When an outsider reviews your documented processes, the procedure can highlight failure points or weaknesses that you may have to consider. As you might imagine, having your work processes questioned and any holes poked is usually an uncomfortable situation. It may take a bit of patience and time to prepare mentally to receive constructive feedback and criticism and rethink your current processes to carry on improving them.
Below is a guide on how you should be preparing for your next internal audit:
1. Review Your Reality To Anticipate Any Weaknesses
The way you operate is going to be analysed in depth. Are you aware of any weak areas before entering this process? Take a bit of time to think through the processes you are currently using. Suppose you discover that your working instructions or documented procedures do not match the steps you are now following. In that case, you should expect an increase in workload about to come your way to make the necessary corrections (after the audit). You may remember one of your processes was no longer working as you wanted it to and that changes needed to be made. From my personal experiences, one of my main marketing procedures required revision, while the steps that we no longer needed were taken away after my internal audit.
2. Go Over Your Processes Keeping Your Eye On Outsider Comprehensibility Before The Interview
You might find areas that you will need to explain to the outsider verbally, yet you shouldn’t have to. Your SOPs need to be written to make sense, are clear and eliminate any confusion to a department outsider. For this reason, any terms should be defined clearly.
The audit results or the auditor’s comments and findings should provide you with information to assist you with clarifying the processes that you use for any future regulatory audit or any department outsiders. This can also help when you have a team that now includes new members that require training on your processes.
Our internal audit revealed a bit of confusion between approval and feedback. Since every approval must be documented, this happened to be one of the areas that we needed to improve.
Barclay Simpson discusses the benefits of moving from an external to an internal audit.
3. Change Your Viewpoint Or Perspective
Auditors have received the necessary training when it comes to conducting audits and aligning processes to match up to industry standards or regulatory requirements to assist your processes when it comes to achieving improved quality outcomes and ultimately producing services and products of a higher quality. This in no way means auditors are experts in every business area. When you remember this, it can assist you when it comes to understanding the auditor’s goal. This involves aligning your current processes with specific standards or regulations. Their goal is to make sure you are compliant, and your collaboration and assistance may be required to ensure your department is aligned. Only you, along with your employees or team, are the experts in your tactical areas of business.
During the interview, try to be as receptive as you can when the internal auditor questions you. This can assist with pinpointing methods to align more closely with processes of a higher quality and, therefore, help you reach your goals of continuous improvement. You may discover that you are too close to these processes to define your procedure clearly. This is when your documented procedure is not providing an overview that is high enough associated with the steps.
4. Get Your Employees Or Team Members Involved
Discuss things with your team. In most cases, these people will be involved in implementing needed changes to address the non-conformities. To begin with, is every person aware of the training requirements specific to them? Have they read over and then signed off the document-based training concerning your department and its procedures? Training requirements or document-based procedures might require revisiting or revising when you undergo an internal audit. It is helpful to go over these processes with the help of the involved people directly.
It is helpful to talk to your team and to remind yourself that an auditing process will help to lower your risk. It provides each person with a point to start from and a documented path toward making improvements before going through an external audit to identify the issues.
5. Share The Lessons You Have Learned
In most cases, documented procedures can involve several individuals, including people from different departments. Once you have worked through the interview, responses, and findings, you should have learned something about your weaknesses and your strength. Make sure you share these opportunities on how to grow and the successes with any of your other cross-functional teams. They might benefit from these perspective changes. It could even help these teams when they start reviewing their procedures and processes once they have received a notice for an internal audit.