Do I Audit or Assess?
7 key differences you need to know
I often hear the debate that goes on between the (ISO 9001) ‘quality management’ camp and those from business excellence. Each argues that theirs is best and that the sooner everyone gets on board then all will be better off. So much time and effort expended. It is sad because both miss the point.
There is actually value in both approaches being applied to all organisations. In order to apply the most appropriate approach you need to understand the differences. I shall briefly cover the seven key differences between a typical audit and assessment.
1. Focus Audit has a compliance focus. You should use it when you need to know the extent that people are following your policies and procedures. An audit would not help much in looking for gaps in your systems that represent opportunities for improvement. When you need to target organisational improvement an assessment is better.
2. Prescriptive or not An audit is prescriptive. For example during an audit a question may be asked to determine whether the daily tool box meetings are carried out. The audit checklist contains a list of ‘what’ we are expecting to find.
However during an assessment we would ask how health and safety within the workplace is achieved. An assessment is non-prescriptive in that it is not assumed that the only means of ensuring a safe and healthy workplace includes conducting daily tool box meetings.
3. Pass/Fail or maturity During the audit people either comply with the requirements or they do not – i.e. pass or fail. In contrast during an assessment the maturity of the processes are compared with best practice. The result places the process maturity in one of six scoring bands.
4. 100% score? It is possible to get a perfect 100% score in an audit. This is because people generally do follow policies and procedures.
However during an assessment a comparison is made against a best practice ‘ideal’. No organisation has ever achieved a perfect 100% score. This means that it is not possible to achieve a perfect 100% score.
5. Findings The findings from an audit are non-conformances. These non-conformances reflect where actual practice did not match the documented policies and procedures.
An assessment normally reports on the strengths (i.e. practices that you should continue to do) and opportunities for improvement (i.e. where improvements are needed).
6. Results considered? The results or outcomes of the policies and procedures are not taken into consideration during an audit. For example accidents will still happen in workplaces despite obtaining a 100% score during previous audits. In contrast 45% of the total score during an assessment is based on the outcomes of the organisation’s processes.
7. Integration An audit is confined to a particular process or set of procedures within the audit scope. Often it is the way that procedures interact with other procedures outside of the audit scope where problems can occur. An assessment always considers the integration of the process or set of procedures with other business processes and overall strategy.
Before you commission the audit or begin that assessment check to make sure that it will deliver what you are looking for.
Till next time,
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