Witches, Ghosts, and Vampires: Scary Stories from the World of Internal Audits

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Jason wrestled with his umbrella on the stormy morning of his first full day as Quality Manager of Krueger, Inc. The front door mysteriously creaked open to “welcome” him into a dank, drab lobby. He followed the gloomy corridor toward a dimly lit conference room where he was scheduled to meet his new team.

Three weeks ago during a surveillance audit, Krueger’s CB had written 3 Major non-conformances, including one against the internal audit program itself.  Jason was brought in from outside to make changes quickly.

After spending the morning meeting with his team and learning about what led to the major non-conformities, Jason had heard a lot he didn’t want to put in writing. He decided to meet with his boss, the Plant Manager, to discuss what three of his notable team members, Ursula, Casper, and Drake, revealed.

“Fred,” he said, as he sat on the edge of the table in the Plant Manager’s office, “I’ve got some characters out there, and it’s kind of scary what a mess we have to clean up!” Jason went on to tell Fred about the Witch, the Ghost, and the Vampire who inhabited Krueger, Inc’s Quality Department.

“First of all, we have Ursula, who managed to corral 8 poor unfortunate souls to go to her training class for internal audits. All the new auditors got was a read-through of the standard, a tour of the quality department’s SharePoint site, and an afternoon of following Ursula around while she audited. One guy told me she warned them that if they wrote any findings, they’d be on the hook to fix them so to be careful what they wrote. They had to make up any work they missed for auditing by coming in on the weekends, so most audits took no more than an hour or two in total.”

Fred looked chagrined and said, “Yeah, I’ve heard she seems to think audits happen by magic. But she had a good team! I saw the names!”

“Oh, you don’t know how she got that team so fast?” Jason asked. “I understand there was a bit of coercion involved. I’m not sure what kind of promises she made people, but she appears to have an interesting power of persuasion. And I don’t care how good the people are, they can’t audit if they aren’t trained and if they don’t understand the processes they’re auditing. Ursula had 8 very fine volunteers, including an accountant, a security guard, the receptionist, and a new hire who hadn’t even finished her basic shop floor training.”

Fred shook his head and said, “OK, what else did you find?”

Jason brightened and chuckled, “Casper, the Friendly Ghost!”

Leaning back, Fred looked incredulous. “What? Cap’s a great guy.  Everyone loves him, always likes to help people!”  

“Great guy, friendly as can be, yeah,” Jason said with true sincerity, but then he laid a stack of audit reports on Fred’s desk. “All his reports of the remote sites are filed on SharePoint, but they’re totally pencil-whipped. Look, these are almost identical, and there are never any findings. He uses the same yes/no checklist for every site, always has, and no one’s noticed.”

“So, you mean his reports are fake?” asked Fred.

“Not necessarily, though he’s only barely scratching the surface with these canned check-lists. But more than that, he disappears for 3 days at a time doing who knows what, and there’s absolutely no value in his audit reports. I’m not sure if everything really is fine, or if he’s just pencil-whipping these and taking a 3-day break every month to visit sites and do nothing.” 

Fred shook his head in dismay again, saying, “Ah, now I get the ‘ghost’ reference. I had no idea. I guess I’ve never really read his reports.  OK, what else do you have?”

“You tell me,” said Jason, as he slapped down a huge folder from the only other “experienced” auditor, Drake. “Drake seem like he’s going for blood every time he audits. He writes up every nit-picky documentation error and doesn’t give up until he bleeds the department dry for records errors.”

With this, Fred stood up, frustrated and tired, and said, “See, that’s the problem with audits around here! Everything they find is so trivial, but they blow it out of proportion.  Don’t they see that no one CARES about that stuff? We just need to stay out of trouble with the CB and keep our certificate!”

And that – the moment when Fred admitted that when it came to the Quality Management System, Management only cared about a piece of paper – was the moment when Jason realized the real horror story of the plant:

  • It wasn’t Ursula the persuasive “witch” who wanted to run a tight ship with no non-conformities;

  • It wasn’t Casper the friendly “ghost” who disappeared for a few days a month to audit and never had anything to show for it but pretty reports;

  • It wasn’t even Drake, the vampire who was sucking the life out of the business for the sake of inconsequential documentation errors.

Truly, the scariest character at Krueger, Inc sat in Fred’s office – the man who considered “doing that quality stuff” a necessary evil.   

The End

OK, that’s all in good fun, but perhaps you know of an Ursula, a Casper, a Drake, or even a Fred where you work. What can you do?

We invite you to learn about some proven methods for strengthening your audit program at our webinar:

November 15 at 1 pm CST (or replay):
“6 Ways to Build the Value of Internal Audits”