Can Your Organization Get By Without Audits?

Every facet of every business can and should be audited regularly. Thorough, carefully conducted audits reveal weaknesses in a company’s practices and/or management and identify opportunities for improvement. Every company, no matter what their product, market, or strategy, wants to see its processes improve. Better products, better post-sale service, waste reduction, and happy customers are among the many benefits of process improvement.

Well-run companies continually monitor and analyze their processes, both inward and outward facing, to ensure that those processes are in control and to identify potential and actual problems while they’re still small and manageable. Regardless of how well your processes appear to be doing from the inside, you need to have a trained, qualified, and unbiased outsider assess, or audit, your processes on a regular basis. Continual improvement is the name of the game, and a professional third-party audit is key.

There’s a cost to having an audit done, of course. That cost is typically borne by the organization being audited. It’s a cost organizations are willing to bear because (a) they have to in order to maintain compliance with industry standards and/or regulations, or (b) they’re forward thinking. They look at audits as not just a cost of doing business but as a cost-saving activity. Think of it this way – we all make mistakes, just as we all pay for our mistakes. Some of us look at a mistake as unforgivable, as a
blot on an otherwise perfect record (or a fork).

Monty Python's "Dirty Fork Sketch"

Others of us look at mistakes as opportunities for improvement. It’s ironic that the more we obsess over perfection, as if it were achievable, the further we get from it. Let’s face it – perfection is impossible. Continual, incremental improvement is quite good enough.

Still, rather than look at the benefits they will derive from an audit, some organizations insist on thinking of audits as cost factors or cost centers. “Cost center” is what you call something that brings in less money to the company than it costs. A cost center doesn’t pay for itself – it doesn’t bring in revenue – and this is where many organizations trip themselves up. They feel that every activity ought to pay for itself.

Instead of looking at the grand scheme of things – looking at how systems interrelate and interact with one another to make each other better – some organizations look at their parts as line items on a spreadsheet. They don’t look at the context in which those line items exist. That’s shortsighted, lazy, and potentially dangerous thinking. Decisions based on short-term thinking – such as excluding items from the budget because they don’t generate revenue – come back to haunt us, inevitably.

Audits aren’t supposed to bring in cash – they’re supposed to be cost centers. But, they’re also supposed to force us to identify and evaluate problems, weed out inappropriate or inefficient activity, and pass on improvements to the customer in the form of greater value. Save a little now to save a lot later.

Remember, audits don’t cost. They pay.

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Posted in Quality audits, Quality management

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