guidelines for auditing management systems provides some guidance on what should be reported, based on the evidence found during an audit. This includes conformity, nonconformity, opportunities for improvement and good practice. It is the last of these that many of us fail to include or even highlight in closing meetings or within our reports.
One of the objectives of auditing is to identify conformance and, where necessary, initiate the programme of actions to address weakness or gaps. However, it is equally important to report good practice as these too can be learning points for any organisation. If something is working well an organisation should be asking itself how that occurred and how that might be applied elsewhere. Therefore, both nonconformance and good practice reporting can contribute towards one of the main aims of management systems – continual improvement.
Efforts are, quite rightly, made to address nonconformance with corrective actions that address the root cause of the problem. However, imagine the wider benefits an organisation could achieve if it equally applied lessons learned from good practice once the reasons for success are known. Auditing can be the catalyst in both situations.
One of the exercises we ask delegates to consider during our auditor training courses is to provide their comments and feedback on the statement: ‘nonconformance is good’. If it is in an internal audit it is beneficial to identify this situation rather than have a certification body or important customer see it. However, it is important to not always see nonconformance as bad. They can open opportunity, introduce change and increase the effectiveness of the management system – whether this be quality, environment or health and safety.
Understanding how audits can be positive to an organisation is vital for all participants and top management to understand. Audits are an important part of any organisation to understand how effective it actually is operating, which can sometimes not be as well as everyone expects!
QCS offers internal auditor training across a wide range of standards and at both internal and lead auditor level. Find out more by going to www.qcsl.co.uk/training-services