What is an audit?
Some people, possibly most people don't understand what an audit is or what an auditor does. Normally, as soon as you say you are an auditor, people run away or they also say ‘Oh, is that like financial auditing?’ No, that is not what we do here at Auditor Training Online. What we do is audit management systems, so that's quality, environment, OH&S and food safety.
So, stick with me, I am going to share with you the formal definition from ISO 19011 for an audit. The formal definition is “a systematic, independent, documented process for obtaining audit evidence, and evaluating it objectively to determine the extent to which the agreed criteria is fulfilled.”
Does this make sense now? No? Well, I don’t blame you! That is the formal definition and honestly it sounds boring, scary, and even confusing. Is that what we want the image of an audit or an auditor to be - scary and confusing? No! That is honestly not what an audit is about. They are not meant to be scary or confusing. I want to break it down a bit and give you an example I always use to describe an audit. We are already doing audits every day. If you have children at school and checking their homework this is like an audit. My kids love me for it – well use to love me for it – they are not in school anymore. All right, your children are doing their homework and announce that they are finished. What do we ask then? Do we just believe them? No – well I don’t 😊 I ask to see their completed homework – that’s the evidence right there! As I'm reading it, I don't know whether it's met the assessment, or the task requirements do I? I need to see the ‘criteria’ of course. The criteria in this instance could be the assignment sheet or the task sheet or even a diary entry. Then we can compare the completed homework to what was meant to have been done. We are looking to see whether the completed homework matches the required homework – that is an audit! It is really that simple. If I said to my kids, I'm going to audit your homework, well, that's a bit heavy, isn't it?
As a certification auditor and training provider I also get audited. Do not think just because I am an auditor, I don't get audited. I get audited and I have to say that I do not really like it either. It is a stressful experience. I don’t lose any sleep over it though as I look at the process as an opportunity to improve and have fresh eyes look at the system and processes.
I really think we need to rebrand the word audit or auditor. We have a sense of humour as well – don’t be surprised! I know some of you might find that hard to believe! It is our job to make our auditees and clients feel relaxed and comfortable. It is not this finger pointing exercise where we want to scare people.
I've heard some terrible stories out there from our students or auditees or business owners that have had horrible experiences with auditors' because they have been a power trip. It is quite a powerful position if you let it get to your head but that’s not what this is about – it’s about bringing the best out in people.
What are other words we can call an audit?
I actually did have a client years ago that stopped using the word audit for their internal audits. They called them Peer Reviews. That is not as scary is it? This simply means that your peers, the people that you work with are going to come along and review the system and the processes and the
One of the personal behaviours is collaborative. I love that word - collaborative. To me it means working together. You are working together with the client, with the auditee to review the system to see whether they are conforming or not to whatever the criteria might be. The best thing about it is, is that we are also there to find opportunities for improvement. We do not get paid any extra for finding nonconformances so I do not get a bonus! 😊 We are there to add value to the client and their system. But it is about working collaboratively with them.
Some ideas I have come up with are an Improvement Specialist or a Quality Champion.
Our students have also come up with another word for an audit – Service Standards Appraisal and they have also said that they consider their auditors to in that of a coaching role rather than auditors. And it really is a coaching role as coaches do not tell their client what to do -they guide them to the solution.
I love these alternate names and references!
It's really important that we change the image out there. Work with us to make the change! Throw out the bowtie and the cardigan. Laugh, smile, and enjoy what you do every day. Spread the passion and love of a truly beneficial system to your clients. We are in the role of influencers in the industry so be a positive influencer with me.
Note – this article is an excerpt from the Auditor Training Online Facebook Live, which you can see here.
Jackie is a Founding Director of Auditor Training Online. She loves to help others and share her excitement about auditing, consulting and management systems bringing to you her own experience and stories as a certification auditor.