The Qualities of a Good Auditor.An auditor’s job is to obtain complete and accurate information about specific activities. This will often entail working away from home base or outside routine work areas, probably with little or no direct supervision. The auditor will need to communicate with people and concentrate on activities that may be unfamiliar and to make accurate judgements on them. It may be necessary to do this for prolonged periods, which is mentally and physically tiring. It is possible, particularly in internal audits, that the auditor might experience hostility.
Preparing for the audit.The first step in any audit is to prepare an audit plan. The auditor(s) will ensure they have current revisions of quality and compliance regulations, standards and guidelines. Where there have been previous audits performed, then the auditor needs to review and familiarize themselves with prior audit trails and any audit findings recorded. The auditor(s) needs to prepare an audit checklist and “aides memoires”. Checklists are important to ensure the audit stays on track to the audit plan, however, the auditor will need to exercise judgement during the audit and delve deeper than originally planned into any areas of concern which arise during the audit.
The essential qualities of a good auditor are:
i) Appropriate range and depth of knowledge of best quality practices, regulations, compliance requirements, standards and of relevant technology.
ii) The auditor will need an appropriate range and depth of experience.
iii) Good powers of observation.
iv) An enquiring, yet open mind.
v) Able to think on feet.
vi) Articulate – good communication skills.
vii) “Unflappability” – able to stay cool.
viii) Able to make sound judgments on the matters observed.
ix) Able to be persistent, yet patient and diplomatic, in pursuit of the objectives of the audit.
x) Able to listen.
Since all people have these attributes in various measures the good auditor will need to analyze themselves and see how they can further develop the necessary qualities in themselves. The auditor’s task is to communicate. The auditor needs to work to minimize any potential barriers to good communication. This may be done by:
i) Looking the part and fitting into the working environment.
ii) Being calm and polite under all circumstances.
iii) Being punctual, neither early nor late.
iv) Being prepared, determined, direct, decisive and precise.
v) Getting on with the job.
vi) Having good judgement, a sense of proportion and being prepared to make some allowances.
vii) Being aware of personnel interrelationships and of potential union problems.
viii) Being independent in thought and neutral in attitude, in the event of any dispute.
Qualities of a Good Auditor? Those characteristics which can hinder the progress of an audit:
i) Poor personal organization. Lack of preparation and overall audit planning can result in the audit running out of time before completing the required audit scope or not fully investigating the relevant process, etc.,
ii) An auditor who is anxious to please and therefore may hold off fully enquiring into potential non-compliance to standard.
iii) Holding strong opinions prior to commencing the audit or performing the audited from an opinionated point of view will skew the actual audit findings,
iv) An argumentative style of auditing can often create conflict between the auditor and auditees and can result in relevant information being withheld again impacting the final audit outcome.
v) The auditor needs to understand the important from the minor. Getting into excessive detail on side issues, or finding process failings from the slightest deviation to standard can result in an audit identifying a range of minor deviations to requirements, however, failing to pick up on potentially major issues.
vi) The auditor needs to present a positive approach. Where a negative or cynical approach is taken, the value of the audit gets diminished and can result in the auditees seeking to disregard the audit findings rather than see the audit as providing a valuable insight into their process.
vii) The auditor must have perseverance and insist on supporting evidence, if the auditor is seen as gullible, then information may be provided without supporting evidence in order to give the impression that practice meets expectations.
The expected behaviour of the auditee.When questioned the auditee is expected to be co-operative. The auditee is expected to fully answer the question being asked. The auditee should always provide a truthful response to questions asked by the auditor. If the auditee is not sure of the answer to a particular question, he/she should say so and direct the auditor to a person with more knowledge in the area. If an auditor is observed approaching a work area, it is generally held that the workers in that area should remain and be available for questioning by the auditor.
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International Organization for Standardization
ASQ/ANSI/ISO 19011 Guidelines for Auditing Management Systems Standard