Read more: Importance of Film FormatOne of the main objectives of an audit is to obtain objective evidence. Not just random objective evidence, but concrete evidence for the requirements in the audit.By Craig CochranRead: what is objective evidence Objective evidence is evidence that the organization did or did not meet its requirements. One of the main objectives of an audit is to obtain objective evidence. Not just random objective evidence, but concrete evidence for the requirements in the audit. The auditor selects the requirements for verification, then looks for objective evidence that the organization has met the requirements. First, it provides credibility to the audit process. By keeping evidence of the facts gathered during the audit, we can be confident that an audit has actually taken place. Auditors don’t just look at motions. Real people were interviewed, actual records were checked, and current processes were analyzed. Anyone can review the evidence gathered and feel confident that the audit is effective. Of course, we’re not looking for a mismatch — we’re looking for a fit. Despite this goal, nonconformity is a common outcome of audits. If we collect detailed evidence during our review, we will be able to write down clear and defensible nonconformities. Objective evidence also helps to write down meaningful positive findings. Both of these outputs — the nonconformity and the positive findings — are based on accurate and objective evidence gathered by the auditor.Characteristics of objective evidenceRead more: Introduction to Chemistry | Q&A The term objective evidence sounds complicated, but it’s actually very simple. Here are the characteristics of objective evidence:
- Unbiased: Unbiased objective evidence. That means it’s not clouded by emotions or sentiments. The evidence is collected in a completely neutral manner. Bias often arises when auditors have a personal relationship with the person they are interviewing in an audit. Auditors should always be aware of how their personal relationships affect the way they view the evidence. If an auditor believes they are becoming biased, it is their responsibility to reach out to the lead auditor or quality manager and make this known.
- Reality: Objective evidence is fact. That means it’s real, not fabricated or imagined. Very few auditors intentionally create evidence that is not factual. Sometimes it happens accidentally when evidence is misinterpreted. This is one of the benefits of pairwise assessment. When you’re with other people, you can always ask their opinion about the evidence you’re examining. This will keep you in the field of factual evidence.
- First hand: Objective evidence is first. That means the auditor collects the evidence directly from the source. Evidence seen, heard, read or experienced by the auditor. A good auditor should never rely on second or third information, as it is often distorted. The more constraints there are in a chain of information, the more distortions exist and the less information can be trusted.
- Can track: Objective evidence is traceable. That means you include all identifications of the evidence. Identifiers can include date, time, part number, part name, and anything else that lets the organization know where the evidence is coming from. In theory, audit evidence should be traceable enough that anyone can see the same thing you saw during the audit.
- Non-personal: Objective evidence is undeterminable. Evidence is written to reinforce the focus on systems and processes, rather than people. The name is omitted from the proof and replaced with the job title. No opinion on the severity or possible effects of the evidence just needs to be given the facts. The evidence is written in a neutral, non-incriminating manner.
Just because your evidence is subjective doesn’t mean it’s the end. You can often turn subjective evidence into objective evidence by digging more. That is what is called audit trail. You can start with biased or stale information, and then turn it into objective evidence by asking a few more questions.Related story: Techniques for gathering audit evidenceObtaining audit evidence as part of an audit involves a combination of techniques that are used interchangeably: visual observation, examination of records, and employee interviews. For a moment you will look around the work area and soon you will ask the employee a question. Auditing is a canvas skillfully woven from these techniques. Let’s take a closer look at each of the key techniques used to gather audit evidence. Click here to read more.Read more: Meaning of film form Read more: Characteristics and advantages of mixed husbandry | Top Q&ACollect evidenceGathering evidence is at the heart of an audit. Effective auditors are often curious and enter every audit in a learning mindset. When you want to learn, your mind will crave information and your senses will be especially keen. Very few will escape your detection. Desiring to expand my knowledge, I ask probing questions and pursue unique and important question lines. You cannot fake curiosity. It only exists inside your head. There are certain facts that can help get you into this state of mind:
- This company is doing a lot of the RIGHT things. In today’s extremely competitive economy, bad companies don’t survive. They dry out and blow away very quickly. If the company you’re auditing is still in existence, at least a few things must be done right.
- The people here are interesting and have some fascinating stories to tell me. I have found this to be true 100 percent of the time. No matter how trivial and insignificant an organization may seem, it will consist of a number of people who absolutely fascinate me. They will have interesting things to say to me and I will have a hard time pulling myself away from them.
- I will learn many things in this audit. There are processes, technologies and products here that I have never seen before. Yes, I’m here to do an assessment, but the benefits of the audit go both ways. If I am sharp, I will learn as much from them as they will learn from me.
- I am a partner of the organization, not a competitor. You are not looking for a nonconformity; you are looking for ways the organization can improve. This is a subtle but important difference. Auditors should not describe assessment as a sport where the goal is to deal with nonconformities. The number of nonconformities is not important. It is important that companies know what they need to focus on.
- The evidence I gather should focus on the big picture. Auditing is certainly a detailed process. My job is to accumulate details into trends that will help the organization improve. I needed to probe below the surface and uncover the real strengths and weaknesses of the organization. I will only be able to do this when the organization trusts me and understands that I am truly there to help them.
The general impression you should give the organization is trust. Every word and behavior you conjure up as an auditor should reinforce the idea that you can be trusted. People who are trying to learn can often be trusted because learning is a collaborative process that requires two-way communication. Be an inquisitive and you’ll be an effective auditor, too. About the author Craig Cochran is the North Metro Regional Director of the Georgia Tech Institute for Economic Development. He has assisted over 5,000 companies since 1999 with QMS implementation, problem solving, audits and performance improvement. Cochran is a Certified Quality Manager, Certified Quality Engineer, and Certified Quality Auditor through the American Quality Association. He is certified as a QMS Lead Auditor through Exemplar Global and is the author of many books, including ISO 9001:2015 in Plain English, published by Paton Professional. His next book, Auditing in Plain English, from which this article is cited, will be released at the end of 2016. Read more: The Importance of Film Format
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