In this blog we are going to look at the value and purpose of an audit plan. We’ll also address the issue of ‘do we actually need one?’ As a benefit, you can use that as a tool to communicate to the auditees and make sure everyone is available.
First of all, what is the purpose of an audit plan?
Broadly, the purpose of an audit plan is to communicate to the auditee what we want to cover, when we’re coming and probably even restate the audit objective, scope and criteria (which we discussed in the last blog).
The second major purpose of an audit plan is that it helps us schedule out our different audit activities, and set aside some time with representatives from different areas of the business who are going to be busy.
So yes, it maximizes the chance that a production manager (for example) can actually allocate some time at the right time we need them to be there.
In some audit situations, if we’re going out to do a fairly involved audit – going through several departments, or through quite a few operational processes or particularly if we are going offsite to another site of our company or supplier – we probably need an audit plan. It is a really good tool for that kind of purpose.
In other cases, you can apply the ‘keep it simple’ principle. An example of this could be if you are auditing someone who works in a cubicle next to you, in a job you previously did anyway and it is a short, sharp audit, you probably don’t need an audit plan. You can just say “Hey Fred, are you good to o for the audit at 9am tomorrow” and that might be enough.
Some other considerations in our audit plan…
1. Restate the objective, scope and criteria:
This is because we’ve talked about how to define them in our last blog, but that doesn’t mean the auditees know what they are yet.
2. Allocate time for logistical issues:
This needs to be done for entry and exit meetings. Particularly if you want some management, or responsible managers of the team you are auditing to turn up to those kinds of things, you need to let them know that you want them to do that.
If there is any other kind of induction or logistical issue that needs time allocated to it, you need to do this as well, and then we can start to set aside some time for auditing the different teams, or parts of the team that we need to audit.
3. Moving between different parts of audit:
As you can see from the video, we’re scheduled to start the audit with dispatch at 10:30, so don’t finish auditing production at 10:29. Obviously there can be a physical distance between the 2 teams.
Also, you need 10-15 minutes to revise and evaluate the evidence you have gathered thus far in the audit of the production team.
You would have gone through a lot of information, made observation and looked at records so you need some time set aside to evaluate what that is telling you against your requirement. Is it indicating a potential non-conformance? Is it indicating a conformance?
This will also be beneficial as a little bit of contingency time so that if you’re running 5 minutes late, it won’t be that much of an issue.
4. Allocate Time for a break:
Going through a lot of information can be mentally taxing, so just a little bit of downtime there. Lunch breaks and things like that are important.
5. Allocate Time to review findings:
The critical thing to point out here, is that prior to the exit meeting or debrief with the team we have audited, if you’re an individual auditor, you need some time allocated to go through the findings from all the departments.
If there are non-conformances, you’re going to need to be able to clearly and effectively communicate these during the exit meeting. So you want to be very clear – what is the evidence to support that? What’s the specific requirement that the non-conformance is being made against?
That’s important if you are just an individual auditor, but if you have 2 or more auditors, it is even more important.
I have seen situations of auditors in an exit meeting, where one auditor is saying “there’s a non-conformance because we couldn’t find any records of the safety induction”. But if the auditees have shown this to auditee number 2, this is not a good situation. They will say “yes there is, we showed it to auditor number 2”.
That is definitely not a god situation to be in. You want to touch base with the other auditor, and look at all the evidence collectively. Determine what it is telling you that might confirm whether it is a non-conformance or a conformance or a conformance. You may realise during this time that there was information you (as auditor number 1) didn’t see.
So to answer the question of whether you need an audit plan, this depends on how involved you were going to be with the audit. You may be able to apply the 'keep it simple' rule instead.
By following the tips above, you will be able to create a thorough audit plan that can be used as a tool to ensure the auditees are available when needed, and perform the audit feeling confidently prepared with enough time for all activities.
In our next blog, we are going to dig with a really important question in the audit process of “how do I gather audit evidence?”
See you next time.
Download the Internal Audit Plan template from our Resources Page.