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Non-Conformances Are A Good Thing

Seriously, they really are ...


A few weeks ago, I was facilitating a client’s external audit. Something I do for all my clients if they want me to ... and they usually do. It takes the stress off them and frees up their time, so why wouldn’t they want me to do it?

Sometimes a non-conformance can be a good thing, but don't go on a witch hunt!

Sometimes a non-conformance can be a good thing, but don't go on a witch hunt!

copyright: arek socha / pixabay

The auditor and I were chatting away after my client had received a minor non-conformance. He was saying that some people react with horror at a non-conformance and will even argue against them.

"A non-conformance is something that is not
conforming. The clue is in the name!"

Maybe a document wasn't signed or is missing? Maybe an employee was doing a task they were not trained to do? Maybe there was something that could have caused an issue from a Health, Safety or Environmental perspective? The list is endless.

So, if an auditor, internal or external, finds a non-conformance this is a good thing. Maybe even a great thing! Seriously, it is nothing to moan or argue about. What it means is that the auditor has picked up on something that is not working as effectively or efficiently as it should have been. Fantastic! Not only do you get to put it right, you then get to figure out why it happened and how you can stop it from occurring again.

Surely that is only a good thing? A thing that promotes improvement and compliance within your company? An opportunity to make things better for all. So, why do people argue about non-conformances or moan about them?

Well, the main reason I can think of is that people do not like to be told when something is not working right. It feels like a failure somehow. Like the schoolteacher is telling you off, and maybe you will get told off by your management for a non-conformance. If you have, or haven't, done something that caused a non-conformance, then if you get 'told-off' then so be it. It was your responsibility after all ... or was it?

"That is a horribly unproductive way to deal with the situation!"

Instead of blaming the person, you must always be looking at the process. In what way did the process muck up? Was the training not given because you were too busy? Did the equipment not get calibrated because no one had responsibility for it since Bill left the company, and it got forgotten? Are the documents not signed because no one sees the point of doing so?

One lady I was training with a few years ago told me that she firmly believes there are no human-based root causes of non-conformances. Everything is down to the process.

Following on from the examples above, training not given because you were busy is a signpost towards a resourcing issue within the company. The calibration being missed because Bill left the company points towards an issue on several levels from resourcing, leadership, and a lack of understanding company processes. Documents not being signed suggests either the document does not need to be signed; in which case why have the signature box? Or alternatively, if it is important, then people are not being trained to realise how important that signature is.

"Don't go on a witch hunt!"

Instead looking for someone to blame, why not use the non-conformances to improve the company and processes? Don't moan or argue as if they are a bad thing. Embrace them and promote a culture within your company where everyone can spot areas for improvement without blame or recrimination.

Until next time ...

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Would you like to know more?

If anything I've written in this blog post resonates with you and you'd like to discover more about non-conformances or ISO 9001 in general, leave a comment below or click here to ping me an email and let's see how I can help you.

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About Ellen Willoughby ...


I'm Ellen, Director of All About Quality and All About Productivity. I have over 20 years experience as professional in the quality world and 17 years as a practising Buddhist. As a result of this, I have a passion for improvement. in both business and personal life.


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