Auditors Can Apply Journalistic Techniques

Performance Improvement Solutions for Your Business Needs November 2009
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Auditors Can Apply Journalistic Techniques
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In the October 2009 issue of Quality Progress Magazine you will find an excellent article written by Natalia Scriabina, and team titled ” Ask, and Ye Shall Receive -Auditors can take a page from journalists to get the answers they need.”

The article discusses how auditors can be technically proficient, but struggle with the more human side of the auditing process, and journalistic techniques can help during interviews and make the auditee more comfortable. The following is a synopsis of the article.

“The interview is more than a simple process of asking questions. It’s a relationship, however brief, between two people.”

The relationship starts the moment that you, the auditor or assessor, enter the room. There is never a second chance to make a good first impression: Did you enter with an expression of interest or suspicion? How confident did you appear? Did you introduce yourself or wait to be introduced? Did you take on the role of host or guest? Did you display enthusiasm? Your answers form the baseline of the interview relationship, and they determine the quality of the information you will obtain.

Let’s outline five underlying principles and techniques journalists use to conduct productive interviews:

1. Establish two- way trust: Work from the assumption the interviewee wants to share information and wants to make a valuable contribution to your audit or assessment results. Be professional, open and non-judgmental; try to establish that you share a common goal. While your subject may have his or her own agenda, set aside your concerns about that for the moment and try to put the person at ease. People need to feel confident you value what they offer and believe what they say-and that they can trust you.

2. Create a comfort zone: An interview should be relaxed and conversational. Social psychologists suggest we feel more comfortable around people who appear similar to us, with whom we feel familiar, who appear to like us and whose personalities are inherently attractive. If we try to conform to these ideas, there can be a real improvement in the quality of the interview.

By nature, people are unlikely to be open to complete strangers, so share a bit about who you are from the outset. Be prepared. Before you meet your interviewees, try to learn about their work and achievements. If you have the opportunity to meet them in their surroundings, look carefully around their offices and note photos, plaques or other memorabilia.

3. Pay attention: Ken Metzler, in his book Creative Interviewing, suggests that people who make eye contact while speaking are judged to be friendly, self-confident, mature and sincere, while non-lookers are judged as cold, pessimistic, defensive, evasive and immature. Journalist Sally Adams frames it this way: “How much you look at your interviewee matters vitally-look, please do not stare. Whether you realize or not, it affects how much they will tell you.”

In some instances, people look away when they are being evasive, but sometimes your subject may break the visual connection because he or she is thinking in a more introspective manner. To reestablish eye contact, lean forward as you ask your next question, arrange your face in a quizzical manner or make a hand gesture to draw the person’s attention back to you.

4. Paraphrase: During the interview, you might include an interviewee’s words and phrases in your questions. By paraphrasing, you indicate to your subject that you are listening and following. This technique creates empathy, suggests you are free of preconceptions and clarifies information for others who might be involved in the interview, such as representatives of partners, customers or suppliers. When you paraphrase, you speak the other person’s language, and it helps to convey shared meaning clearly.

5. Downplay yourself: The purpose of an interview is to gather information, not to talk about yourself. The best interviewers “concentrate on their interviewees so much that they almost become invisible,” Adams suggests. “One sign of a good interviewer is that he or she is forgotten.” Adams also recommends mirroring body language to establish rapport. “If they sit back relaxed, you sit back relaxed. If they lean forward, you lean forward. it needs to be subtly done.”

The best interviews do not just happen. They are the result of careful and conscientious preparation by the interviewer. Auditors must spend a great deal of time learning about the organization, the employees and the processes involved before asking the first question.

The best way to improve your interview skills is to practice-the more opportunities you have to ask questions, the better you will become at procuring the information you seek.

Read the complete article.

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Study: Managers Make Recession Worse By Ignoring Workers
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According to a new study by Leadership IQ, 66 percent of employees say that they have too little interaction with their boss. In an indication that this could be driven by the recession, this number is up from 53 percent in May 2008, the last time this study was conducted.

However, employees don’t just want warm-and-fuzzy interactions. While 67 percent of employees say they get too little positive feedback, 51 percent also say they get too little constructive criticism from their boss. Perhaps most troubling is that employees who said they didn’t get enough feedback were 43 percent less likely to recommend their company to others as a great organization in which to work.

These are the results compiled by Leadership IQ, a leadership training and research company headquartered in Washington, D.C., after surveying 3,611 workers from 291 business and health care organizations in the United States and Canada. Employees were asked 21 questions about their relationship with their direct boss, their personal effectiveness, work-force issues, and overall management effectiveness. The surveys were delivered to Leadership IQ subscribers, with 93 percent of respondents submitting their responses electronically, 5 percent via paper, and 2 percent by telephone. Leadership IQ statisticians reviewed the data for accuracy and consistency, and analyzed the valid submissions.

It is not just the quantity of the feedback that is lacking. Of the surveyed employees, 53 percent say that when they do receive praise for performance excellence, their supervisors neglect to provide enough useful information to help them repeat it; and 65 percent say that when they receive negative feedback for poor performance, their supervisors don’t provide enough constructive criticism to help them correct the issue.

“Managers are neglecting one of the most fundamental aspects of their job-providing feedback. Especially in these stressful times, employees are desperate for feedback and interaction with their boss. And when they don’t get it, their job performance suffers. But perhaps worse than the lack of interaction, is the finding that when managers actually do give feedback, more than half of employees say that the feedback is useless. The whole point of feedback is to improve poor performance or reinforce great performance. And this study shows that it’s just not happening,” says Mark Murphy, chairman of Leadership IQ.

What can managers do to fix this?

“First, focus on giving a lot more feedback,” recommends Murphy. “Managers should double their efforts to interact with, and provide feedback to, their employees. Second, managers must be sure that when they give feedback, it’s actually useful. If the feedback doesn’t help employees improve poor performance or repeat great performance, then it’s not worth the breath it took to utter it.”

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Quality Objectives are Business Objectives
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Are you having a difficult time identifying quality objectives for your organization? Think about your business.

According to ISO 9000:2005, 3.2.5, a quality objective is something sought or aimed for, related to quality. ISO 9001:2008, 5.4.1, states your quality objectives must be measurable and consistent with the quality policy.

Clause 5.3 of ISO 9001:2008 says your quality policy is a framework for establishing quality objectives. It also says that the policy must include a commitment to 1) comply with requirements and 2) continually improve the effectiveness of the quality management system. Using the quality policy as a framework, you would have a quality objective to measure the degree to which requirements are being met, as well as, a quality objective that measures the results of the quality management system.

If your quality policy identifies other important areas, for example, product reliability, you would be expected to have another measurable target for product reliability. ISO 9001:2008, clause 8.2.1, says a required performance measure is for customer satisfaction.

Remember, goals are conditions to be achieved in the future. They should be defined consistent with your vision and mission. Goals are established to guide your decisions and actions. They don’t change as much as objectives. Your objectives must involve measurable results to achieve your goals.

Objectives are focused on critical issues and milestones. They describe the activities and targets to achieve your goals. They even identify the dates for completing the activities. They are measurable in terms of being achieved, or not. For example, a general goal might be to reduce waste. The related, specific objective might be to reduce rework from 10% to 5% by the end of 2009.

Depending on your industry, you might consider quality objectives such as:

  • Scrap Rate = Product Rejects / Products Produced
  • Return Rate = Products Returned / Products Shipped
  • Complaint Rate = Received Complaints /Total Customers
  • Design Stability = Change Requests / Product Releases
  • Service Quality = Defective Transactions / Total Transactions

Be careful how you set these objectives and how you communicate them. You might find people actually manipulating processes to achieve the desired results, especially if the numbers are used to evaluate employee performance. When handled poorly, performance targets can result in internal competition and a lack of cooperation. In fact, a specific process objective can be optimized at the expense of overall system performance.

If a target is perceived as arbitrary, and set beyond the capability of the process, it may lead to employee frustration, reduced morale, and even lower performance. Individuals must feel they have some control over the outcome for an objective to actually promote improvement. The objectives should help monitor and control the processes, not the people.

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In the News
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IPC Lean Sigma Conference for Electronics Manufacturing will be held Nov. 17-19, in Phoenix, Arizona. Designed to benefit all operations managers, including manufacturing, field application, market development, and inventory control engineers, the event offers insight into ways to immediately implement the lean Six Sigma methodology and reduce cycle times, inventory levels, and costs, while improving quality.

2009 Aerospace Nadcap Supplier Survey Preliminary Results. The fourth biennial Global Aerospace Nadcap Supplier Survey was conducted by the Performance Review Institute (PRI) in 2009. The preliminary results were announced at the Nadcap meeting in Pittsburgh, last month. Nadcap is part of PRI’s Customer Solutions and Support, which aims to identify and respond to customer need in all areas of business relating to quality.

The Panel of Judges for the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award, the nation’s highest recognition for organizational performance excellence, has selected 15 organizations for the final review stage for the 2009 Award. Starting last September, teams of business, education, health care and nonprofit experts will make site visits to two organizations in the manufacturing category, two in small business, one in education, eight in health care and two nonprofits. There were no organizations chosen for site visits in the service category.

Free Webinar: “What is ISO 14001 and Should I Care?” DNV Certification is offering a free webinar on Nov. 10, “What is ISO 14001 and Should I Care?” Time: 2pm Eastern / 1pm Central / 11am Pacific Duration: 1 hour Description and registration.

Contact us for assistance with your future 14001 EMS.

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Understanding and Implementing ISO9001:2008
ISO 9001:2008 Process Based Internal Auditor
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Understanding and Implementing AS9100C:2009 Aerospace – NEW
AS9100C Process Based Internal Auditor-NEW
Documenting Your Quality Management System

Understanding and Implementing ISO/TS16949:2009 Automotive – NEW
ISO/TS16949:2009 Process Based Internal Auditor-NEW
Documenting Your Quality Management System

Understanding and Implementing ISO14001:2004 Environmental
ISO14001:2004 Process Based Internal Auditor

The Five Pillars of a Lean Workplace Organization
Continuous Process Improvement
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Understanding and Implementing ISO 13485:2003 Medical Devices
ISO 13485 Process Based Internal Auditor

Understanding and Implementing ISO 27001:2005 Information Security
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