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Carrying out an internal audit

"Listening to understand"

The word "audire" comes from Latin and means: "I listen, hear".

An essential requirement of the ISO standards (9001, 14001, ..) is a regular planning and execution of internal audits. The aim of an internal audit is to identify the need for action within the organization by means of appropriate questions and attentive listening. In other words, to identify potential for improvement and to address this in a sustainable manner. In this way, the quality of the products or services is continuously improved, thus increasing customer satisfaction.

Plan internal audits, reserve enough time and define the focus area for the internal audit. Using suitable questions, you can analyze the prescribed process flows, compare them with the practical implementation and at the same time check their appropriateness. Ask open-ended questions while listening carefully to understand what the respondent is reporting to you.

See the performance of an internal audit as an opportunity to identify possible improvements and thus to increase product or service quality, to identify new potential and to ensure compliance with your own quality requirements - less as an audit in which "errors and culprits" are sought.

We have repeatedly found that the acceptance of employees to point out errors or suggest process improvements in the context of an internal audit is often even higher than in a fixed feedback discussion with superiors.

Internal audits also regularly reveal process changes that arise per se in a dynamic business world. With the help of this instrument, it can be ensured that these processes are adapted and company-relevant knowledge remains documented. They are also ideal preparation for an external audit.

Internal audits thus promote compliance with corporate objectives and ensure that process control functions smoothly.

Implementation

The concrete implementation can look very different and depends on the complexity of the company, the operational situation as well as the introduced management system.

Possible contents/forms of internal audits:


  • Discussion of individual orders in the form of spot checks (inquiries to invoicing)

  • Discussion of a procedure/process and checking whether the internal/external specifications are being complied with

  • Deepening of a main topic, which has been requested or determined in advance

  • Checking evidence (forms, checklists, SW programs) and their use in the daily work routine

  • Follow along and observe: The auditor observes a lesson, a training event or a customer meeting.

  • Deepening and checking of individual standard specifications

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As in the entire internal audit, you should actively involve your audience. They are sure to have suggestions or ideas on how to solve a problem. After the internal audit, the people involved receive brief feedback. The employees of the internally audited area need to know what findings were made and what measures will be derived from them. It is also the moment for positive feedback, for all that is already well implemented.

Be sure to record ideas for improvement or include them in the management review, your CIP (continuous improvement).


Internal audit protocol

Depending on the internal and external requirements, the audit must be recorded in the form of an audit report. This can range from a simple keyword protocol to a comprehensive dossier with all supporting documents (copies, photos, ...).

Regardless of the external specifications, the following should be recorded in the protocol.


  • Persons involved

  • Date of implementation

  • Content (procedure/process, focus, ...)

  • Positive findings

  • Errors/gaps

  • Open questions

  • Next steps


And now comes the most important thing: Now it is important to clearly regulate what happens with the audit result after the internal audit and who is responsible for what and by when.


What could internal audits look like for a micro-SME?


  • Collect feedback and evaluate it regularly. Derive improvement measures from it and plan the implementation.

  • Question the way you work and your work processes. For example, does an offer have to be printed out first, then signed, and then scanned in again? Or can you solve this digitally?

  • or regularly exchange ideas on relevant topics with other entrepreneurs to get input for improvements in your company that you can incorporate into your planning.


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