During these testing times, change is coming at us from all directions. Whether it is the news, social media, work environment, or home environment, to many of us, ‘Reality’ as we have known it can no longer be the baseline or measure of stability we refer to. We all deal with change and anxiety in different ways. And if anyone out there is going through so much stress and anxiety, remember you are not alone in this. It will pass (hopefully sooner than later).
In Jan 2020, the world woke up to a crisis that hit China and could potentially cause international chaos. It was a concern but was still difficult to materialise as the news has not personalised yet to our lives. Roll on to 23rd of March, and the Prime Minister of the UK issued a statement changing the advice to a rule: Everyone should stay home to save lives. No matter how many times a business ran Business Continuity tests, that announcement made it all real, and business management systems as we know them face a significant change.
As a Quality Professional – of any seniority level, now is the time we play a crucial part.
How we looked into processes has to change during these times. Whether it is auditing, sustaining acceptable performance, or improving the work of the business model to cope with these changes, we have an important role to play.
Couple of weeks ago, the Chartered Quality Institute published an article useful for auditors during the pandemic. You can find it here.
Risk based thinking was one of the key changes that was highlighted in ISO9001:2015. When auditing or assessing the work of various business units in an organisation, many auditors bring a great skillset in asking process owners ‘what if…’. This approach has certainly helped various teams to consider various scenarios and plan their process improvements accordingly.
To all internal auditors bringing added value to the business, now is the time you go back to all the relevant ‘what if’ scenarios and help process owners materialise success. Something has always been powerful and helpful to me as I work with gurus in different sectors, and that is knowing when and how to deploy certain strategies of change. Context is how the CQI defines it in their competency framework.
Context uses domain and/or industry specific knowledge to ensure effective implementation of governance, assurance and improvementThe Chartered Quality Institute, 2020 (http://www.quality.org/knowledge/cqi-competency-framework)
One of the most important first steps to take is to look at the context of the organisation and ask:
- What has changed in how we deliver our services/ products?
- Which processes does this change affect?
- How are these processes coping with these changes?
- What are the areas that would require support to align them to the overall governance structure?
As I mentioned earlier, we all respond to change and uncertainty differently. Communication and collaboration will help significantly if you are facing an enormous amount of change to the context that you are not quiet sure where to start from. Priority tasks will change, pre-existing implementation plans might change, and audit schedules and timelines might also change. But all of that potential change can be managed with a well structured strategy. Keep in mind PDCA starts with ‘Plan’.
A paper published in March 2019: ‘Achieving Sustained Success’ is a valuable resource I keep referring to.
Changes and developments inside and outside of the organisation can trigger innovation, including technology processes for delivery of products and services, the structure of the organisation, the management system and the business modelThe Chartered Quality Institute, 2019 (https://www.quality.org/iso-9004)
To better prepare for your strategy of governance, assurance and improvement at these times, reviewing information from the following sources could be extremely helpful:
- The company’s risk register
- Previous Internal Audit Reports
- Process Maps
And once you review the above, bring in your knowledge and expertise to the following areas:
- Processes that are/might impact customers’ requirements
- Processes that have started to slow down because they are unable to cope in the ‘new norm’
- Processes and workflows that can easily adopt efficiencies driven by technology
Of course the above are not exhaustive lists, but pointers the type of information that could be helpful. Look at all of these aspects, and you are bound to find areas to support the business during these times. And if your business model is already at a high maturity, working organically and efficiently under such circumstances, then now is the time to closely monitor your governance structure. This will help you assess how the governance framework is coping with such change and bring to the executive team the dashboard / KPIs / SLAs that they need to look at to continue to make factual based decisions.