Organisational culture and getting value from audits
No-one enjoys having their work criticised. No manager or supervisor likes to be told that the area they are responsible for is not performing well, especially when that information is going to be reported to senior management.
However, without constructive criticism in the workplace, of both systems/procedures and actual practice, nothing can improve; and problems – including potentially serious ones – may never be identified and resolved.
The natural instinct to ‘save face’ and protect one’s patch in the workplace can readily lead to an organisational culture of pushing back against criticism. This is especially evident when audits (either internal or external) are conducted.
When an auditor presents findings indicating non-conformances, an extremely common response is for the responsible manager/s to complain that the findings are unreasonable and should be toned down.
While factual inaccuracies in audit findings should always be challenged and corrected, where the evidence indicates a non-conformance with requirements it is important that this be accurately recorded, to enable the organisation to critically consider the processes and practices that allowed the non-conformance to arise and to work on correcting the causative factors.
An attitude of automatically pushing back against negative audit findings leads to a stifling of the organisation’s capacity to recognise and deal with potential non-conformances, preventing improvement and putting the business and workers at risk.
When challenging and pushing back against legitimate negative audit findings becomes the cultural norm in an organisation, it is also a short step to see lower levels of management begin pushing back against management directives or internal ‘rules’.
A more constructive and healthy culture to encourage in managers and organisations is to accept audit findings and frankly discuss with the auditor, management and workers how to address causal factors. By all means, challenge inaccuracies (while noting that audit evidence made available during the audit itself is the legitimate basis for findings, rather than new information provided after the audit). But don’t just reject findings or seek to downgrade or hide them for the sake of the organisation and its workers.
Please contact QRMC for more information.