Audit Mentality: Part II discusses the common dead-ends that "Audits" evolve into.
Matching the capability of employees with the tasks that need to be done is one of the dilemmas that confront modern organizations. In simpler times Management could either terminate or demote somebody who demonstrated the Peter Principle. It was understood that the enterprise was a life boat in a stormy sea and that the seaworthiness of the life boat was far more important than seating arrangement within the life boat.
Today, people "own" their jobs. A corporation cannot lightly deprive a person of their position without facing litigation and other blow-back. This is pure silliness. If the employee actually "owned" the job they should be able to sell it on eBay. (There is a credible story of a factory employee in Flint, Michigan who auctioned off his "coffee pot" when he retired. He netted $32,000 from the sale. He "owned" the coffee pot but not his job.)
A particularly sticky situation is when an employee with critical skills works under a mediocre boss. It gets down-right ugly when the mediocre boss is a "protected species", a person who self-identifies as a member of a "historically economically disadvantaged minority."
One of the few win-win scenarios involves popping the cork out of the bottleneck by promoting the mediocre boss into an auditor. That frees up the critical employee for reassignment without exposing the corporation to court intervention.
Win-win except for the people who must deal with the newly minted, mediocre, status-focused auditor.
These auditors swagger about the production floor. They generate non-value added requirements and then spank production oriented people who do not grovel with sufficient ardor. They publicly pillory operations people three pay-grades above themselves for minute infractions. There is no pushback or recourse. They are auditors.
An auditor decided that some arcane metric needed to be charted on a shift-by-shift basis. Further, they demanded that the chart be posted at the production stations for their auditing convenience.
An executive decision was made to physically store the charts in the production team room (200 feet from the station) due to the difficulty of maintaining the paperwork. Non-value added paperwork has a tendency to disappear out on the plant floor. The charts existed and were up-to-date. The auditor stomped her feet and her hollering stopped one level short the Corporate VP level.
The next audit had the same auditor but the plant contact was the same species of economically disadvantaged minority. The paperwork was still in the production team room where it would not be ignited by weld sparks. The plant passed the audit with four stars. The only difference was that one more non-value added position had been created and filled by promoting a historically economically disadvantaged minority.
A second pathology
A second pathology involves using the audit process to "educate" new employees. Young, dewy-eyed, impressionable employees are handed generic audit forms and directed to audit specific areas. This was the aggravation my Beltway cousin endured. He worked for a contractor who maintained a massive database on a mainframe.
The audits were written for networked personal computers:
-Is antivirus software up-to-date?
-Is Java (and other known security risks) most recent release?
-Is MS operating system most recent release?
-Is the computer plugged into a Federally approved, 1500W surge protector?
90% of the auditors who show up have no clue which questions actually apply to the mainframe environment. The facility only passes the audit when 60 year old auditors who used to work with mainframes cross off two-thirds of the audit questions as Not Applicable. The facility is placed on a provisional operating basis and a mandatory improvement plan is implemented when they do not pass the audit.
The facility rarely passed the audit. The facility was never shut down. That would shut down the Government.
Auditors throw a long shadow.
The first auditor had an uncanny knowledge of man, machine and product and how they interacted. He was able to see problems from fifty feet away as he walked. This degree of awareness is what we want to clone with the auditing process.
The second auditor (woodpile) ascended to the position due to mediocrity, vanity and a sense of entitlement. They also exhibited a personal agenda not in the best interests of the customer or the Corporation in-total. Cloning this person creates a toxic environment.
The third auditor (newbie) creates an environment of make-work and needless anxiety. Resources that could be focused on providing service or making processes more robust are diverted to addressing nonsensical issues.