Audits are becoming a Battlefield - CQI Soapbox

#1
Hi, Covers. For anyone who is interested I have another article in this Month's edition of Quality World - also available on the web site here ***DEAD LINK REMOVED***

Well worn themes for which I apologize but may be of interest. To save you all having to follow the link here it is in full:

Soapbox: Paul Simpson

Third party assessment is becoming an industry of attack and defence. Audits are becoming a battlefield where auditors are seen to be imposing their ideas on unwilling auditees who, in turn, are hell bent on minimising paperwork by ensuring no non-conformities are raised on his or her system. This is not necessarily achieved by ensuring systems are well described and implemented in the first place, but by auditees arguing decisions.

So where does that leave us? It ends with the formulaic assessment of identikit systems that vaguely resemble standards but with the wording turned on its head.

Perception of system design has become seriously flawed. Evidence for this exists in job advertisements where related experience of implementing systems in a particular industry is key. Some advertisers even want experience of dealing with their chosen certification body. I would much rather have companies thinking about how they want their management system to look and work for them than their certifier at this stage.

If your manual is to be effective in selling the company mission for quality to prospective internal and external customers then perhaps it should be handed over to the marketing department - with a dose of cold reality supplied by resident quality professionals to make sure it addresses a particular standard. While it is understandable that systems should be designed to meet third party requirements with certification as one of the objectives, there is a disproportionate emphasis on this feature. This in turn leads to a checklist approach to quality management.

ISO 9001 requires a quality manual. Even highly motivated companies will admit that nobody reads them apart from auditors and people whose job it is to 'defend' audits. At a level down from the best companies, we end up with manuals solely for customer or third party approval. A large proportion of these companies has a mirror image manual aping the wording of the standard produced as evidence of the organisation's commitment. In this brave new world of ISO 9001 there should be less emphasis on documentation and more on practices in place. I, personally, have seen little of this.

There was both logic and commercial sense to ISO 9001 retaining the same title as its predecessor. But ISO 9001 purports to be about: a new process approach to quality management; new levels of commitment from senior management and focus on customers; and reduced emphasis on documentation. If it is all these things, then it is aimed at a different market sector and could be sold differently.

Certainly the certification industry hasn't changed the way it sees and sells ISO 9001 so how is its market expected to see the difference? In particular what about senior management, which we are keen to see committed to quality? These are people who may get some real benefit from ISO 9001 but have kept a barge pole's length away from the previous standard, preferring to delegate that task to the quality specialist.

The temptation remains, with existing quality systems, to hold onto what you have, update the manual with 'new' requirements, bring in a process map and pick up a smattering of business measures. You get your shiny new certificate, you may even get improvements, but the process approach called for is a galaxy far, far away

Paul Simpson is a director of XBS Business Solutions Ltd. For more information visit www.xbs.org.uk
Hot off the press the CQI has highlighted the article in its own forum for debate here ***DEAD LINK REMOVED***.
 
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#2
Thanks for this, Paul. My feelings are that because auditor training etc hasn't been developed past the 2nd party model of 25+ years ago, we probably can't expect much more!
 

Marc

Captain Nice
Staff member
Admin
#3
But... But... There were transition courses required by the likes of the IRCA, et al. :notme:

Actually, I was discussing this with someone this last week. Lots of talk over the years, but no real changes.
 

Marc

Captain Nice
Staff member
Admin
#5
I also heard a lot of TS 16949 auditors are leaving/quitting. Because the conversation was confidential I won't say more, but if what I have heard is correct, I have to admit I was a bit surprised.
 

Sidney Vianna

Post Responsibly
Staff member
Admin
#6
You've said yourself before. Years of racing to the bottom. Competing mainly on price led the whole management system conformity assessment sector to commoditize and trivialize itself. When your profit margins are overly thin, you can't afford to pay the really good professionals what they deserve to endure the tough life of a road warrior. The end result? Brain drain. Talent evasion

Nobody caters to the needs of the real users of the certificates. Until there is reconciliation of objectives between certification service users and certification service purchasers, certification will continue to be devalued.
 
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Jen Kirley

Quality and Auditing Expert
Staff member
Admin
#7
I also heard a lot of TS 16949 auditors are leaving/quitting. Because the conversation was confidential I won't say more, but if what I have heard is correct, I have to admit I was a bit surprised.
That is correct, largely because requalifying has become such a pain. Then there's the paperwork burden without enough added compensation to make it worthwhile.
 

Jen Kirley

Quality and Auditing Expert
Staff member
Admin
#8
You've said yourself before. Years of racing to the bottom. Competing mainly on price led the whole management system conformity assessment sector to commoditize and trivialize itself. When your profit margins are overly thin, you can't afford to pay the really good professionals what they deserve to endure the tough life of a road warrior. The end result? Brain drain. Talent evasion

Nobody caters to the needs of the real users of the certificates. Until there is reconciliation of objectives between certification service users and certification service purchasers, certification will continue to be devalued.
Some of the pressure is business related, the need to compete. There are quite a few registrars to compete with. I can offer that mine is not the cheapest and is known among our clientele for being kind of tough. They are evidently okay with that, or they would go with Joe's Audit Garage.

Many of my colleagues have had their salaries significantly cut when the organization merged with its German partner. Over time most of them were then turned contract, so now there are no benefits to go along with the pay cut. Morale took a beating - it is hard to keep a customer focus in conditions like that but most of them still behave professionally.

The conditions I described were before my time. What I know is that I earn roughly double what I did in my last corporate auditing/document control job, but that doesn't count health insurance and paid vacation that I no longer receive, and I pay all my FICA being self-employed. And I work for my pay, boy you gotta know I do.

It is still better than my last position, where for my first week I was seated in front of a computer and directed to read procedures. To their credit they paid for my Masters, but I didn't use that for auditing. I stayed the required two years after graduating, found myself unable to advance, and decided to look out for #1 and left.

I think this training messiness etc. is a symptom of Wall Street rot. The bean counters are in charge.
:2cents:
 
G

gstewart

#9
That's the Automotive system though.

They demand more for less.
There is no spare cash for Auditors any more than there is spare cash for anything else.

IATF love imposing overheads and expecting them to cost nothing.
 

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