When auditing and assessing organisations, I look at where its practices are with embedding standards and quality frameworks into their strategic and operational frameworks.  I look at policies and procedures, but I also look at several other factors. These include how strategic requirements are broken down and explained operationally, how management and leadership are operating in practice, how staff are assisted by the organisation to do their job; and ways the organisation seeks to improve what it’s doing for both internal and external customers.  Processes that enable staff and other stakeholders to be engaged in achieving the organisation’s purpose, decision-making practices and the impact on the external customer are other aspects of what I do onsite.

Some people think it’s merely a ‘tick and flick’ exercise, something that I use a checklist to review and assess what the organisation has or doesn’t have in place. Lists may be all well and good for some people, but to clearly understand the standards, the work goes well beyond a checklist.

Appreciating the working complexity of management and leadership teams within an organisation as well as in their sector underpins the thinking and observations associated with auditing and assessing.

The expectations of customers, including government funding providers and people who seek service providers, continues to escalate and place pressure on organisations to ‘perform more with less’ and to provide ‘quality’ services and products.

Conducting onsite assessments over time often provides me with an opportunity to reflect on how far the organisation has come in its evolution with the standards and its internal quality management systems.  From the early stages of not having any real understanding about what the indicators mean, perhaps initially actively resisting the process, through to gradually seeing the improvements themselves as a result of implementing systems and reviews, it’s a positive experience to see the growth within organisations.

However, as we know, nothing is static, and the reality is that what I am seeing as an auditor at one point in time can be very different at another time (even an hour later) or for different people.  It means, sometimes people within the organisations, are angry or frustrated about having to comply with the standards and the after-effects.  At other times, organisations may be ambivalent or enthusiastic to show off what they have been working on.  Then something happens – a key person leaves, a staff member misbehaves, or there is a breach in confidentiality – and, suddenly, where the organisation is placed in meeting standards can change.

And in I walk.

How do we all manage this?

For an organisation, there’s always a desire to show its best side to me,  while at the same time, there can be a sense of embarrassment about the circumstances.  Sometimes the experiences from previous audits will flare up and overflow into the current audit.  Sometimes, in amongst the frustration is a real desire to know more, to more fully understand what the standards will mean for the organisation.

Virtually every person I meet wants the organisation to operate to its best level, and I must acknowledge that throughout the audit, even when things are not going well or there are gaps or misunderstandings about what the standards mean.

From one audit or assessment to the next, the organisation has frequently implemented, and embedded changes and its system continues to be refined and mature in its functions.  Sometimes people see this, sometimes they don’t, and sometimes I see the changes where the organisation doesn’t.

I see it as a journey we are walking together throughout the audit or assessment, and there are many opportunities for us all to learn along the way.

For me, I am learning about what the organisation does, its passions, its underbelly, what it does well as well as areas where it could be stronger.  I often learn new things for myself too.  What I see when I am working with the organisation, also, is that sometimes people want to learn more from me – and sometimes they don’t.  That is all good, whichever way it works.  When we are all open to improvement, though, that is often where the quality gems can be found.

Thinking ahead:

  • How does your organisation reflect on its journey with the standards? If it hasn’t done this, what benefits could you envisage from this review?
  • What improvements or progression have you seen for the organisation since it commenced on the standards and quality journey?
  • Do you reflect on your journey to understand the standards? How do you view the standards now?  Has that changed over time?