Thursday, 3 April 2014

How to Choose a Consultant for your guidance

How to Choose a Consultant for your guidance
An ISO Consultant has a great deal of influence over the development of an organization’s quality system and many organizations spend a great deal of money using consultants for the sole purpose of helping them achieve ISO 9001 certification. 

How can a company have confidence that a consultant is competent and that the organization's needs and expectations will be met? 

Evaluating a Consultant

Registering an organization to ISO 9001 does not necessarily prove product quality; it proves that the organization is good at registering. All things being equal, organizations often require an ISO Consultant because they want a specialist; someone who is good at ‘registering’.

We recommend you review ISO 10019:2005; written by Technical Committee 176, titled ‘Guidelines for the Selection of Quality Management System Consultants and use of their Services.’ As the name suggests, this document provides guidance the factors to be taken into consideration when evaluating a quality management system consultant. It applies to the following:

- Organizations who wish to select a consultant
- ISO Consultants themselves, as a guide to develop their competence in consulting
- Consulting organizations, for selection of consultants

Selection Criteria

Some might argue that the ISO Consultant is merely a ‘supplier’ and should therefore be subject to ‘normal’ supplier evaluation and selection controls. Many organizations operate defined criteria for product and service suppliers but the ISO Consultant is rarely subject to the same controls which he is often responsible for implementing. Very few organizations are likely to operate a supplier evaluation process that retains approval records for their chosen consultant.

Deciding Consultant to Hire 

Always ask for references, these will allow you to determine how the ISO Consultant handled similar implementation scenarios. References usually say a lot about a consultant’s ability to deliver. You can use the questions below as a basis for developing your own formal evaluation process. Why not make it official and add the selected consultants to the approved supplier list?

- What were the outcomes of previous consulting engagements?
- Does the consultant operate a fixed way of doing things?
- Has the consultant undergone peer assessment through a professional association?
- Have they demonstrated the ability to complete assignments on budget and on time?
- Are they open to learning how your organization operates?
- Does the consultant’s experience match your implementation requirements?

If you are unsatisfied with the responses to any of these questions, ask the consultant to provide additional information. Any ISO Consultant worth their salt would rather put in additional effort than leave a client unsatisfied!

Once all the options have been considered, ask the consultant to submit a formal proposal that outlines their implementation strategy. Review the proposal with the consultant and resolve any queries you may have. Sections of the proposal may have to be rewritten to provide the desired level of assurance and to provide greater clarity. Accept the proposal only when you thoroughly understand its implications

Guidelince for Auditing Top Management and the Internal Audit

A Guide to Auditing Top Management and the Internal Audit
Organizations must audit the processes associated with top management as part of an effective internal audit program. These processes include those relating to strategic planning, the establishment of policies and objectives, ensuring effective communication and ensuring the availability of resources. 

Auditing top management is often seen as a sensitive issue but by considering each top management activity as a normal organizational process, it becomes much easier to focus on determining whether the outputs of their activities are effective. 

How to Audit Top Management

By using a formal risk-based approach to internal audit planning, as required by ISO 9001, auditors have a great opportunity to engage top management in the audit process. By making top management part of the planning process and by giving them ownership of the areas to be audited, the internal audit becomes a valuable mechanism for development.

A good starting point is to copy, into the audit checklist, all requirements from the standard that say ‘top management shall’, almost every clause of section 5 starts with ‘top management shall’ and it’s the auditors job to find if top management ‘did’. The audit checklist must cover the requirements from the following sections:

5.1 Management Commitment
5.2 Customer Focus
5.3 Quality Policy
5.4.1 Quality Objectives
5.4.2 Quality Management System Planning
5.5.1 Responsibility and Authority
5.5.2 Management Representative
5.5.3 Internal Communication
5.6 Management Review 
5.6.1 General

During the Internal Audit

When undertaking the internal audit of top management, the auditor should collect and corroborate evidence of top management’s commitment from within the quality management system itself. The auditor should ask how the quality manual addresses management commitment issues and ask how they are accomplished; then, the auditor must find objective evidence that proves it’s actually being done. This method applies to top management as well as the production machinist, and everyone else in the organization for that matter! 

If the standard, documented procedures, policies and objectives are audit inputs, then the evidence sampled and the interview statements made by top management auditees are the audit outputs. If the input does not align with the expected output, the auditor simply states this misalignment as a non-conformance whilst providing an audit trail to the supporting evidence. 

Final Reporting 

Auditors should prepare the internal audit report in a manner appropriate for presentation to top management. It might be necessary to present the executive summary of the audit report directly to the top management and other interested parties within the organization. The executive summary must highlight both positive and negative findings and suggest opportunities for improvement.