ISO 14001:2015 Frequently Asked Questions

by Karen Stewart and Lisa F. Wilk ISO 9001 isn’t the only management system standard being revised. ISO 14001, the environmental management system (EMS) standard, has also reached the Final Draft International More »

IATF Announces Plans to Revise ISO/TS 16949 Automotive Quality Standard In Line With ISO 9001:2015

m4s0n501 The International Automotive Task Force (IATF) has announced that it has set up a working group of IATF member organizations “to develop a design specification for the revision of ISO/TS 16949 More »

ISO 9001:2015 Frequently Asked Questions

ISO 9001 is undergoing a significant revision, complete with a new structure, new numbering scheme, new requirements, and the removal of some requirements. We’ve compiled a list of frequently asked questions about More »

 

Establishing the Internal Audit Program

by Craig Cochran

As with everything else in an organization, the internal audit program starts with top management. Auditing is meaningless without the full support and sponsorship of leadership. Does that mean that top management is going to have expert knowledge of auditing? Hardly. It’s rare that top management knows much about auditing. Top management establishes the audit program through three key actions:

  • Selecting someone to lead audit program
  • Communicating the audit program to the organization
  • Ensuring resources for the audit program

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Conducting the Audit Closing Meeting: Sharing the Results

by J.P. Russell

This column is devoted to a review of ISO 19011 topics. In each issue of The Auditor, I’ll discuss a different topic and follow that with a quiz so readers may evaluate their understanding of the information. Readers are encouraged to share this column during short informal meetings with other auditors or interested parties, which I believe will result in more effective audits.

Clause 6—Performing the audit, is a major part of ISO 19011. The clause covers the typical audit activities for preparing, performing, reporting, and following up on an audit.

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Auditor Competence: Stopping the Brain Drain

by Peter Holtmann

This February sees my 10th year at Exemplar Global, defining and developing auditor competence. It also sees my 16th year in the conformity assessment industry and six years writing for The Auditor. The lesson I have learned from this time is that we are losing auditor competence faster than we are gaining it. This is worrying me. How do we stop the brain drain?

Since I started, the auditor landscape has changed significantly to one where we are seeing more auditors leave the profession than enter it. The market perception of auditors has become more critical and yet we have not seen a rise in the recognition of the positive impacts their efforts create.

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The Risk of Relying on ISO 9001 Studies

by T.D. ("Dan") Nelson

Studies reporting about the effectiveness of ISO 9001 are not hard to find. These studies commonly purport to convey ISO 9001’s direct impact upon organizational performance, offering insight regarding the effectiveness of the standard and the relative risk of doing business with registered vs. nonregistered organizations. However, these studies are often not as reliable as their statistically valid results may suggest.

The results of these studies are commonly compromised for two reasons. First, they ignore a relevant distinction between “paper quality management systems (QMSs)” and “real QMSs.” Second, the effectiveness of ISO 9001 shouldn’t be determined by directly evaluating organizational performance in the first place. These two related shortcomings bring the results of ISO 9001 effectiveness studies into question.

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Internal Auditors: Avoiding Conflicts of Interest

by Denise Robitaille

It’s a no-brainer for third-party auditors—if they have a financial interest in the success of a company or can benefit in any way from the outcome of an audit, they need to decline the assignment. This thwarts even the suggestion of collusion or bias. Similarly, there’s an injunction against providing consultation during an audit. This mitigates the eventuality that auditors would suggest things that need to be fixed and then recommend their own firms as the providers of the fixes—for a fee. It also reduces the likelihood that auditors would presume to offer solutions without fully understanding the context or the culture of an organization.

Offering advice results in two drawbacks. The first is that precious resources are lost if the company implements the wrong solution based on suggestions provided by auditors who, without having conducted a robust root cause analysis, presumed to know more than they actually did about a given circumstance. The second drawback is that the client is deprived of the learning that’s implicit in the solution developing process. For certification and regulatory audits, the prohibitions against consulting and conflict of interest are clear.

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Audit Questions: Yes or No?

by Denise Robitaille

I regularly conduct training on auditor techniques. This includes guidance on the kinds of audit questions to ask, the language to use, and how to approach a topic and follow the audit trail. One of the points I emphasize deals with how we ask questions. I tell auditors-in-training that they should avoid asking closed-ended questions, that is, the kind that can yield a mere yes or no answer. Unfortunately, in recent months, I’ve become increasingly aware of just how difficult it is to conduct an interview without ever asking any “yes or no” type questions.

Therefore, I have had to modify my training a little. I’m not going to back off from the underlying tenet. It’s preferable to ask open-ended questions because it results in more productive responses, but I’m willing to concede that it’s not always easy, practical, or even possible.

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Auditing a Subsystem: Organizational Alignment

by Russell T. Westcott

Organizational alignment is when the organization’s vision, mission, culture, strategies, policies, structure, goals, objectives, and actions (processes, procedures, products, and services) form a traceable interrelationship from top to bottom, and vice versa. Examples of nonalignment are:

  • A process improvement team generates a proposal to improve a process. A primary question is does the process improvement and the product it would produce align strategically with the organization? The changed product could affect every internal function as well as external factors and have both positive and negative effects.

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ISO 14001:2015 Frequently Asked Questions

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by Karen Stewart and Lisa F. Wilk

ISO 9001 isn’t the only management system standard being revised. ISO 14001, the environmental management system (EMS) standard, has also reached the Final Draft International Standard (FDIS) phase. Because both standards are based on ISO’s new Annex SL—a common management system structure—the two standards will be more closely aligned.

Below are some of the most frequently asked questions about ISO 14001:2015. Questions focus on changes in language, key areas of revision, and the transition period after publication.

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Principles of Auditing

by Craig Cochran

Principles are an excellent way to begin our exploration of auditing. After all, these are the ideas that form the foundation of any successful audit program. Many of these principles will seem like common sense, but I’ve come to understand that common sense is indeed not very common. Even smart and experienced auditors sometimes forget these principles. That’s why we have to build the audit program around these ideas and then continually reinforce them. Let’s examine each one and discuss what it means.

Focus on processes, not people

A great deal of evidence gathered during the audit comes from people. That’s because organizations are made up of people. They’re analyzing information, making decisions, and producing products. Despite being a primary source of evidence, people aren’t really the focus of the audit. We’re focusing on the processes, methods, and procedures that are in place. People are the conduit through which we learn about the process.

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A Vacation Approach to Auditing

by Kerry Palejs

Recently, I spent an amazing week in the “City of Light.” As usual, Paris did not disappoint. Reviewing my vacation photos when I returned, I started thinking, “What is it about vacations that make them so special? Apart from exotic or long-dreamed-of destinations, is the sky really bluer, does the food taste that much better, and is there more “omph” in the beat of the music when you’re on vacation? Rather than simply being distracted by the external influences, do we somehow re-program ourselves into “vacation” mode—heightening our senses and enabling us to appreciate the fine details that are lost in the busyness of our everyday lives? If so, how can we apply this re-programming to our everyday lives as auditors? What steps would you take if you approached your next audit as if you were going on vacation?

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