Many Managers think of an upcoming audit and cringe. Some put on a brave face and focus on the lessons that can be learnt. Others may respond by looking to book in their annual leave!

There is no denying that audits have negative connotations for many people, especially if they have been on the receiving end of a punitive and unhelpful audit approach.

However, if the approaching audit is considered slightly differently, by actively seeking out and promoting the positive findings emanating from it (in the report and in the exit meeting), the organisational buy-in and benefit exponentially broadens.

While the audit process should be a balanced ‘snapshot in time’ of the organisation, with an equal focus on the positives and the shortcomings, the opportunity to learn is better received when delivered via a positive message – for example:

  • sharing a process that a business unit is doing particularly well
  • recognising an isolated pocket of innovative risk control

These positive examples may be hidden from view from Senior Management or other parts of the organisation, and they provide an opportunity for good work to be adapted more widely and turned into a new organisational standard.

Within mature and well-developed management systems, identification of positives is one of the most important purposes of an audit, as opposed to a single-minded focus on picking up every failure.

There is indeed also some short-term workplace benefit from the mere implementation of safety, quality and environmental audits; workplaces usually get a bit of a tidy-up and it becomes the focus of toolbox talks and management meetings for a little while. However, the ‘tick-n-flick’, ‘show me the paperwork’ compliance check provides minimal benefit, whereas a well-conducted systems audit should facilitate organisational learning and improvements.

The audit report and exit meeting should lead with these positives, specifying the area that they relate to. By providing a more balanced approach, the auditor will build a stronger engagement with the auditee’s personnel, and this will drive better audit outcomes.

When selecting an external auditor, expectations in regard to their approach to the audit process should be made explicit. Selection of auditor can be made dependent not only on their qualifications and experience, but also their balanced focus on not simply identifying deficiencies, but also recognising good practice and promoting opportunities for improvement.

Please contact QRMC for more information.