The PDCA Audit

The linkage between PDCA and how it can guide us in planning and conducting an internal audit depends on our understanding of how a process works. Processes are not all that complex at their base level. First, all processes have an input. Call it what you like, a starting place, a work order or just a simple need, every process begins because something starts it – an input of some type. In PDCA language, input is what drives or creates the Plan. When a process gets its input, it should be a planned event, after all! A PDCA auditor recognizes that there was a plan to get the output from the last process to the one she’s currently auditing, and there should be a plan to handle what comes into the audited process to best manage things upon arrival and afterward.

In PDCA language, once we’ve created the plan, we Do something to accomplish it. In fact, a process does something at its most basic level: it transforms its input into an output. It takes what comes in and does something to it before it sends what it transformed to its next destination. PDCA and process are identical in that transforming something can’t be done without Doing something! The PDCA auditor will be searching for a common, universally understood method of Doing whatever gets Done within the audited department. “Work Instructions,” anyone?!

Now, let’s think about something as basic as what I’m typing at this moment. Why am I doing this? We decided that we needed a page or two to explain the PDCA approach to help you and others better understand what we’re about and how PDCA can help internal auditors to achieve better results. That’s the Plan.

I’m typing these words to achieve that Plan – to transform the need (for one or two new web pages) into a reality. It’s work I’m Doing right now.

How much do you want to bet that I’ll be spell checking my work? In fact, I just finished doing exactly that and found two words were misspelled, so I corrected them. In PDCA language, I just Checked my work, while in process language, I just applied a Control to the process. They’re one and the same! Checking something that’s been Done tells us about the ability to Control the transformation. PDCA Audits are designed to collect quite a lot of information during the “Check” section because many required records of prior inspections, tests, audits and other process Checks should be available.

Finally, before these pages are uplinked to our web host, we’ll be sure to Check all the new links to be sure they work properly. Clicking the button that sends this page to the site is the final Act, the output of this process. And when everything is complete, tested and finally on the net the process will be complete.. We’ve transformed our input (the need for new web pages) into an output that was checked with all the suitable Controls. The PDCA auditor is looking for evidence that, much as you’re now seeing these words on the web, the Plan was followed all the way through and improvements were incorporated along the way as the logical Act of following the PDCA cycle. We are also looking carefully to see if top management is aware of the adjustments and improved outcomes of processes we are auditing.

Here’s another example of how PDCA works to improve processes: We’ve applied PDCA to produce the words you’ve just read in the hope that it helps to explain our approach to internal audits. Of course, we have no idea if we’ve succeeded unless we have some way to Check your reaction to this effort! If you take a minute to reply to paulp@northernpipe.com, with your reaction to these pages, we can then make improvements to the next revision – we can Act on your comments!

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