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Auditing for a positive climate


Drawing from Shortcut To Fame Ltd

Audits a key part of any business

In today’s business world Audits are a common component. Examples are Supplier Audits, Quality system Audits, Compliance Audits, Environment Audits etc.

The idea is that an outside resource Audits to find Gaps that highlights key areas of attention, if improved the business is a step better.

The issue is often that an Audit or the Auditor has the focus to find what’s wrong, that is often a uncomfortable approach for the one being Audited.

I have been to businesses that hide tools that aren’t calibrated, give answer cards to employees and basically try to doctor the results. A bit crazy since the Audit is supposed to help and drive improvements but the consequences can be severe and the business finds it important to Look Good.

When it comes to the Audits related to Improvement systems they should be handled totally different and below I go through the process of that.             

The word auditing comes from the Latin word audītus which means listening, so an Auditor is a person who will come and listen. (More about the State of Mind the auditor and the audited should be in can be found The Article Taking Charge of Your Change published on LinkedIn in my name.)

This means that for an improvement team you should ask someone from the outside to Audit you. The definition of outside is outside of the team that needs the Audit. For example, if you have a steering committee or any type of management/leading team, in some different types of program you might even have pillars (a team of people who focuses on a limited part of the improvement system) they are good choices of Auditors.

Let us assume that you are running a 12-week improvement team, as a minimum I recommend that you have 3 audits, after 4, 8 and 12 weeks. The 12-week audit is also called the final audit. The objectives of an audit are to support the team to stay on target, to ensure that they understand the process and that they follow the process of the improvement team. I choose to follow the PDCA approach (Plan, Do, Check Act) in this example. I also promote that the 3 Phases of change are followed, the 3 phases are…Basic Condition, Improve and Innovate. To complete a phase, you go through the PDCA cycle, so the PDCA cycle could be gone through 3 times or more if you follow all 3 phases.

2 Min Drill 3 Phases of Change                     

An Auditor should follow that approach and should also be aware of which phase the team is in and to ask questions according to the PDCA approach and in tune with the Phase, to ensure that the process is followed and understood by the team. A good auditor also leaves the team with energy after the audit. The Important role of an Auditor is highlighted in the fact that the team must understand where they are, what could be needed to develop further. What an Auditor needs to understand is that the team needs support and energy; a bad auditor will leave the team deflated only considering all the problems.

            A good audit process could look like this, the team is waiting for the auditor or auditors and will present where they are now using a team board, that I recommend every team have. They will tell the story about where the team is, the team leader or a representative, preferably several people that are a part of the team is presenting the status and what is achieved, and what they are looking forward to do. The Auditors are listening to where the team are and will ask questions according to the PDCA thinking.  They will ensure that the planning phase, the do, check and act is done properly. The questions are normally asked open ended so that you do not have “yes” or “no” responses, and that you explain the way of thinking and the auditor will then have a better understanding. This will help confirm that the team has understood the concept and the process. Sometimes an auditor can ask a question implying that something should have been done. For instance:  during the planning phase an auditor could ask “What type of root-cause analysis did you use?” This implies that you should have done a root-cause analysis and nobody can answer with a simple “yes” or “no”. This can drive the behaviour that you want in a team as an auditor. After the audit the team leader should make sure that the team understands the auditor’s comments, support and questions, as well as have a lesson learned session after the audit. Lessons learned are key for a team to gather along the whole process, the lessons learned are transferred to the next team that starts a similar type of problem-solving initiative, so we do not run into similar types of problems again.

As an Auditor, you have a choice to Put Pressure on the Team or To Inspire the Team to accomplish something. The inspiration path often has a positive effect on the climate and leaves a team energized.

If this process is followed and the principle of listening is the focus, the Audit has a positive effect on the people involved. Understanding what is done well can that being highlighted can induce energy in a team.

Johan Majlov, CEO Lean Dimensions International