by Larry Whittington
Internal audits are often viewed as negative events that disrupt work. Employees often grumble afterwards that they cause more work because they have to fix the reported problems. And, if management uses the audit results to reprimand employees and lower performance appraisals, audits may even be feared.
To make matters more complicated, managers don’t want their audited areas to look bad and then face criticism from top management. As a result, employees may be told to not volunteer anything to the auditor, making it sound like they should hide problems to avoid nonconformities and the wrath of their manager.
Audit attitudes are contagious. If management announces an upcoming audit in a negative way, employees may pick up on that feeling and be uncooperative during the audit. Instead, management should explain that audits are truly opportunities for improvement.
If management introduces audits in a positive way, employees will likely be more supportive. Of course, auditors can help by conducting audits so people feel they are being interviewed and not interrogated.
When managers overreact to nonconformities found during an audit, it damages the effectiveness of future audits. Who would want to share information with an auditor if their manager has been known to use audit results against employees?
Audits should be viewed as penalty-free assessments. During an audit, encourage people to provide straightforward, honest answers to all questions. It isn’t a game where auditees try to hide problems. If auditors are finding valid problems, auditees should welcome the opportunity to remove the causes so the problems don’t happen again. Audits should make our job easier, not more difficult.
If a manager was unaware of a problem before it was uncovered in an audit, the area should get to take corrective action without penalty. However, if an audit alerts managers to a weak area and they decide to monitor the process more closely afterwards, then they can deal with the results as appropriate.
When an audit program is successful, managers have positive audit attitudes and will actually request supplemental audits due to significant process changes, new technology, or quality issues because they see the value that audits provide.
About the author
Larry Whittington is president of Whittington & Associates, a training, consulting, and auditing company founded in 1993 and located in Woodstock, Georgia. He is an Exemplar Global and IRCA-certified Lead Auditor and an ASQ-certified Quality Auditor and Software Quality Engineer.
Larry has developed requirements, implementation, documentation, and auditing courses used by multiple training firms and has taught hundreds of classes to thousands of students. His free monthly e-newsletter on quality and auditing topics has been published for more than ten years and is read by thousands of subscribers.