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Sandford Liebesman One-on-One

Sandford Liebesman
Dr. Sandford Liebesman, a quality auditor of more than 35 years, is the author of Competitive Advantage.

Dr. Sandford Liebesman has more than 35 years’ experience in quality at Bell Laboratories, Lucent Technologies, Bellcore (Telcordia), and KEMA Registered Quality. He is an ISO 9000 subject matter expert and is author of the books TL 9000, Release 3.0: A Guide to Measuring Excellence in Telecommunications, second edition (ASQ Quality Press, 2002), Using ISO 9000 to Improve Business Processes, and Competitive Advantage: Linked Management Systems (Paton Professional, 2011). Liebesman is a member of ISO Technical Committee 176 and the ANSI Z-1 Committee on Quality Assurance, an ISO 9001 and TL 9000 Lead Auditor, and has performed more than 95 ISO 9001 and TL 9000 audits for Lucent Technologies and KEMA Registered Quality. He also helped five organizations within Lucent Technologies to obtain ISO 9000 and TL 9000 certifications.

Sandford Liebesman is currently is a quality management system (QMS) consultant with Sandford Quality Consulting LLC and is leading the American Society for Quality’s SOX team in support of compliance to the Sarbanes-Oxley law (SOX). He has presented at seminars, published articles on QMS and environmental management system (EMS) support of SOX, and led the team that developed the 2005 and 2006 ASQ Sarbanes-Oxley conferences.

Here, Sandford Liebesman answers some questions about his long career as a quality professional.

What’s been your biggest challenge as an auditor?

ISO 9001 has a major weakness with respect to the process approach. The general requirements (section 4.1) do not require the following for each process: process owner, inputs, outputs, suppliers, customers, and constraints. During an audit I ask for this information for each process and write “recommendations for improvement” for the information not defined. The auditees usually see the value of the requested information and actually respond to them although they were not nonconformities. As a member of the U.S. TAG to TC 176 I’ve been trying to get these requirements added to the standard, but have not been successful. I will continue trying for the next revision currently underway.

What are some simple ways to improve audits?

Think of quality management as a set of processes. Develop a plan-do-check-act (PDCA) structure for each process using the appropriate quality standard (ISO 9001, AS9100C, TL 9000, etc.). Build the question set using the wording of the standard in use. Build the question set using the wording of the standard and during the audit refer to the specific section(s) of the standard being used. Finally, if you identify a nonconformance, refer to the part of the standard that is not being satisfied. Discuss the nonconformance with the responsible persons. Listen to their comments about it.

What’s the biggest mistake auditors make?

They think in terms of checklists. An organization works in terms of processes. Auditors should develop a structured audit based on a PDCA for each process as described in the previous question. Auditors often don’t assure that auditees understand their noncoformances and auditor comments.

How has auditing quality management changed over the years?

Most audits are no longer based on checklists. Process-based audits are being used more often then in the past. Also, remote auditing has increased in use. This especially important for audits of global organizations.

Who’s your auditing hero and why?

Dennis Arter. He has published excellent books, articles, and papers and has conducted many top presentations on auditing. He has the best reputation of anyone in the auditing industry.

What are the main benefits of using linked management systems?

They use a methodology for breaking down the silos that exist in most organizations. They also encourage linking management systems so that they work more effectively together. The dialogue between financial, quality, information technology, and environmental management systems personnel improves when everyone understands what the others do. Quality and environmental managers lean the language of finance and the effect of operations on the bottom line, while financial managers learn how quality and environmental managers can help improve bottom-line results. This results in cost savings, continual improvement of processes and products, and a greater understanding of everyone’s work and responsibilities.

How can internal audits educate their employers about implementing linked management systems?

The best way to start is to describe successful case studies. In my book, Competitive Advantage: Linked Management Systems, I describe six case studies. Two of them describe the four-phase implementation process advocated in the book.

There is also a case study in the book that is built around an integrated finance-quality audit. Of course, the audit needs to be expanded to include environmental and information technology, but the auditors were trained in their counterparts’ processes. Process audits were used extensively and the audit teams focused on early identification of risks. Three key quality processes were preventive action, corrective action, and management review. This case study shows how this approach helped top management gain an appreciation for process auditing and understand how quality can help the bottom line.

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