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Flip Audit Anxiety into Calm

What is it about a quality system audit that sends us into a spasm of nervous energy or turning us into complete control freaks and perfectionists?

Is it the feeling that you’re being ‘tested’ and ‘graded’ that sends you straight back to being in high school and that whole “will I pass, will I fail?” “am I good enough?” “have I done enough”? Is ‘enoughness’ plaguing you at audit time?

Perhaps it’s the idea that someone, who really doesn’t know your NFP like you do, is going to come in and start telling you all that you are doing wrong, and how you should run your NFP? Look out…here comes that defensive wall and attitude to match!

Or perhaps audit brings out your competitive nature, that side of you that strives to be the best, to have everything P-E-R-F-E-C-T! Great, going for the elusive “perfect” – a sure way to welcome anxiety, stress and nerves.

Well for me it certainly use to mean a combination of all of the above.

Whatever it is for you, audit time can become quite stressful, anxiety laden and all consuming – if we let it.

Really it doesn’t have to be this way.

What is the quality system audit (QMS Audit) in human services all about anyway?

QMS Audits are all about measuring an organisations compliancy to a set of established industry standards and against organisational systems, together with the establishment and effectiveness of a continuous quality improvement framework.

Compliancy…..When auditors talk compliancy, they are talking about meeting what is required in :

  • Legislation; laws and Acts
  • Agreements and contracts (particularly with a funding body; directly with clients)
  • Organisational policies and procedures (your own policies and procedures)

Lets face it, most of the laws and legislations we are required to comply with are there for the protection, safety and well being of our clients/customers and staff. Because of this we WANT to be compliant. We want to keep our people safe and protected, and to do the right thing by our employees.

This being the case, when my organisation is not complying, I want to KNOW about it! That way I could DO something about correcting it and becoming compliant to be sure I am doing the best by my clients and employees. Im sure you would too.

Now, staying informed and on top of rapidly changing and updated legislation can be a job unto itself – difficult and time consuming – particularly for small to medium NFP’s. At times, despite your best efforts, you may not have kept up with the most current. An audit is an opportunity I’d say!

So lets flip the anxiety of being found non-compliant to viewing the auditor like your personal Compliancy Officer for your organisation – without having to employ someone directly!

So instead of worrying about being non-compliant after you have done everything you possibly could to stay on top of it, be open with the Auditor that you ‘ve done your best, and if you’ve missed any welcome the feedback, and ask for tips on how you can set up a system to ‘catch’ it next time.

Systems….Audits are very much about identifying that ‘systems’ are in place to meet various standards and indicators. Auditors understand that organisations don’t operate well in silos and knee jerk reactions, that things get done best through a series of processes that make up systems.

That’s why they look for evidence of systems – how you do things. Is there a clear process of how things get done. Systems give structure and responsibility to the business of NFP. And auditors know that when things aren’t working something is wrong in the system or there is no system.

Sometimes as an NFP we can be so close to our system and organisation, or so entrenched and attached to the way we do things that we don’t see where and when they aren’t working or not working optimally.

Fresh eyes can often see things that we just can’t – issues, bottlenecks or blockages. As a NFP we ultimately want our services to run smoothly; but may not always see the forest for the trees. A new perspective can lead us to clear our eyes so we can do things more smoothly.

Another positive of audit – don’t you think?

So if you’re in anxiety over audit because of your systems or attachment to them flip it and view your auditor as your own set of fresh eyes, like you have just got a new pair of glasses and can see things you couldn’t see before – now your Compliancy Officer has just become your Systems Analyst – if they comment on your systems, explore it with them, ask them questions on what they see or don’t see, and thank them for their perspective.

Improvements…..This is perhaps the BEST part and quite possibly your “get out of jail free” card! *.   Audit is above all else about continuous quality improvement.

No matter how good a perfectionist you are, ain’t nothing ever going to be ‘perfect’ – because quality and perfection is in the eye of the beholder AND the goal posts are constantly moving!

Good auditors thrive on being able to assist organisations create a culture in their organisations of continuous quality improvement. Auditors don’t expect perfection, they actually are not looking for perfection, they are looking for an organisations ability and willingness to improve and reach required levels of standards.

So what is the “get out of jail free” card of the improvement part of audit? Your HONESTY of what you know it is that you still need to do to reach a standard, or to improve, or to become fully compliant DOCUMENTED in a Continuous Improvement Plan.

But it doesn’t stop at that – you absolutely must put the plan into action with the right intentions (not just to tick a box, but to add value to those you serve).

As responsive, passionate and authentic NFP leaders, we’re committed to wanting to serve our client group and community to the highest level of quality that we possibly can. This is an everchanging benchmark and standard. With so much to do and with limited resources, we know there is always more that we could do; or do better.

Having an audit is quite simply one of the tools that we use to help us attain our own goals in quality service.

An audit is an instrument that we pay the privilege of using. We need to use it to add value and benefit to our clients and our organisations.

Because of this, when I get audited, I want an auditor who is thorough, thought provoking, inquisitive, kind, fair, open, honest and generous with their ideas of how we could improve. I give respect to the auditor by being well prepared, open, honest, and cooperative to make sure I get the most out of the experience.

When I flip the way I think of audit from a test to a value adding tool, it is much easier to approach it with calm and ease.

To help you flip your audit anxiety into calm I have developed this Flip It Checklist. Its FREE for you download – FLIPPING AUDIT ANXIETY INTO AUDIT CALM

*not including instances and situations of abuse, assault and neglect