Learning About Internal Audits from Dr. Joy


Dr. Joy Browne hosted the longest-running call-in therapy radio shows in America. She passed away at age 71 in 2016. Listening to her radio shows taught me a lot about why Quality Management Systems Internal Audit programs and Corrective Actions fail. It’s often about peoples’ relationships.

A fully qualified clinical psychologist, “Dr. Joy”, as she was known, took a no-nonsense approach to her callers, by trying to zero in on a problem without getting caught up in any associated drama or digressions. In fact, after some time analyzing her recommendations, it seemed to me she only had about five standard answers to many of the problems people wanted her to solve.

A perennial issue the callers had revolved around the relationship between two people and centered on a story such as, “My (brother/sister/mom/dad/boyfriend/wife, etc.) does [insert problem] and it really annoys me…” A complaint. Dr. Joy usually responded with the basic answer, “If you want them to change, you have to change what you do – you have to explain your issue to them and then ‘trade’ something YOU do which is annoying them.”

You may ask, “How is this related to Internal Quality Management Audits?” Well, as internal auditors, we frequently deal with a variety of other peoples’ behaviors which annoy us, including:

  • people not wanting to be involved in internal audits,
  • disappearing when the auditor heads towards the workspace,
  • people arguing with audit findings, and
  • not taking non-conformities seriously enough to fix them.

As a result, internal auditors might be heard complaining, “People don’t take my audits seriously.”

What can be done to improve the chances that internal audits are better received by other people in our organizations? Taking a cue from Dr. Joy, what can be done as auditors so that others – particularly management - would recognize as “serious”?

To be successful with our internal audits, we need to plan. We are taught that planning is creating an audit checklist. That might be important, but it’s no better than having a grocery shopping list without knowing who we’re feeding and what meal we’re preparing. Planning is essential to the success of any assignment and it’s in this planning – what we’re going to audit, when and how – that our chances of being taken seriously are increased significantly.

When planning your internal audits, consider:

  • Involving the process owner being audited – if they are involved, their people will see it’s important and act accordingly
  • Discovering what, if anything, the process owner is concerned about. ISO 9001 might label this as “risk,” for example:
    • Poor performance, negative customer feedback, employee turnover etc.
    • Changes affecting the process
    • Anything new which can impact the process
    • Overperformance – Wow, how’d THAT happen?

Unlike a certification auditor, internal auditors have access to all the relevant personnel and information on which to base their audit planning. Instead of simply completing a calendar of audits, the internal audits should be planned with management’s active participation and considering the above points. Then, when the audits are performed, process owners will want to participate and be seen participating, which sends a strong message that internal audits are important.

When internal auditors encourage management’s active engagement and focus their audits on the important issues as they investigate how the QMS is helping to manage the risks, there’s an excellent chance audits will be taken seriously by everyone.

For assistance with your company’s Quality Management Audits, The Center’s experts can help. Search upcoming Quality Management classes or contact inquiry@the-center.org for more information.

MEET OUR EXPERT: Andy Nichols, Program Manager
Andy Nichols, Program ManagerTo The Center’s clients, Andy Nichols, CQP MCQI, brings 40 years of expertise in a wide variety of roles and industries, with a particular focus on quality management systems in manufacturing organizations. Prior to joining the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center, he was the East Coast Regional Sales Manager for NQA, a “Top 5” Global Certification Body, responsible for significant sales growth in a highly competitive marketplace. He has authored two books, “Exploding the Myths Surrounding ISO 9000 – A Practical Implementation Guide” (published by ITG in April 2013) and “A Guide to Effective Internal Management Systems Audits" (published May 2014).

Since 1991, the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center has assisted Michigan’s small and medium-sized businesses to successfully compete and grow. Through personalized services designed to meet the needs of clients, we develop more effective business leaders, drive product and process innovation, promote company-wide operational excellence and foster creative strategies for business growth and greater profitability. Find us at www.the-center.org.

Categories: Quality Management