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The Influential Auditor

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Influence is an attribute that can be developed once you know the formula. Knowing how to be influential in your daily pursuits can be the difference between a value-added experience for the auditee and just another audit. We all know at least one auditor of great influence and watch as…

Influence is an attribute that can be developed once you know the formula. Knowing how to be influential in your daily pursuits can be the difference between a value-added experience for the auditee and just another audit.

We all know at least one auditor of great influence and watch as they command an audit outcome, network event, or technical committee. They may not have the highest competence, the most experience, or the greatest technical skills, yet colleagues choose to listen, follow, and accept the advice or arguments voiced by these individuals.

This influence comes from within the individual and it is a series of traits that they have developed or learned to intuitively master. The traits I am speaking of are: confidence, courage, commitment, passion, empowerment, trustworthiness, and likeability. Not all of these traits come in an equal concoction of awesomeness—the mix will talk to how influential you really are.

If we were benchmark ourselves against highly influential people, we would likely pick some religious icon, business mogul, or academic. The choices are endless. Let’s take a brief look at the attributes of influence.

Confidence is how much you rely on and believe in yourself and your abilities. You may have a strong sense of personal judgment that lets you know when you are right, especially when the outcome of a situation is unknown. People could relate this to vision or the art of seeing the unseen.

Commitment is your will to achieve an outcome. Those with high commitment will overcome almost any adversity and power through to the finish line. Commitment and purpose are intertwined. Knowing what you are striving for will be a strong driver for you.

Courage is where you draw your inner strength from. It’s how you face barriers to success or challenges to outcome. Having courage can move you through a confronting situation in the workplace, to a balanced, peaceful, or fruitful outcome. Courage and commitment make great bed fellows.

Passion—one of my favorites—is your eagerness to complete the job and engage others on your progress. Those with high passion can very clearly communicate their vision to others and demonstrate the value of having them join you.

Empowerment is the ability to share the effort and rewards that follow. Those who are comfortable sharing power attract others to their work or vision. Being empowered means that you build the competence of others around you and enjoy the fruits of your labor.

Trustworthiness. A big one here for us all is having others place their trust in you without being let down, betrayed, or taken advantage of. Trust and responsibility show others that when you commit to something, you finish the task, are reliable, and in turn they will support you. Trustworthiness is probably the hardest attribute to attain, and the easiest to lose.

Likeability is how you demonstrate your positivity to others. Having a positive mindset and allowing others to feel positive can be an empowering experience for both parties. Likeable people tend to be heard more, trusted more easily, believed more often, and given the benefit of the doubt. Being likeable does not mean that you are a push over or are overly optimistic. Rather, it means you can overcome the barriers to success by believing work matters, and that you can only be successful when you have the support of others.

These traits underpin the best leaders, influencers, popular icons, and community elders.

When we consider ourselves against these seven traits, what do we see in ourselves? We may be committed and passionate about our cause, but does our likeability and empowerment let us down causing people to trust us less?

Let’s turn this into a positive statement. When we are clear about our purpose and have the determination to deliver a great outcome that benefits others as well as ourselves, then we are more likely to be trusted and supported.

Focusing on auditing—knowing your key competencies and how they can positively influence the outcome of an audit—will greatly improve your presence on site. Your confidence builds a level of trust in your capabilities and a commitment by the client to achieve a successful outcome.

What we know about auditing is that people are drawn to the profession by the nature of their personal attributes. These individuals have an innate sense of passion and pride in their work and know their efforts contribute to a safer, secure, consistent way of life for all that meet or exceed consumer expectations.

Influence can be measured and is able to be enhanced through your daily pursuits and reflections on your work. Your mix of traits can be identified, measured, and reported on, and you can become a more influential auditor.

If you have a story about a moment of influence you have achieved, participated in, or witnessed, please share it with us. If you would like to know more about how to measure your influence rating and how to build upon your traits, please get in touch.

Millennials’ Association with Quality

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Let me be clear from the start: This is not an anti-millennial piece, rather a call to action. We are interested in you. Millennials (Members of the generation following Generation X, or two generations after the 1946 to 1964 baby-boom generation. Also known as Generation Y.), are the voice of…

Let me be clear from the start: This is not an anti-millennial piece, rather a call to action. We are interested in you. Millennials (Members of the generation following Generation X, or two generations after the 1946 to 1964 baby-boom generation. Also known as Generation Y.), are the voice of future quality professionals. So let’s talk.

In continuing our work on future sustainability pathways, Exemplar Global is very clear on one thing—millennials are our audience.

I am not going to detail the psychometrics of millennials. I would prefer to discuss the value proposition to engage in our industry.

For the sake of efficiency, I will call it the quality industry. But let it be understood this covers training, consulting, auditing, mentoring, coaching, and research into all things related to the consistent outcomes of product and service. This includes quality, health, safety, environment, security, and protection.

I decided to research how other industries and associations address the “enigma” of millennials and what engages them. I found 375,000 articles on Google alone. That number may have increased since I wrote this, which shows that people are seeking answers to the same questions I am.

I am not going into the exact details, but suffice it to say that the questions are common across all the associations I researched. I will share a thread of logic shared by all on the “how to” for millennials. Specifically, learn to engage with millennials using their tools of communication, demonstrate that your association has an accessible and attainable career pathway, remove the barriers of achievement through mentoring, and articulate the purpose that will encourage engagement through volunteering.

The list is by no means definitive and there are other nuances of these themes. Essentially, the formula looks and feels familiar. But do we pitch it to the right audience?

Speaking directly to millennials, I would like to respond to these terms on behalf of Exemplar Global and other like-minded quality professionals and communities.

Mission
Our mission and vision at Exemplar Global is to advance the art and science of recognition of the professionals within the communities we support. That means we work hard to show your value to customers and employers globally. We do this by building credentials that are portable and easily recognizable. We do this because we believe you are the future and will take us forward.

How do you engage in this mission? We need people to help us shape a clearer vision of the future. What will the work environment be? How will people engage with it? What do they need to bring with them as competencies to add value to this environment?

Millennials are faster, have higher energy, engage intimately with technology, and build ideas in a way that is unique and of high value. We need you to help us deliver your future career path.

Career path
We’ve taken the first steps to create a career pathway for you. This has the elements of engaging with your peers, describing the entry requirements, and the outcomes of developing your professional credentials (this means money, recognition, and association with others). We have the flexibility to work with you on how you would like to engage with a career path. This means technology, challenge to goals, recognition, and incentives to complete the path.

Mentoring to success
Mentoring is necessary and valuable. We are working to build platforms to connect our most accomplished certified professionals with aspiring millennial professionals. Having access to an expert helps you build problem-solving capabilities, client relationship development skills, and build interaction with senior or executive management. There is no better way to build your personal and technical skills than with a mentor.

Interaction
Nothing beats in-person time at events or working environments. This counts as valuable professional development and can be used as recognition toward certification or professional growth.

To this end, Exemplar Global has begun to create these opportunities, starting with our Hackathon and then moving forward with the establishment of a young professional governance opportunity.

More details on this will follow in the near future, but the sole purpose is to engage young professionals to build future association and professional credentialing models. This will be a global opportunity that fast-tracks your skills development with governance, strategy, project management, and technical development.

Communication
Being a global provider of credentials and career development has its benefits and challenges. One challenge is being “local” to our audience. The physical and cultural barriers can be just as complex and impractical as in a medium-sized association. However, we have you to our advantage. You are global and local. You know the landscape and culture, and you are connected to us.

Together we can communicate using your technology and networks. After all, you have access to far more people than we do. We should encourage you to communicate on our behalf.

This assistance could count as recognition for certification and professional development. Championing our mission and enlisting others rapidly builds a social presence that sustains the quality movement.

These thoughts are just a sketch of what is possible with your help. I’m excited about what you can accomplish and how fast you can achieve solutions. My role is to encourage you to engage with us, support your ideation and enactment, and recognize and reward your efforts.

If this sounds like you, then let’s have a conversation. The future quality profession is owned by you, so make your impression on it.

As usual, I am interested in your feedback and thoughts. You can respond directly to this article or on your favored communication channel. I’m on most of those channels.

“Hacking” Quality

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Continuing my theme of the future of quality, the ability to see the future could come through some interesting lenses—hacking, for instance. Hack: A clever solution to a tricky problem. To hack is to modify or change something in an extraordinary way. (Urban Dictionary) While a more traditional definition of…

Continuing my theme of the future of quality, the ability to see the future could come through some interesting lenses—hacking, for instance.

Hack:
A clever solution to a tricky problem.
To hack is to modify or change something in an extraordinary way. (Urban Dictionary)

While a more traditional definition of hack may be along the lines of roughly cutting away at something, the younger generation’s perspective of hack, as defined above, describes how the term serves their lifestyle.

This contemporary meaning has value and purpose in the current business landscape where companies are seeking to break the mold of traditional practices and are looking at their processes against outcomes. Here, free-thinking is prevalent and leads to novel approaches for doing “stuff.”

So what does a hack deliver? It can deliver a process, idea, tool, product, service, or a combination of all of these. The hack process allows possibilities to be explored without the constraint of what is currently happening or what has occurred in the past.

This may sound like blue sky sessions or white-space visioning, except that you are starting with a known set of components and deconstructing them before analyzing their benefits and reassembling them to form something familiar yet new and disruptive.

How could this concept be used for the quality movement? What if we took our mainstay principles and components and gave them to the young folk and asked them to hack them?

What would that look like? How could it influence the future?

Would quality even go back to together in a useful, ordered sequence, or is it too structured to be discombobulated?

I recently read a LinkedIn post that presented the top quotes of the quality gurus—Deming, Juran, Ishikawa, Crosby, Feigenbaum, Taguchi, and Shewhart. I looked at their individual components and wondered how you could reconstruct their principles to suit a world 20 years from now.

What would that world look like? Popular futurists see it as being something like this:

  • Computers more powerful than the human brain will be readily available.
  • Every device will be connected to every other device, providing trillions of data points for measurement.
  • Everyone on the planet will have access to every single piece of knowledge known.
  • No one will need to learn anything as it will be all online, on demand, and unstoppable.
  • The idea of countries and cultures will merge into a socially connected population. Everyone will have access to each other, and the language barrier will disappear.
  • The boundaries of virtual and reality will disappear as we augment the world into our own life/space/being.
  • The need for humans to make or serve anything or anyone will be replaced by artificial life.
  • Currency and its value will give way to a socially regulated system of trade, and blockchain comes into play.
  • The search for self and value in a global, connected community becomes all absorbing.

I realize that this may sound far out and not remotely realistic. Let me remind you of all the science fiction movies from the past 20 years that contain mainstream happenings or concepts that are within reach today. Sure, we don’t have a Death Star hiding behind the moon or ride hover boards to work. But we do have 3-D printers capable of printing tissues and organs. We now have the ability to teleport energy, and we have discovered the Higgs boson, claimed to be the creation stone of matter from energy.

Consider this against the tenets of Deming, being:

  • Create constancy of purpose for improvement of product and service.
  • Adopt the new philosophy. We can no longer live with commonly accepted levels of delays, mistakes, defective materials, and defective workmanship.
  • Cease dependency on mass inspection to achieve quality.
  • End the practice of awarding business on the basis of price tag alone.
  • Improve constantly and forever every process for planning, production, and service.
  • Institute training on the job for all, including management, to make better use of every employee.
  • Adopt and institute leadership aimed at helping people do a better job.
  • Drive out fear so that everybody may work effectively and more productively for the company.
  • Break down barriers between departments and staff areas.
  • Eliminate slogans and exhortations for the work force as they create adversarial relationships.
  • Eliminate arbitrary numerical targets for the workforce and management.
  • Remove barriers that rob people of pride of workmanship. This includes the annual appraisal of performance and management by objective.
  • Encourage education. Institute a vigorous program of education and self-improvement for everyone.
  • Clearly define top management’s permanent commitment to ever improving quality and productivity.

In the world I just described, how many of these statements are relevant as they currently stand? To be controversial, I believe none of them are.

However, what underlies these principles may still have meaning. For instance, when programing artificial agents to produce a product needed for our benefit, which of the above key principles should be included? If you have a machine capable of thinking at speeds greater than humans and computing problems with similar outcomes to us, surely the principle of “do it right the first time” would be critical. If this feels a lot like the movie “I, Robot,” you may be on to something.

So who then becomes the hacker? It involves many people and the roles are critical. If we consider how quality is currently guarded against rapid change, I would say the current keepers need to play the role of mentor. I’m not talking about problem solving or “marking the answers,” but asking relevant questions.

The generation beyond millennials should be hackers and encouraged to break down the tools, principles, and systems for use in their emergent lives. Millennials then need to infuse their courageous and determined nature into the hackers. While millennials are courageous and demanding, and break out of the conventions of Generation X and the baby boomers, they hold many characteristics of their great-grandparents—the Depression babies.

That leaves Generation Y. What purpose will they hold? As a member of Generation X, I believe our purpose is to facilitate the transition of knowledge, purpose, and power to future generations. We know how to “plan-do-check-act” as taught by our forebears. We are compliant with systems and ensure quality remains an output. We will be the angels or venture capitalists of the future, so we best get comfortable with what lies ahead.

Part of hacking quality requires us to walk the talk, and to that end I am starting the process in-house. We have a hack planned for our business, and we are inviting future generations in to see if there is value in professional credentialing. If so, how should it look. We have an intergenerational cast assembled and the outcomes of this experiment are keenly awaited by myself and others.

I look forward to sharing with you what we learn about ourselves and what our reconfigured state looks like. After all, our credentialing process is now 30 years old, and what have we done to reach the future? Time will tell.

I look forward to your views on hacking quality.

What Will Quality Look Like in 20 Years?

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To look to the future, the quality profession is revisiting its roots. The question is, “Where is the next generation to help the profession look ahead?” Or, as I like to think of it, “What’s the emoticon for quality?” I recently attended ASQ’s World Conference on Quality and Improvement where…

To look to the future, the quality profession is revisiting its roots. The question is, “Where is the next generation to help the profession look ahead?” Or, as I like to think of it, “What’s the emoticon for quality?”

I recently attended ASQ’s World Conference on Quality and Improvement where we discussed powerful questions such as, “What will quality look like in 20 years? What will it be called? Will it still be relevant?”

The reality of the situation was that I was in a room where the average age was older than the quality movement itself. I mean no disrespect to the elders of our profession as they have taken us a long way, but I wonder what message they will have for future quality leaders.

In one session, we broke into groups to ponder the future of quality and were asked to report back to the room.

One by one, each table presented their considered responses on how tools need to improve to manage process, how the language of quality needs to migrate upward toward the board or C-suite, and how the quality body of knowledge needs to be revisited.

The room comprised leaders from the United States, Europe, Asia, Latin America, Australasia, the Middle East, and Africa, and each perspective was diverse and created from the relative age of the quality industry of their origin. The Japanese in particular had an interesting perspective that quality was not a word used in Japan, as it is a part of their daily lives and didn’t require a label to give it substance.

At last it was my turn to speak, an honor thrust upon me by my group as punishment I suspect for being so vocal and making boasts like, “What does quality really mean anyway?”

I was seated at the European table, with delegates coming from a continent where the quality process has been honed to a smooth surface over many decades. We discussed ideas around quality as a term, its value to future generations, and its use in a data-driven society.

My discussion began with, “Quality as a term is obsolete; you just don’t realize it yet.” After the audience adjusted their seats, I continued. “Quality as a process to consistently control iterative acts of production or service to guarantee outcomes is not the quality of 20 years from now.”

I suggested to the room that given the rate of change for adoption of new processes, technology, social structures, and the like, what room is there for a structured quality environment whereby you subscribe to a directive documented in a standard and set your life’s work against the achievement of staying within the boundaries?

Since I wasn’t yet being chased from the room, I continued. “Ten years ago it took 12 months to become compliant to quality practices. Today it could take 10 days depending on your product or service. Tomorrow it could be 10 minutes given the rate of adoption of quality. So why should we remain fixed to a process that was built in the 1800s, documented in the 1950s, globalized in the 1980s, and iterated ever since?”

Seeing the room was on the edge of their seats, I raised the pitch, volume, and ante. “We should consider quality as an on-demand activity whereby the data stream is constant and insatiable.

“In fact, just the amount of data supplied through media such as augmented reality will be so great that it will be difficult to determine good data from bad.

“Given this on-demand, data-filled life, what role does quality play?”

Pushing toward a conclusion, I posited, “Quality as a word is meaningless; it doesn’t even translate into every language or culture. If you asked a Tibetan what quality was he or she might say it’s about being happy.” Incidentally, Tibetans are one of the happiest people on earth.

“Quality as a product is valueless,” I boldly proclaimed. “If you consider the Japanese example from earlier, quality is just a part of your life not something you go to work to do. So why should it be a commercial activity? Hence, quality will be free.

“Quality as change agent for industry will cease to exist as the next generation will be selecting and providing their own products and services from some form of portable device in the comfort of their homes. The type of quality selected will be dependent on a social rating system, not unlike the thumbs up “like” emoticon on social media sites today. You may end up liking product that, in turn, builds the companies activities to ‘follow the thumbs’ as it were.”

Summing up my thoughts, I concluded, “What’s left for quality, or whatever it’s called? Quality will be about teaching people the thesaurus of quality terms as it is presented to them. Knowing what aspects of quality are important and how to seek, digest, and engage with it will be the purpose of the quality profession. Providing the meaning behind the stream of electronic ad nauseam pervading our lives will have meaning.”

I figured I hit a nerve, or at best created uncertainty, by the lack of applause or recognition of my presentation. But really the message wasn’t for the people in the room, it was for the future professional interested in providing thumbs-up moments to the world. They will be the ones to take the concept and run with it.

I hope that this article will be read by the emerging professional and encourage further thought on how to engage with “quality.”

Quality has purpose, but it needs to evolve to remain relevant and effective. There is no right answer to the questions posed here. The perception of one person is as good as another. The opinion with the most likes will prevail.

After reading my thoughts on the future of quality, I would be interested to hear yours. Thumbs up or thumbs down?

Exemplar Global: Evolution, Future Gazing, and Opportunity

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Exemplar Global has long been a leader in personnel certification. For the past 25 years we have remained dedicated to providing proof of competency. Throughout our pursuit of excellence we have helped thousands of professionals to enhance their career outcomes. Remaining a market leader in the certification of auditors has…

Exemplar Global has long been a leader in personnel certification. For the past 25 years we have remained dedicated to providing proof of competency. Throughout our pursuit of excellence we have helped thousands of professionals to enhance their career outcomes.

Remaining a market leader in the certification of auditors has involved a constant evolution to stay on top of our game and be the best we can be for our customers.

Our business is very different from what it was five years ago when we focused solely on auditor certification and standards. This is something that we do really well. As a result, we were able to expand our range of products and services. We introduced training provider certification, joined forces with iNARTE, introduced industry schemes, and started using our exams and systems in different ways.

The past six months have been a period rapid change for Exemplar Global. After closely evaluating our customers and anticipating what they need from us, we took the next step to add value to our professionals and enrich the community. We created the notion of the career pathway; introduced Exemplar Global College, which offers online continuing professional development courses; and delivered a comprehensive suite of exclusive benefits for our customers. Taking these steps has given us the opportunity to engage with our customers in a different way, leading to a stronger focus on customer service.

Evaluating our current state led us to ask, “What else can we do? What is the next step?”

We carefully considered these questions at our recent planning sessions to determine what lies in our future. It was certainly challenging, and we don’t have a clear picture of what the future looks like.

We did determine what we didn’t want: to stay the same and be just another personnel certification body that only certifies auditors. We want to continue to evolve and be the best we can be, not only for our existing customers, but also for the broader professional community.

In these planning sessions, we set out our vision for 2017 and 2018. Over the next two years, we want to build new products and deconstruct existing processes and reassemble them differently. In particular, we want to focus on building a more comprehensive career package and continuing professional development (soon to be known as career management). In this phase, we aim to move beyond just customer service to really engage with our customers.

Looking even further ahead in our vision for 2019 and beyond we want to look other career paths.

We are really great at auditor certification. And although this is something that we want to continue to work on and improve, we feel that it limits the scope of the professionals that we are able to work with. We want to open up our business to other career paths—catering to professionals such as engineers and asset managers, for example. The possibilities are endless. To do this, we must keep our customers engaged at every step of the process.

What is our motivation to evolve and leap into the unknown? We recognize that although we are great at what we do, we need to respond to industry and market changes. This only begins to scratch the surface. For us, it goes much deeper.

We have come up with a great concept in the career pathway, which clearly articulates the professional journey from beginning a career, developing skills, gaining experience, all the way through to retirement. Although this has mainly focused on auditors, we want to broaden the scope of the career pathway. What can we really do with it? How can we use it in other professions and industries?

This is an ambitious endeavour. How are we going to achieve it? As we enter this new phase for our business and move into the future, we will need a strong foundation to support us and momentum to drive us forward.

How do we know what the future holds? How can we see into the darkness ahead? When you shine a light, it omits a beam that is narrow and bright close to the bulb. The light becomes wider the more you look into the distance. The further you extend your gaze, the dimmer the light becomes and things become less clear. To move our business forward, we need to focus into the distance where things are less clear. This is where opportunities lie.

Currently, our activities are close to the source of the light. To be successful in our future gazing, we need a strong, reliable battery to power a light that will not falter. The batteries—our team and the systems that support them—need to maintain our quality of practice by being fully engaged. Backed by this strong power, we are able to see into the future and pursue opportunities that lie ahead—without neglecting the core focus of our business: proof of competency and professional excellence.

We may not know where the future will take us, but we know for sure that it will be bright!

Global Audits and Auditor Competence

global audits
Performing global audits or international audits can be tricky. Culture, trust, risk, error, and competence are key factors in these situations, and they can determine if an accurate outcome is delivered. A recent business negotiation led me to consider just how reliable audits are when performed globally or internationally. During…

Performing global audits or international audits can be tricky. Culture, trust, risk, error, and competence are key factors in these situations, and they can determine if an accurate outcome is delivered.

A recent business negotiation led me to consider just how reliable audits are when performed globally or internationally. During the negotiation what seemed to be normal operating practice and examination or interrogation of results became the sticking point to the progression of the business. What I thought would lead to a set of frank discussion points became more about me than the topic itself.

This experience led me to research global audits and to review papers by peer organizations that focused on decision making versus culture. I found the issue isn’t confined to management systems auditors. Indeed, professions such as finance, insurance, project management, and engineering experienced similar concerns.

Let’s start with some basic concepts—global versus international. There is a difference—international being a company that manages remote offices in a limited number of foreign locations. In these situations, all power and decision making is performed at the head office.

Global, on the other hand, speaks to a dissemination of power to autonomous businesses or franchises in multiple foreign locations. Here, the use of power and distance will affect the outcomes of an audit. It can also be argued that the further from the source of power, the more likely that risk or deviation to compliance practices will occur. This includes the act of auditing practice.

Global expansion brings with it the spread of cultural differences between audits, auditors, and competence. Consider if you will, my style of auditing: I search for data, make some direct assumptions, and challenge the auditee on the findings to determine their understanding of the process and allow them to demonstrate how they control outcomes. My style may be more direct than others, but I still perform in a respectful manner.

This approach is not viewed similarly around the world. Losing face in front of colleagues and being confrontational is not regarded as acceptable practice in many cultures. Challenging the person against data or process outputs may not be acceptable, and auditors may accept data on face value.

So how do you make a clear decision or judgment call on your findings and reach an agreed viewpoint? This proves challenging when the auditee prefers to agree, but disagrees to reach a finalization of the audit process. More important, which opinion or condition prevails here? In an international business it would be fair to assume that the opinion of head office prevails; however, in a global business the local conditions and customs override the corporate dogma.

I am uncertain if there is a direct line of approach through this; however; auditors should use their best judgment combined with a risk analysis.

This leads to the topic of risk and understanding if there is a shared level of risk among the global auditor community. Given my recent experiences, I would say that I uncovered some practices that were illegal or extremely high risk. These were known to the auditee, yet were not corrected or acted upon. It was felt that the risk was not as severe and that it was being used as leverage. Here is where a second or third opinion helps diffuse the situation.

This is a good segue into the topic of mixed global audit teams. It would seem prudent that when auditing globally that your team of auditors is comprised from global sources. This should at least counter for cultural variations and risk appetite.

Given that you have made the decision to create a global team, how do you make an audit team “gel” given the diverse backgrounds and assumed competence? You need to establish trust among the team and, in many cases, overcome some immediate prejudices.

Here, knowledge base, experience, accuracy, and belief systems will be challenged. Taking orders from a lead auditor may not be a natural act in some cultures where you only take instruction from your direct superior. Gaining this permission may prove challenging.

Trust often comes from repeated use of the team and understating the acceptance of errors and omissions when reporting findings. I can recall as a very young auditor working globally and having to report back to an audit program manager in another country. Their idea of accurate audit reporting was to write a 99-page audit report, right down to a “he said, she said” diatribe. In this way, the auditee and reader of the report could make up their own mind about the accuracy of my work. This was very confrontational.

I am challenging the norm of global audits delivering consistent outcomes and how valid some outcomes prove to be. My own recent experiences and more than 15 years of auditing abroad would tell me that the audit should be used as lane markers for more prolonged oversight of foreign operating conditions.

It’s not just about trust; it’s about calibrating your expectations of an international partner or provider.

I feel another global Exemplar Global research project coming on, but until then I warmly welcome your experiences on this topic. How do you find the experience of auditing globally?

TAG: global audits.

Quality for the Service Industry—Lessons from the Sharing Economy

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How are quality practices being adopted into sharing economy services and what risks do consumers face by participating in industries that aren’t regulated? We live in an age where the ideas of an individual can be rapidly shared, supported, and funded by an insatiable audience. I’m talking specifically about off-beat,…

How are quality practices being adopted into sharing economy services and what risks do consumers face by participating in industries that aren’t regulated?

We live in an age where the ideas of an individual can be rapidly shared, supported, and funded by an insatiable audience. I’m talking specifically about off-beat, nontraditional service provisions.

Here lies sharing economy—a hybrid market model that refers to peer-to-peer-based sharing of access to goods and services. Basically, people rent out something that they aren’t using, such as a car or house.

Let’s investigate further by focusing on what are arguably the most well-known sharing economy services: Uber, a consumer driven (no pun intended) transport service, and AirBNB, a consumer-based alternative to the accommodation industry.

Services such as these have seemingly grown overnight and are experiencing considerable success despite operating outside quality systems.

This isn’t to say that they don’t use some form of quality management process. But from the perspective of a quality practitioner, there are no visible signs of quality compliance. By this, I mean certification marks, accredited processes, referencing to standards, and the like.

What I do see, however, are statements that aim to reassure the user that a commitment to consumer safety is in play. For example, here is a statement from the Uber website:

“We require partners to keep documents up-to-date to remain active. Riders, likewise, must maintain active payment information.

“Riders are responsible for guests traveling with them or anyone they request a ride for. It is your responsibility to ensure everyone adheres to Uber’s Code of Conduct.

“Violations of this Code of Conduct could result in loss of your Uber Account. Please report any violations to Uber, we want to hear your feedback! Alert us, and we’ll take action!”

Statements such as these are common among economy sharing services and are the only measures in place to protect consumers and provide assurance that they will receive what they have paid for and that their expectations will be met.

Why are these statements deemed satisfactory in the service industry when they wouldn’t meet any condition of the manufacturing sector, let alone the finance industry?

If recent events are anything to go by, these statements do little to protect the consumer.

The most recent story that comes to mind is that of an U.S. Uber driver who carried out a number of murders in between picking up passengers. In Kalamazoo, Michigan, Jason Dalton has been arrested for the murder of six people after he allegedly opened fire at innocent people during a five-hour rampage in his car.

Reports suggest that Dalton dropped off Uber clients in between shootings. According to Wood TV8, Dalton dropped off a group of people at a Fairfield Inn in Texas Township, then went next door to the Cracker Barrel and allegedly opened fire at two cars.

Dalton cleared a background check and was approved to be a driver on January 25. He had given about 100 rides and had a rating of 4.73 stars out of a possible five.

It comes as no surprise that following the incident, Uber faced criticism about its screening policies. In response, Uber said that it couldn’t have predicted that Dalton would engage in the events that occurred and that its safety procedures are robust and don’t need to change.

There are also numerous accounts of Uber drivers who have sexually assaulted passengers. In a recent incident, an East Boston Uber driver Abderrahim Dakiri was found guilty of a single count of assault and battery of a female passenger.

Then there’s the story of the man who died after a swing accident in the backyard of his AirBNB accommodation. In this incident, a man lost his life during his stay at an AirBNB property in Austin, Texas, in 2013. The freak accident saw a tree branch snap above a rope swing and strike him on the head. In an article written by the deceased’s son entitled “Living and Dying on AirBNB” and published on Matter, he wrote: “Nothing is currently done to make sure hosts actually comply with safety guidelines (or even read them), which is a problem particularly for newer properties on the platform, which AirBNB’s customers, as opposed to employees, are left to vet for safety.”

How do these examples demonstrate to customers that the service has an ongoing commitment to keep them safe?

According to the terms and conditions listed for these services, the ramifications of failing to provide the advertised service only go as far as account cancellation or a public message that they are no longer verified.

In my world of working at international levels to provide regulatory frameworks, this seems untenable.

From my perspective, basic quality practice considerations include:

  • Considering customer expectations
  • How to source materials and services that eliminate further risks to the end state
  • Implementing a design process that considers risk and works to prevent, control, and eliminate risk
  • Constantly measuring processes to ensure consistent outcomes are delivered
  • Ensuring that corrective practices are available to immediately correct issues. These must also deliver analysis to ensure that future risks are prevented.

I’m not aware of any evidence of this in economy sharing. I’ve heard a great deal around how it is a cheaper alternative to regulated practice, provides greater access to service and career opportunities, and ultimately “sticks it to the man.”

This modern approach definitely catches the attention of the younger generations. But from a wiser, more experienced perspective, this way of thinking is concerning.

I’m sure that many people share my fears, yet there seems to be no slow-down in the economy-sharing market. This is despite the fact that the concept borrows from the assurances of traditional industries that rely on quality principles.

It’s prudent to think of the relative age of these services and how fast we have seen worst-case scenarios appear in these models.

Again, I reference the driver turned murderer, the host turned accidental killer, etc.

I wonder how these risks were modeled by economy sharing providers and how they expected to control this—given that they will never meet their human capital, are unlikely to ever visit their service locations, or to sample the products and services that their providers offer.

The Uber driver I referenced earlier also raises the question of how Uber could allow such an individual to operate in its fleet.

Uber has a policy that encourages users to complain about a driver who may be under the influence of drugs or alcohol, but it doesn’t have any recommendations for drivers who threaten lives.

We live in a world where anyone can hang a shingle in the name of a global provider and receive minimal, if any, ongoing validation or verification of practice.

The main regulators for these services are social media and public sentiment. Facebook is a key method of regulation, and people should be vigilant by referencing a social media profile before engaging.

We all know of countless times where social media has been used as judge, jury, and executioner for an individual and, to a certain extent, the organization.

More often than not, the size of the organization protects it from ruin. Sadly, those at the small-to-medium end of the spectrum have tumbled.

What my examples demonstrate is that convenience and control of choice often seems to override the need for quality controls. Traditional institutions don’t enjoy this level of flexibility or forgiveness by the markets they serve. However, they do offer one massive benefit—consistency.

Using finance as an example, consumers understand that granting of a loan comes after complying with a known process. The process ensures that anyone can “win,” provided that they play within the rules.

The rules are long-established and, in large, ensure that the lender and borrower are protected from risks.

On the other hand, economy sharing offers the ability to procure funds from the widest of sources against a speculative business model with an outcome that could be devoid of any risk planning or management. Yet, consumers line up for the opportunity to participate.

By now, you would have gathered that I struggle to grasp the economy sharing model, yet I marvel at its successes.

I am concerned for the future sustainability of these services and applaud the disruptiveness of these innovations.

I can see where traditional quality processes can play a part in guaranteeing the sustainability of economy sharing and protecting consumers from undesired outcomes.

However, I am uncertain of the uptake of quality processes given the speed at which these services operate. I can also understand how quality processes could be seen as a limitation to quantum gains in market share and the limitless demand by its consumers.

There also seems to be more forgiveness in the realm of economy sharing—mostly because the service is a reflection of their own investment.

After all, who would want to prosecute their brother, aunt, or neighbor for breaching the rules of a social service that they helped to create? They were just being entrepreneurial and taking a shot at “sticking to the man” to get ahead.

Raising the Profile of the Professional Certified Auditor

Professional Certified Auditor
I recently received an email asking, “Why is it possible for doctors, dentists, engineers, and lawyers to obtain university qualifications, register with relevant boards, and then enter private practice, yet it isn’t possible for management system auditors to do the same?” It’s a valid point. Why are management system auditors…

I recently received an email asking, “Why is it possible for doctors, dentists, engineers, and lawyers to obtain university qualifications, register with relevant boards, and then enter private practice, yet it isn’t possible for management system auditors to do the same?”

It’s a valid point. Why are management system auditors perceived as having a lesser professional status than other professions that require them to be, in effect, bound to accredited certification boards?

I, too, share this sentiment and have dedicated considerable time pondering the issue. I have made it my life work to raise the profile of the professional auditor in relation to certification.

Personnel certification to professional standards allows us to clearly demonstrate the rigor of the auditing profession to the market.

Taking this one step further, professional development allows us to demonstrate the value auditors add to world trade, consumer safety and sentiment, and government confidence among deregulated processes.

Traditionally, auditors needed to align themselves with registrars to find work. This created Catch-22 situations such as “to gain employment, you need experience.”

However, conditions are changing. An increasing number of auditors are self-employed. The growth in the number of registrars means that practitioners need to be more cost competitive. As such, in today’s environment, a contracted auditor makes more economic sense.

One downfall to being self-employed, contracted, or “on call” is that your skills are open to scrutiny by registrars that don’t want to spend the time or money on “credentialing” you for their team. They expect you to come in with a proven set of skills in a defined set of industries. You now need to work harder to demonstrate these capabilities.

Organizations such as Exemplar Global can help with this. This isn’t intended as a sales pitch. This is a call to arms for aspiring and credentialed auditors to build the ranks of those seeking external recognition for their profession.

After all, the more professionals who are vocal about their profession, the more people stand up and listen, including registrars and customers.

Auditing is no more of an “end of line” job than a medical or legal professional. Assurance of process is not a tick in a box for product on its “way out the door.” It means that the business, whether it deals with a product or service, is committed to protecting the trust it has built with its consumers.

Many auditors share this frustration. It’s up to us as a profession to work together to change this perception. If you have any thoughts or questions on this topic, please leave a reply below.

How Your Personal Attributes Get Your Career Started

how personal attributes get your career started
As a developer of certification and credentialing systems, I long ago realized that what we really want is for someone to do a job “well” or be “good” at something. These words have nothing to do with study or experience, rather they equate to the thousands of decisions made each…

As a developer of certification and credentialing systems, I long ago realized that what we really want is for someone to do a job “well” or be “good” at something.

These words have nothing to do with study or experience, rather they equate to the thousands of decisions made each day while performing the role.

Known as personal attributes, defining and recognizing them can help boost a person’s career.

Personal attributes are meaningful and can be used to great effect when identifying a population of workers who need to deliver interpersonal outcomes. Good practice would be for companies to assess how they want someone to work in a role versus what they want them to work on in a role.

Group dynamics should be considered to gain an understanding of the affinity within a team (or lack thereof) and how the new person will affect this dynamic. For many groups, where the work they perform is remote, isolated, or autonomous, an affinity with a group or movement gives them the drive and a sense of connection to do what is right when going about their work.

A sounding board or a reality check can be the difference between someone performing within the realms of acceptability or outside what is acceptable, leaving the person susceptible to group or community criticism.

How do you know if you’re the right person for a particular role, group, or community? Has your employer considered what personal attributes or qualities you’re bringing to the job? How do you know that what’s right for you now will remain the right choice over time?

Utilizing personal attributes assessments is a good way of determining your fit as well as potential employees’ fit. Some employers choose to assess candidates before or during their interviews, and the results are shared with them so they know if they have met the requirements for the role.

Applying a greater emphasis on personal attributes when recruiting employees can drive higher achievement of expectations and result in a more skilled and talented workforce.

Applying Personal Attributes to the Mental Health Support Worker

Interpersonal skills define the quintessential social worker. High empathy, altruism, affinity with like-minded groups, and amazing coping skills are sought-after personal attributes for workers in this role. Of these attributes, “affinity” stands out as being key for these types of workers.

For some time, Exemplar Global has been working with Aftercare—an Australian non-profit organization in the mental health sector—through our charity unit Gratiis.

The aim is to create a way of recognizing personnel who perform essential support work services for people experiencing mental health issues.

Traditionally, employees are selected for support work based on their training and qualifications, and are then inducted into the practices and culture of Aftercare.

“Lived experiences”—personal experiences with mental health conditions—are important to Aftercare as this builds affinity with the particular community in need. However, the ability to capitalize on these lived experiences is yet to be realized.

Our aim is to build a system that not only recognizes qualification requirements, but also adds focus and an increased emphasis on personal attributes.

We hope this creates the opportunity for people with lived experiences access to a career in support work.

These lived experiences develop an affinity for a community in need and will take job seekers much further down the path to employment.

The success of this program relies on the scientific development and assessment of personal attributes for support worker employment. Exemplar Global has engaged with Aftercare’s team of psychologists, researchers, and ethics professionals to validate this approach.

A career shouldn’t define the person; the person should define the career. I believe that the attributes each person brings to a role makes the difference between a worker and a professional.

Learning about the job and being trained in the role are ways employers ensure a certain quality of outcome or assurance of process. Adding value to a career ensures outcomes to the consumer: it gives confidence, provides trust, and reassures continued customer patronage.

The outcome of a service is a feeling, and the attributes of each individual determine how positive that feeling is.

Download a PDF copy of Peter Holtmann’s “Personal Attributes as a Predictor of Continuing Competency” white paper here.

TAG: personal attributes.

The Case for the Vanishing Auditor: A Cause Will Suffice

case for the vanishing auditor
The Case for the Vanishing Auditor - the sustainability of the audit profession is in doubt unless we start acting as a group to attract, train, and retain audit talent. The prospect of a clear and well-developed auditor career pathway is an exciting prospect for our industry, yet we haven’t…

The Case for the Vanishing Auditor – the sustainability of the audit profession is in doubt unless we start acting as a group to attract, train, and retain audit talent.

The prospect of a clear and well-developed auditor career pathway is an exciting prospect for our industry, yet we haven’t found the moment of ignition to get professionals engaged. A cause is needed to mobilize the profession, but which one?

I have been presenting the case for a sustainable auditor career pathway for the past month at conferences across the United States.

A key takeaway from this experience is that auditors recognize that the very sustainability of our profession is in doubt. If we don’t start acting as a group to attract, train, and retain audit talent, we could be seeing serious brain drain and skill depletion within five years.

The other message that really struck a chord with people I presented to was how auditors add significant value to local, national, and international industry, and how we protect consumer safety and deliver an increased quality of life through our efforts. It’s an uplifting story and one that’s seldom told.

Although both stories are truthful, compelling, and imminent, I have yet to see any traction around engaging sustainable changes. Although there is the beginning of some work at groups such as the Independent Association of Accredited Registrars, which is now looking into apprenticeships, there is no global initiative.

I’ve talked with registrars and certification bodies that are working on an internal solution. This sees the industry as a whole progress two steps forward in a journey of a thousand steps.

Trying to solve the problem from this perspective isn’t going to be a solution for the growing army of independent contract auditors, and it doesn’t assist accreditation bodies standardize the competencies demanded under ISO 17021. It also creates barriers to success by virtue that anything developed in-house is commercially protected.

The auditing profession needs a cause—something to spark a common interest or concern to precipitate change. Most of us are familiar with causes such as anti-war movement, the occupy Wall Street group, WikiLeaks, and the like. All of these built a following by appealing to some level of injustice being served.

I’m not implying that an injustice is being served to the auditor profession. My point is that we are facing an avoidable demise of skilled labor, and it is approaching like a train wreck in slow motion.

What drives causes? You could say that they’re born when a way of life is impacted. For example, when the ability to earn money and provide for your family is at risk or when you’re no longer publicly recognized for your talents and capabilities.

When I consider that we, as a profession, facilitate world trade and increase our quality of life, I could draw the conclusion that the demise of our functions would slow the rate of progress and remove the security of knowing that quality is protected.

Part of our problem is that we don’t advertise ourselves enough. What’s the usual response when someone asks you what you do for a living? When you answer, “I’m an auditor,” you’re subjected to the usual gamut of questions around financial audits. Or, worse yet, you field the vacant stares when you explain quality and safety conformity systems.

How do we build the perfect elevator pitch for our roles and use it to illicit genuine interest in auditors? Is this enough of a catalyst to get a cause started?

There’s no doubt that auditors suffer from an image problem. We seem content with the perception that auditing is an end-of-line profession, and that the byproduct of our work is an approval mark on the side of a box of cereal or a truck passing us in the street.

We need a cause. We need to pick ourselves up, hold our heads high, and point ourselves toward a future that can be rewarding, sustained, and globally recognized and demanded.

Any ideas you wish to share on the topic of cause-based enactment would be welcomed.