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Ten Audit Warning Signs

I describe in my prior article how formal audits suffer from a number of drawbacks, and hopefully I have alerted you to the potential harm they can do. But some audits are necessary or can be helpful. So how do you detect when audits are causing you harm?

Here are ten specific warning signs you can look for, expressed as questions to ask of yourself, your management, and your organization as a whole.

  1. Given the choice between delivering service requested by a customer in variance with a defined process versus following the process and leaving the customer unhappy, what is the normal choice?
  2. How would management react to the deviation from process above?
  3. Can processes be easily changed when improvements are proposed, or is this difficult due to the need to pass audits involving the process.
  4. Is the focus of most process improvement on addressing audit non-conformities and passing the next audit, or is the focus on improving business-meaningful objectives?
  5. What percentage of management activities such as communicating in team meetings or providing direction to subordinates consists of instructing people to follow processes with the primary rationale being to pass audits.
  6. Does management provide special directions to subordinates immediately prior to an audit?
  7. Immediately prior to an audit, do teams spend time ensuring documented evidence is up-to-date, or worse forge it, in order to pass the audit?
  8. Are teams routinely producing documentation solely for the sake of producing audit-able evidence?
  9. Do teams regularly complain about certain portions of an audited process? Do they provide feedback that they do not see the point of a specific portion of the process (or all of it)?
  10. Do you find yourself frustrated with a particular audited process? Do you find yourself daydreaming about how to change it or eliminate it?

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