Ten Tips to Successfully Audit your Internal Business Operations this Spring
With spring around the corner many Canadians are organizing themselves for the year ahead. With year-end behind us, many businesses are doing the same.
For managers focused on setting their business up for success in 2013, taking stock of internal operations is an important task.
Gary Robinson, Commercial Director for BSI Canada, one of the world’s first standards organizations, is encouraging Canadian business owners and managers to take on the role of the auditor this spring to do an internal analysis of how their staff is performing to meet desired objectives.
He has compiled a list of tips to help business managers approach internal audits within their companies. The ten tips below are a starting point for any manager who is looking to review their operations in a way that will help engage employees in playing a meaningful role in achieving excellence in business:
- Ensure systems and processes are clear: Systems should be outlined clearly and important information needs to be accessible and identifiable in case of emergency. It is unreasonable to expect employees to respond to situations in a pre-determined way if those systems aren’t clear.
- Enter the area with respect: Reinforce to employees that they are the expert in their area and you are relying on them to show you what is working and what is not working. Empowering people in this way will make the process more seamless and will generate better results.
- Get employees talking: The more you listen, the more information you will have to improve the way the business works. Internal audits aren’t about telling employees what they are doing right and wrong, they are about better understanding the way the business is working in reality.
- Focus on every area of the organization: A one per cent improvement in 100 areas is better than a 100 per cent improvement in one area. Invest in improvement in all areas of the business.
- Embrace non-conformance: If the attitude towards internal audits is that the auditor is ‘out to get you’, it will discourage staff to expose when things have gone wrong or aren’t going as expected. Create an environment where non-conformances are seen as opportunities to improve the business.
- Shift the focus towards how to improve: Instead of looking for instances where things have gone wrong, ask employees whether or not they have thought of ways to improve processes in order to receive proactive solutions.
- Look for signs of weakness: Be proactive and look for areas in the business that are starting to show signs of weakness, this way you can do something to make those areas stronger before they cause a non-conformance.
- Measure & track key areas of the business: If a fault arises, having concrete data to help navigate the issue will save the organization time and money. When auditing systems, this information is used to distinguish between what has changed and what has stayed the same.
- Think about what is in it for employees: Not every employee will like or embrace others’ idea of continual improvement. When it comes to corrective action, the path of least resistance is found by answering the very important question of what is in it for them to engage with the process.
- Provide balanced reports: It is very important to report back to staff with both positive and negative results. If results are too heavily skewed on one side or the other, you may diminish the potential for improvement.
Robinson has seen that making excellence a habit rests on working with people to set up systems that are clear, accessible and that strive to meet determined objectives.