What will an auditor accept?

A few days ago an old acquaintance of mine called Pat (we go way back) called me up for a piece of advice. She wanted to rejig the way she did her internal audits and asked me if her auditor (from BSI as it happens, although that is by the by) would accept the changes she wanted to make, or would he judge it to be non-conforming. I get asked similar questions quite often and, sadly, there is only one answer. It depends on who your auditor is. Get a good auditor with an open mind and you’re ok, get one that equates “different” with “non-conforming” and you won’t. Most of you will know that finding yourself with a “Type B” is a far from uncommon circumstance. As an example I’ve encountered a few individuals who refuse to accept the use of cloud based document control systems as conforming to the document control requirements of the ISO standards.

ANYWAY. There is a solution to such intransigence and this is it.

1. Drop the Technical Manager in your certification body a line and run it past him or her – over the phone is better. Whilst I have encountered my fair share of nit-wit third party auditors, I can’t say the same about Technical Managers. Technical Managers have always been (in my experience at least) sensible, professional people that will listen to you and with whom you can reason.

2. Assuming the Technical Manager judges your intentions as conforming to the standard, get his/her confirmation in an email.

3. At the time of your audit, in the event your auditor takes a contrary view, produce the email. If there is a disagreement you have the right of appeal, and the person who will assess the merits of the appeal will be ….. the technical manager. In other words, you both know the appeal will go your way.

That 3 step approach should kill 99% of all known germs. The other useful bi-product of this manoeuvre is that it gives the Technical Manager a few more “eyes on the ground”, and helps identify (let’s be diplomatic) any “training needs” of the troops.

Hope this comes in useful to some of you someday.

Shaun Sayers

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2 Responses to What will an auditor accept?

  1. Richard Allan says:

    Great advice.
    The principles work for most management problems too. I think of the principles this way:
    1. Develop your new method, idea, etc
    2. Share it and get agreement with those who matter. i.e the key decision makers and significant ‘others’ who need to be consulted and brought on-side.
    3. Implement the change; refer any roadblocks to the decision makers and significant others.
    4. Enjoy your success at bringing about another successful change

  2. Shaun says:

    Thanks for the read and for sharing your wisdom, Richard. Generally good advice not wasting time trying to influence people you don’t really need to influence and not going into battles you don’t need to fight let alone win.

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