Yet another abbreviation entering our general vocabulary: Too Long, Didn’t Read.
It is sometimes a genuine warning, sometimes part opinionated insult, but most of the time it is wholly a reflection of our contemporary state of being time-poor.
This is something that the Safety and Risk profession needs to be cognisant of, whether developing Management System Plans and Procedures or writing an Audit Report. We need to be acutely aware of the end-users, and how much time they have to absorb the information that is being provided.
As a guide, QRMC would recommend that Management System documentation is:
- designed to be understood by the target audience (e.g. ‘blue collar’, management, technical SME etc.),
- with short, sharp sentences,
- well laid out using dot points,
- using flow charts rather than prose where practicable.
You may even need to consider visual language to explain the requirements for workers who have language difficulties or English as a second language.
In some instances, information may be conveyed in a method outside of a formal document. with the concept of ‘Performance Support Tools’ gaining traction. This involves placing the information or support where the end user is rather than in a traditional management system. In some cases, this could be within an intranet or by placing help buttons or pop ups.
Audit Reports should adhere to the same approach, and while there is a need to include some mandatory items (objective, scope, the criteria and when and where the audit was undertaken), the audit findings should not be a long-winded essay. There should be sufficient detail to demonstrate that evidence was reviewed, but again, concise sentences in a tabular or dot point layout can be employed to outline how the operational processes fulfil the audit criteria. When considering a number of sites or operations a ‘by exception’ reporting approach could be applied to provide conciseness.
Crafting the non-conformance statement is probably more important than the detailed finding, because this is the issue that needs to be acted upon. The non-conformance needs to be based on the requirement (i.e. the audit criteria) and provide evidence of the failing or shortcoming. Typically, the fewer the words the greater the understanding and communicated impact.
While a traditional auditing approach may not provide ‘Recommendations’, QRMC considers this to be integral in encouraging continual improvement and making the audit process valuable.
Please contact QRMC for more information.