Audits and assessments are crucial for running an effective and profitable business. While they may seem overwhelming, they are some of the most effective strategies for creating value and improving the efficiency of an organization. The difference between audits and assessments may seem subtle, but both tools drive impressive results.
Unlike a financial audit, a business process audit is focused on process and procedure compliance. The primary considerations in a process audit include the organization’s strategic objectives, goals, and procedures. Similar to Gemba walks, these audits should run regularly to ensure compliance.
The idea is to analyze any process or procedure against the ideal state of that process or procedure. For example, let’s say a company runs an audit on the quality management process of their final products. Their quality manager, Jim, has been with the company for over ten years. After a few years on the job, Jim stopped referring to the standard work instructions for evaluating the quality of all final products. During the audit, it comes to light that Jim has been skipping a few steps, likely because he simply forgot the smaller steps since he’s been operating from memory. This has resulted in a few returns on products that didn’t meet quality standards.
A few things are true in the previous scenario. First, if process audits are conducted regularly, issues like this can be prevented. Second, the audit uncovered that it’s easy to stop referring to standard procedures once you feel confident in your work. Three, the audit enabled the company to immediately identify the gap and find a solution to close it. Audits are effective prevention- and solution-focused tools.
Assessments can be conducted internally or by an external organization to help you assess the current reality of your organization. A business assessment should capture all angles of a business, even those that aren’t so flattering.
Whether conducted internally or externally, assessments should come with recommendations for next steps. For example, an assessment of the company in the previous example might show more widespread issues with compliance in areas with more senior employees. This assessment should recommend providing incentives for refresher training to avoid quality issues in the future.
Assessment tools are a great precursor to the audit process. Their primary purpose is to take a snapshot of the entirety of a company and compare it to the company’s ideal state. They can highlight areas in a company that are lagging or showing declines in productivity. They can also help uncover the gaps that require further analysis in the audit process.
The Benefits of Audits and Assessments
While both problems have fundamental differences, they both share several impressive benefits. They both:
- Identify and eliminate gaps in processes or procedures.
- Assess compliance with standard procedures, such as checklists or work instructions.
- Maintain efficiency and productivity throughout the year.
- Enhance continuous improvement efforts.
- Mitigate risk.
The Lean Learning Center provides robust audit and assessment tools, strategies, and resources to help bolster employee motivation, close gaps in process or procedure issues, and drive company value and productivity.