Our daily schedule is usually also intertwined with solving various problems and issues. Many people do this so routinely that it would be almost abnormal not to feel this daily "adrenaline".
We all know we can prevent the majority of problems by proactive or preventive action. However, instead of reacting ("firefighting"), we can overtake some issues.
Among the more established solutions for "overtaking problems", we can also find the Layered Process Audits audits or LPAs.
LPAs is a quality assurance tool and also a way to work more efficiently. Instead of the traditional product quality control (what we have produced and whether the product is of appropriate quality), the LPAs focus on the quality of processes (how we produce and whether we perform operations optimally).
We had the opportunity to talk about LPAs and the digitization of these processes with Mr Boris Sturm. He is employed in the company POLYCOM Škofja Loka in the service of Continuous Improvement, and he has extensive experience in optimizing various processes. He is probably the most competent person in the company who can answer the following questions:
"How do you understand Layered Process Audits in your company?"
Usually, we are not too enthusiastic when we are talking about Audit. At first, we think about the assessment made by the customer or by an external auditor, and this thought often overwhelms us with a not very good feeling. Namely, if you are in the role of an auditor or the position of an auditee, neither side quite often is precisely pleasant, and there is a need, to make an extra effort, and similar feelings and experiences may occur at internal process audits. Let's look back and ask ourselves, where we would be if there were no audits, what these bring us? With different animations, we have reached a level that most employees understand LPAs as one of the driving wheels of continuous improvement in all organizational processes. They help us to detect losses -also potential, encourage teamwork and learning, and control critical processes.
You have decided to digitize some internal auditing processes. Do you find the digitization of this area complex?
If I look back, the implementation was not complex. However, it was more demanding than I initially thought. It means that we put more effort into perceiving the philosophy and expanding the already existing system, bringing better results.
Of course, it is easier if there is a previously introduced "conventional" system and if people know and understand it. In such a case, the transition is much easier, as employees accept changes more quickly. They know that their work will be easier, the assessment will be faster, there will also be better information transfer, image support, electronic notification, transparent analytics, etc. Initially, the introduction requires a bit more effort to get to know the architecture and train the users, but after two to three audits, the users have already mastered the use. Of course, some users are still supporters of the "A4" paper and excel, but we notice that this share is drastically decreasing. Especially for the younger generation, this kind of system is no longer attractive.
"What is your experience with the digital DAM tool?
We are especially interested in the user experience when working with this application. " With all users in Polycom, approximately 30, I perform at least one assessment or Audit with the DAM – Daily Audit Management application, together with the user. We do this to learn together and get to know the process. In doing so, I noticed that no excessive effort is required to understand using the app. Of all the cases, I didn't get a negative response regarding usability. This reflects that our system works quite well. The application itself seems to be quite flexible, which means that it is adjustable according to the assessment system of an individual company. We do not currently use all the functionalities that the application offers, but we intend to use the other possible functions over time.
"Do you perceive the effects that level and perhaps other internal audits you perform bring to you?"
Currently, effects are expected depending on the project phase. These are mainly on the side of reduced errors, which result from greater control and consequent training, which is also one of the purposes of auditing. Surprisingly, many of the processes in which the problem of implementation and consistency was "eternal" practically began to function overnight. We are aware that the implementation of the project should not be left to chance because we are currently in the initial phase of discovering the tool. The tool has great potential for use, also the prevention and elimination of the causes of problems. The real value comes from the solving of chronic problems, what was before with audits on paper practically impossible. Of course, this phase is the most difficult and requires more competencies and a systematic approach.
We believe that the main effect is a change in mentality, that we must not hide mistakes and problems, that we need to find systemic solutions and improve in all areas, we also want to encourage teamwork through audits. We must also be aware that the application is a tool that does not solve problems automatically, but a gadget that helps us to progress, if we know how to use it wisely.
"In general, from a technical, organizational, or purely human point of view, what do you like most about digital audits, and what would you improve?"
User experience is good, we like the usability, via mobile devices or tablets, and how you can determine the activities, assign a person and track all deadlines. Not to mention the countermeasure level and priority of activities that we have not yet touched on well and is a great starting point for further analysis of how decisive - robust our actions are. Over time, we saw some opportunities for improvement in terms of the link between the problem description and activity. The application developer also supported it. However, given the collaboration to date, I do not doubt at all about implementation in the future.
"In the daily work and performance of any audits, you certainly had an interesting situation. Would you entrust us with an anecdote or a" pleasant "mistake from which you learned something?"
As an introducer or administrator of a level assessment system, I am always under pressure - how much the tool, combined with the method, benefits us. So I wanted to get a realistic picture of how assessment – audit providers think about the system. Therefore, after a good month of audits, I approached one of the department heads and explained, under the pretext, that audits are no longer necessary. Of course, I got a weird face and an explanation that this is out of the question because the manager has developed a specific mechanism of usability of the system to improve skills and make continuous progress on particular topics. So from this would be the conclusion that the system serves its purpose when the user accepts it. This situation is not easy to achieve, and we are not present in all areas, but it requires a lot of teamwork and a systematic approach.
An example of best practice worth following
Polycom is one of the most successful companies in Slovenia for a reason! Their genuine mindset, culture and also the digitization of auditing processes makes them different and better.
Indeed all of us who have ever encountered the experience of external Audits, such as ISO, IATF, TS, GMP, VDA …, are familiar with that phrase: "Don't talk too much to auditor! Answer only those questions that the auditor asks you.
" A successful passed audit, assessment and certification is certainly a success, but as Antoine de Saint-Exupery in "The Little Prince" would say: "The most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or touched, they are felt with the heart".
Culture is something we do even when no one is watching us. So isn't it better to spend 15-20 minutes a day listening instead of headlessly fire fighting, thus saving ourselves many problems? And not only that, with an audit, we can find many potential and actual losses that give us opportunities for improvement.
From the Polycom case, we can see that Audit can be much more than just control. It depends on people's abilities, habit what that experience is like. Isn't the Audit an excellent opportunity to talk nicely with co-workers, look for opportunities for improvement together, or teach someone something? Something like school. The teacher can test knowledge, share (poor) grades, but he can also teach and encourage.
Well done Boris and Polycom!