The former President and CEO of IBM, Louis V. Gerstner, Jr. said, “People don what you inspect, not what you expect.” No truer statement has been made. The whole concept of quality assurance rests upon that statement, which shows us the need to verify that things are being done according to the quality guidelines which have been established.
Many modern management philosophies, including ISO 9001 look at quality from a “top-down” viewpoint. Quality policies and philosophies have to be developed by upper management, as a part of the corporate culture, from there, it is trickled down through the various layers of management, ultimately landing on the worker’s desk. The idea is that for quality to work, it must be something that management is concerned about, not just the QA department.
Yet, how does upper management know that the quality they are expecting is actually happening throughout the layers of their companies? That’s where the quality audit comes in, by having a team audit the company’s quality policies, procedures, documentation and practices, upper management can know whether quality is truly part of the corporate culture, or merely eyewash.
Sandra was talked to be part of her company’s quality audit team. She was a long-time employee, who knew the ins and outs of the whole organization. That seemed to make her a perfect candidate to be part of the audit. She wasn’t so sure. Although she’d been on the receiving end of several quality audits, she’d never been the one doing the audit. She didn’t have any idea of how to get started, let alone what to do in the audit.
Fortunately for Sandy, one of her teammates, Julie, had just finished here Certificate IV in Business and had taken a course in Participating in a Quality Audit; so she knew how the audit was supposed to be done. The two of them put their heads together and quickly realized that they had each been picked for their unique knowledge; Sandra for her knowledge of the company and Julie for her knowledge of the audit procedure.
Julie explained that the audit itself was actually the easiest part of the process. Before they could even begin to audit the company’s quality documentation, they needed to review the documentation of previous audits and develop the audit plan. Then, once they’d gathered the information, they were going to have to evaluate it and prepare their report.
Sandy could see that the audit was going to be a much bigger project than she had expected. All she had ever seen before were audit team members poking their noses into everyone’s business, checking documentation, checking work in process, interviewing people and spot checking quality. That was more like the tip of the iceberg, the part you could see. Below the water level, out of everyone’s sight, there was a whole lot more to a quality audit than she’d thought.
Together, Julie and Sandy made a great team. The knowledge that each of them brought to the table, along with their willingness to share it, make the audit into a true success.