• Andrew Thornhill

How to communicate an audit finding of NON-CONFORMANCE

In this blog we will talk about how we clearly communicate a finding of non-conformance. It has a bit of a negative connotation and some people can be a bit defensive, so I’m going to provide an approach you can take to clearly articulate the non-conformance but still do that diplomatically.


Most people who audit internally will be fine with the term. Personally, I think whatever you call it, it’s just saying that there is a bit of a gap in the way risk is managed and as a team action needs to be taken on that.



The biggest tip I can give you is: If you think there is a potential non-conformance speak to someone straight away. This could be the manager of the team you are auditing, the compliance manager, or someone who is coordinating the work for you.


If you have an audit contact person at the site you are auditing for example, raise the issue and ask if there is any other potential evidence or information elsewhere, such as “do I need to be interviewing someone else? Do I need to look at some records I haven’t already seen?”

Because sometimes by exploring that further there may be more evidence than we realised and it is not a non-conformance.


But also by raising it early, certainly before the closing meeting or exit meeting, then if it is genuinely a non-conformance, the auditees know about it straight away, and they already accept that it is a non-conformance because they can’t point you towards any evidence that would help demonstrate conformance.


You might not have the full audit report written before the closing meeting, but you should always have the non-conformance statements written up. You don’t want to be trying to communicate a non-conformance by saying “I think there is a non-conformance” and then fiddling around trying to work out why it’s required or what the evidence is.


You must be able to articulate it very clearly. As we explained in our previous blog – “as per this section of the purchasing procedure these certain purchase orders were over a certain amount and not authorised by the right person”.


You can state that very simply, factually and given that you have already communicated it to the auditees, there is usually no pushback on that at all.


Sometimes body language or tone can imply some level of condescension or judgement “geez you guys haven’t got it right yet?”


Try to avoid body language that implies this, and just communicate it professionally.

It will be up to the team you have audited to take corrective action, but something you can do to help the auditees is explain a little bit of the process to them.


If you have an audit finding of non-conformance which has to go through a corrective action process, explain what happens from there and what support they might have available.


RESOURCES:

Download the ‘Internal Audit Training – Simple’ Document template from our Resources Page under the training section at the bottom of the page.


OTHER AUDITING BLOGS:

Do you need an audit plan? (and how to create one)

How to gather OBJECTIVE audit evidence

How MUCH audit evidence is enough to draw a factual finding?

What you can do if the auditee is uncomfortable with the audit process

People skills that are important in the audit process

How to WRITE a clear audit finding statement

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