Opinion by Mike Richman
Never has there been an ode to the beauty of certification. Impossible is it to find someone who swoons over the language of ISO 9001 or GFSI. No one ever writes love songs to auditors.
Perhaps we should.
Let’s take a moment to reflect on the gifts given to us by management systems standards and the auditors that hold organizations accountable for compliance to them. In doing so, it’s possible we may want to shyly pass auditors notes, carelessly sing about them in the rain, or stealthily buy them flowers or candy.
That’s because, quite frankly, industry runs, efficiently and effectively, on the lifeblood of audits. So today, on Valentine’s Day, auditors deserve not only respect, but, yes, something akin to love. Let me explain.
I firmly believe that almost everyone wants to do outstanding work. The problem is that human nature sometimes intervenes, and deadlines, tight profit margins, or good old-fashioned fear of retribution can cause the cutting of corners and the hiding of nonconformances. It’s not malfeasance, exactly (most of the time), but it’s risky and damaging nonetheless, and the consequences can be disastrous for customers, investors, executives, and the employees themselves. Someone, somewhere, must act as a watchdog to help enforce the rules and make people think twice about taking the easy way out. We sometimes need to be saved from ourselves.
Audits are not usually comfortable for auditees but then again, actions that foster growth are rarely fun or easy as they happen. Auditors should be mindful that they may encounter fear or even hostility from the auditee. Finding truth together requires trust between both parties. Short of offering consulting during the process, the auditee should know that the auditor’s function is to gently or not-so-gently help their organizations be the best that they can be. Ultimately, that is just about the greatest thing one professional can do for another.
There are many factors that, together, help create quality outcomes for organizations: tools, methodologies, standardized procedures, partnerships… the list goes on and on. But the one thing that every single great organization has is great people with great ideas. The human dimension is easy to overlook, yet it is essential to the bottom line. The way organizations help people flourish is to train them well, give them clear direction about what’s expected and how work is to be done, and then hold them to account until those lessons become part of the DNA not only of the individuals, but of the entire organization. Auditors, internal and external alike, are a major part of that mission-critical undertaking.
Is that a form of love? I don’t think it’s too grandiose to say it is. There are people in our lives who ask sometimes uncomfortable questions and challenge us to do better every single day. We don’t have to love them to love what they do for us.
If you’re an auditee reading these words, I hope you’ll bear in mind that the professional sitting across from you at your next audit is showing you what could perhaps best be described as “tough love.” That is, he or she is making you prove that your company deserves that certification—and more importantly, that your organization can deliver safe, reliable, and consistent outputs on a regular basis.
On the other hand, if you (like the majority of our readers) is an auditor, be secure in the knowledge that you are helping your auditees and their organizations build a strong foundation of validated compliance to procedures that will put them in a position for long-lasting success. You may not see the look of love in their eyes at your next site visit, but without your contributions, true excellence would emerge much more slowly at these organizations, if it ever emerges at all. That’s an important and honorable role.
Happy Valentine’s Day to auditors, auditees, and everyone in-between! May you especially all find love and respect in yourselves and what you do as quality professionals.
About the author
Mike Richman is the principal of Richman Business Media Consulting, a marketing and public relations company working with clients in the worlds of manufacturing, consumer products, politics, and education. Richman also hosts the web television program NorCal News Now, which focuses on social, economic, and political issues in California. He is a contributor to (and former publisher of) Quality Digest