Ten Tips for Selecting and Using a Consultant – 3. Update your internal audit checklists

Although checklists are not required by ISO 9001, most organizations use them to ensure their internal audits address all the stated requirements. Auditing courses promote the use of checklists and provide practice in creating them.

However, audits to ISO 9001:2000 should cause us to rethink our use of checklists. As interview tools, they should help us audit effectively and provide valuable feedback on the results of the quality management system. If not, why use them?

Well, there are good reasons to use them. Checklists, if developed and used properly:

  • Promote planning for the assigned audit
  • Ensure a consistent audit approach
  • Act as a sampling plan and time manager
  • Serve as a memory aid and confidence builder
  • Provide a repository for noting the evidence

Checklists do have some drawbacks. Relying repeatedly on a canned checklist not tailored for the audit will result in poor coverage. Restricting your interview questions because of the checklist will cause it to be viewed as a limited survey instead of a valuable audit guide. And, if your checklist doesn’t reflect the new requirements and process focus of ISO 9001:2000, it will need to be updated.

You want internal auditors to use common methods, but consistency should not be achieved by restricting interviews to a set of predetermined questions. The audit outcome should not be viewed as simply a completed checklist. Auditors should use it as a planning tool for their assignment and be willing to pursue other areas of investigation.

A checklist for ISO 9001:2000 should guide auditors through the system flow from quality policy, to objectives, to processes, to measurements, to results, to actions, and eventually to continual improvement. In fact, the checklist could identify a simple set of criteria to be covered instead of trying to develop specific, detailed questions.

There are four basic sources of requirements to consider when preparing a checklist:

  1. Standards: (such as ISO 9001:2000 requirements)
  2. Customer: (as expressed in orders and contracts)
  3. Organization: (as expressed by internal documents)
  4. Legal: (such as statutory and regulatory requirements)

Checklists revised for ISO 9001:2000 will focus more on the effectiveness of the system. Internal auditors may spend more time preparing for their audits, but they will gather more valuable information. Hopefully, the areas being audited will recognize that the auditors are looking more for process performance and less at simple compliance.