Prepare for an Audit

To prepare your organization for an external audit:

  • Communicate the audit scope and schedule
  • Ensure key contacts are available for interview
  • Verify process owners can clearly describe
    • inputs and outputs
    • resources and methods
    • controls and measures
  • Arrange for auditor access to documentation
  • Plan the logistics for the audit team visit

Managers of the areas to be audited should:

  • Become familiar with the documents in their area
  • Walk through the area for a spot check on operations
  • Verify that only valid documents are being used
  • Identify records that prove requirements are met
  • Be prepared to share performance results for area
  • Ensure that the work areas are clean and orderly
  • Confirm that past nonconformities have been fixed
  • Brief employees on how to interact with auditors
  • Communicate a positive, learning view of the audit
  • Participate in the audit briefings and meetings

Auditors will need escorts, so their guides should:

  • Know the quality system and how it operates
  • Understand the audit plan and functional areas
  • Be available by staying with the audit team
  • Clarify, not answer, for the person interviewed
  • Act as witnesses for any audit nonconformities
  • Help keep the auditors on the planned schedule
  • Take good notes for possible follow-up actions

Of course, employees in the areas to be audited should:

  • Understand the quality policy and their role
  • Prepare by participating in internal audits
  • Know where their documents are located
  • Be able to quickly retrieve their records
  • Know how to respond to auditor questions
  • Be prepared to demonstrate their activities
  • Be aware of quality objectives for their area

Employees should be ready to answer audit questions such as:

  • What is the overall purpose of this process?
  • Please describe your job and responsibilities.
  • What are the process inputs and who supplies them?
  • What resources are needed for this process?
  • What are the process outputs and who receives them?
  • How do you know what to do?
  • What training, skill, and experience are needed?
  • Show me, or tell me, how you do the job.
  • How do you know if it is done right?
  • When it is not right, what do you do?
  • What records are kept of this activity?
  • How is the process controlled?
  • What are the process objectives?
  • How is the performance measured?
  • How could this process be improved?

When being interviewed, employees should:

  • Listen carefully to the auditor questions
  • Provide brief, accurate, honest answers
  • Answer specific questions, not volunteer
  • Avoid steering auditor to other discussions
  • Be cooperative, not misleading or defensive
  • Avoid digressing, speculating, or embellishing
  • Ask for clarification if they don’t understand
  • Admit if they don’t know the answer to question
  • Refer auditor to right person for an answer

After the audit, be sure to:

  • Thank everyone for their participation
  • Summarize audit results to organization
  • Request corrective actions, as needed
  • Monitor actions for timely completion
  • Verify corrective actions are effective
  • Inform the audit body, as appropriate
  • Analyze results and identify any trends
  • Initiate preventive actions, as needed