Consistently Late Internal Audits- Any Suggestions?

Buckeye001

Starting to get Involved
#1
This may seem like a "no brainer" for some, but you have to be in a similar position as I am to understand the difficulty I am having. Our Internal Auditors are not full time auditors. Auditing is the "second job." They do receive external and internal training AND are given $1,000 a year to perform 2-3 audits per year. The audits must be submitted on time (I give them 30-45 days to complete) to receive the bonus. I have a meeting prior to the 2 audit cycles (March and September), assigning the audits and providing the auditors with information about the process they will audit. I have five auditors, four of them complete one audit and one auditor has to complete two in each of the cycles. Over the last two years audits have been late ever cycle. For 2020, it was one or two late. In 2021 I had 2-3 late for the both cycles. We DO NOT have a separate Quality department (yes, there lies the problem) and I also have full time role beside Lead Assessor. So my question: does anyone have suggestions on what I can try to get auditors to complete their audits on time? I have tried talking to auditors prior to due dates (I get the standard answer, "yeah, I'm almost done" answer). I have asked the management representative (that passed along this role to me) for assistance multiple times. I have lobbied for a Quality "department" with me and two others that could perform audits throughout the year along with other QMS related tasks. I spelled it out the roles and responsibilities, but it was rejected (I've brought it up in two of my last three yearly reviews). Our next Surveillance Audit is in March, so the late audits will be (Major?) Finding (was one in 2020.2 audit). Having responsibility with no authority is not fun, so any insight or suggestions would be appreciated.
 
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Randy

Super Moderator
#2
1st - Don't give 'em the money

2nd - Toss their fannies and get other people that will do the job

3rd - Come up with something else
 

Jean_B

Trusted Information Resource
#3
We DO NOT have a separate Quality department (yes, there lies the problem)
I can tell you that is not it.
Even in a Quality department, audits are long-term/not immediately value adding. It's the repeated appreciation of any short term advantages over long-term returns that drives the problem. Resistance to that is what needs to be forged into the core of the role/department's incentives/disincentives. Usually it is because the party 'founding' the department doesn't truly have that as its wish. It wants certification/absolution for sins they know they won't avoid before it will want the assurance methods that provide reliability and honest insight.
In your described setting - which doesn't seem amenable to changes - the best option is a recurring audit by a reputable auditor/firm. Be sure to have a returning auditor for at least 2 or 3 subsequent audits, because switching auditors means 'personal' attention for the prior NC's is reduced. It is costly, but at this juncture it is most effective and most probable you'll get this.
Then work towards a separate and independent reporting line for an (existing) QC department, and only when the culture of truthful measurements has developed from that, spawn a QA department with audit responsibilities.
 

Buckeye001

Starting to get Involved
#4
1st - Don't give 'em the money

2nd - Toss their fannies and get other people that will do the job

3rd - Come up with something else
1. Yeah, I withheld the bonus (which ticked them off)--and those are the people late again along with another the last cycle.
2. They are "voluntold" to be auditors by their managers (no one ever volunteers) for a 2-3 year term (sentence).
3. The "something else" was reaching out to the community. ;)
Thanks Randy. Your suggestions are appreciated.
 
#5
So my question: does anyone have suggestions on what I can try to get auditors to complete their audits on time?
Yes, you get their management to take an interest in the audits, by making the subject/scope etc. of the internal audit something management are interested in. Anything which is on managements' radar will get support.
 

Buckeye001

Starting to get Involved
#6
I can tell you that is not it.
Even in a Quality department, audits are long-term/not immediately value adding. It's the repeated appreciation of any short term advantages over long-term returns that drives the problem. Resistance to that is what needs to be forged into the core of the role/department's incentives/disincentives. Usually it is because the party 'founding' the department doesn't truly have that as its wish. It wants certification/absolution for sins they know they won't avoid before it will want the assurance methods that provide reliability and honest insight.
In your described setting - which doesn't seem amenable to changes - the best option is a recurring audit by a reputable auditor/firm. Be sure to have a returning auditor for at least 2 or 3 subsequent audits, because switching auditors means 'personal' attention for the prior NC's is reduced. It is costly, but at this juncture it is most effective and most probable you'll get this.
Then work towards a separate and independent reporting line for an (existing) QC department, and only when the culture of truthful measurements has developed from that, spawn a QA department with audit responsibilities.
Thanks Jean. I can address value adding if/when I get internal auditors to perform audits on time. Management (when they implemented the $1,000 bonus) thought this was a solution to get a) people to volunteer and b) perform thorough audits in a timely manner. It worked for a while, but as newer people have been "voluntold" to be auditors, the commitment (from auditors) has fallen off (generation thing?).
Since I have worked in multiple departments, I have knowledge of many departments and provide that insight to auditors on parts of the process I ask them to look at (in the meeting before audits) or questions when I review of the report (after the audit) with the auditor.
I imagine the March Surveillance Audit will generate (repeat) Findings against our Auditing Program. Management will either blame me, support change to avoid this problem, or ignore there is a problem (or a combination of these).
I am also hoping to glean some Corrective Action responses to those anticipated Findings with responses I receive here (short term) and ideas to sustain long term improvements to the auditing program. I appreciate you taking the time to provide your response.
 

blackholequasar

The Cheerful Diabetic
#7
Dang, all we give our auditors is a pizza party! Haha :p

It's a really difficult thing to inspire in others, I've found, especially in smaller-ish companies. The only way that I keep the folks that I have is by helping them perform their task (getting their documents ready for them, taking notes) and reminding them that keeping our certification also keeps all their jobs in tact. I hate to use any sort of negative enforcement for a task that they don't already do, and I remind them that they're appreciated, but other than that? It's kind of like constantly spooning water out of a sinking boat.

Also we make it a point to say that we conduct internal audits on an annual basis, but don't state any other specifics to it. If we do all area audits in one month, or over the course of an entire year, it got done during the annual cycle haha
 

RoxaneB

Change Agent and Data Storyteller
Super Moderator
#8
Some food for thought...

  1. 30-45 days is a very lengthy window, in my opinion, for an internal audit report. I always held mine to a 14 days window and even that was too long, but that was the compromised window. A shorter reporting window is a nudge towards getting it done instead of being distracted by priorities back in their regular job.
  2. Management has to commit to giving these people the time to do the audit - sure, we're all adults and can schedule, but when there are conflicting priorities, the normal job will trump the audit being done each time. A shorter window supports the commitment and also means they can refocus on their normal job faster.
  3. Handing out the schedule and reminding them that the report is coming is all well and good, but do you ask the all important question of "Is there anything I can do to support you?" Maybe they need you to go to bat for them with their manager - e.g., ask for normal job priority to be held off or reassigned so that the audit can be finished.
  4. Is it just the report that is late or also the audit itself? In this case, what's the company culture when it comes to audits? No one wants to be perceived as the "cop."
  5. The Quality Department is non-issue - you don't need a police department.
  6. What is senior leadership's thoughts on the impact and risk associated with late internal audits? Not just what an external auditor might focus on, but also the late (or missed windows) opportunities for improving processes and reducing risk.
  7. What is the management representative's response when you ask for assistance?
 

Buckeye001

Starting to get Involved
#9
Yes, you get their management to take an interest in the audits, by making the subject/scope etc. of the internal audit something management are interested in. Anything which is on managements' radar will get support.
Thank you for your thoughts. Results of the Internal and External Audits are shared with Management in the Management Review Meetings
 

Buckeye001

Starting to get Involved
#10
Dang, all we give our auditors is a pizza party! Haha :p

It's a really difficult thing to inspire in others, I've found, especially in smaller-ish companies. The only way that I keep the folks that I have is by helping them perform their task (getting their documents ready for them, taking notes) and reminding them that keeping our certification also keeps all their jobs in tact. I hate to use any sort of negative enforcement for a task that they don't already do, and I remind them that they're appreciated, but other than that? It's kind of like constantly spooning water out of a sinking boat.

Also we make it a point to say that we conduct internal audits on an annual basis, but don't state any other specifics to it. If we do all area audits in one month, or over the course of an entire year, it got done during the annual cycle haha
Thanks for the response. Prior to me assuming the Lead Assessor role, the prior LA did nothing other than hand out the assignments. I support the auditors with internal classes on the standard, getting all req'd docs to them, send them links to webinars, give them kuddos in meetings, etc.
 
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