For a startup, typically processes are not the main focus to start with so risks can be around the corner. Tips on getting extra set of eyes to help you with accredited and robust processes.
My first experience with an audit team was fresh out of uni at my first job leading a startup factory. I was called at the gate to meet two men with a very serious look. I asked how I could help them and they were therein response to an anonymous complaint. Completely puzzled, I asked what was the nature of the complaint and I was informed that they represented the Health and Safety legislator and were there to inspect every detail, process, and measures implemented to ensure were compliant and acting in the best interest of our staff.
After an hour of walking around and answering dozens of questions, they advised they had completed the audit. I asked what would happen next and was told I would receive a detailed report with an action list to become compliant for all the areas they have recorded that we were at fault. Can you imagine a free, detailed improvement report with a checklist of actions to be compliant with? Gold, right? Of course, as a startup that sounds pretty good but for the majority of already established organizations, an audit is always seen as a painful process.
Just to ensure we are all talking about the same page of the same chapter, audits are common and being audited can be a pretty intensive process. The amount of documents revised, resources put aside to assist the auditors, storage space required to ensure nothing is destroyed to be exhaustively analyzed.
Complexity versus robustness
As a client, we want to ensure we are dealing with a legal and risk controlled business. And as a business owner or shareholder, all efforts are done to that extent too. For that, being compliant is a big deal. So much so that big corps engage external auditors regularly to ensure they are compliant. Companies like KPMG, PWC and many others are renowned for their audited services and provide credibility to any entity audited by them.
Truth be told, audits should be THE tollgate companies use to ensure safety, process robustness and compliance.
Unfortunately, this is not always the case. In fact, often audits tend to create measures that increase process complexity and not necessarily add robustness. Here are some funny stories:
A meat processing plant with a quality color coding system to ensure the meat type and supplier being processed is identifiable by operators and yet, they fail to test, in their health check on recruitment, if a future operator is color blind;
A team leader adding his initials to a 200 page report as per audit compliance requirements and doing so while reading his emails to optimize time.
A customer waiting 62 days for a credit approval since the process requires four leadership signatures as a result of compliance requirement.
An auditor calling the COO letting him know he will be auditing for Health and Safety at a certain date and time.
So, if you are part of a startup, use the chance to get accredited and ensure quality and robustness of your processes. Keep in mind though, that being quality certified can mean much to some as a warranty stamp but in reality, depending on the auditor, this can be just that: a certification. Not robustness.
So, if you are aiming to create robustness rather than auditing for the sake of auditing, here are some pointers when choosing your audit providers:
The areas in focus - Instead of being thankful that the risk situations are not within scope of the audit, think again. You want to ensure all your clients see is quality excellence and efficiency. Besides, not addressing the risk concerns, is for sure a problem in the making;
The questions being asked - If an auditor is only skimming the surface, chances are you are paying the wrong team. You want to ensure they are not just ticking boxes and are actually preventing the actual root causes of potential issues;
The recommendations being made - If extra signatures, extra reports and extra complexity are the only and typical recommendations you get, ask your money back!
Get accredited, yes. But do it in a way that constantly follows your needs and your customer focus. After all, the devil is in the details.
I also write about my own life ,professional experience and learning curve. I am a continuous improvement learner so I welcome you to share extra information and spread awareness with me if you have other ways of analyzing the same issues or you have value-added information to the readers of this article. Thank you for reading.