In most industries, Quality Assurance (QA) is aimed at ensuring efficient output and quality of a product. In human services, the “product” is a service that impacts the quality of a person’s life. QA ensures that policies and practices are in place to provide quality results, stability in services, health and safety of people receiving services and accountability to desired outcomes. QA also measures our performance of service contracts and expected industry best practice. QA includes monitoring practices for both people receiving services as well as the staff supporting them.
QA is important regardless of the size of the organization. Some organizations may have QA as one of many hats that are worn by a few leaders and some may have a team or department dedicated to the responsibility. No matter whose job description officially claims it, quality assurance should be owned by every employee of the organization. Another way to define quality assurance is when a team has curiosity and a desire to know.
7 Habits of an Audit
The best QA systems are everyday practices and not “oh-(fill in the blank)” all-nighters when you are informed that you are being audited. How do we do this when it feels like we are drowning in what seems like constant fires that need to be put out? In the 7 Habits of Highly Effective people, author Steven Covey uses a version of the Eisenhower Matrix to classify the way we spend our time on urgent (or not urgent) and important (and not so important) tasks. Often the most important tasks are not urgent (yet) or demanded of us with deadlines so we tend to spend less time focused here. This matrix has 4 quadrants with Q2 being the intersection of not necessarily urgent but very important. Q2 is the quadrant of potential, strategic work, investment, learning and future-focused work. Without spending time in Q2 frequently, we tread water in life doing only the things we have always done, or things we are forced into at the last minute. Just enough to get by, but not enough to go to sleep at night with a sense of purpose and pride. Spending time in Q2 is a proactive investment and helps us to not just be productive in getting things done but to get the RIGHT things done. Quality Assurance definitely falls into this category as the return on the investment of energy on QA systems will be significantly higher than the amount of time invested. If we choose to spend time daily on activities and systems focused on quality and have shared accountability to these systems, receiving the news that we are being audited won’t be quite so overwhelming.
Can Audits be a Good Thing?
An audit can truly be a good thing. It can help identify strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and potential risks, as well as provide feedback and recommendations. Hopefully an audit also provides cause for acknowledgment and celebration. However, an audit can also be a stressful and challenging experience for the auditee, especially if they are not well prepared. Our funding source is meant to be our accountability partner though I realize it may not always feel like a partnership. How do you get ready for an audit and ensure a positive outcome?
We have put together a comprehensive guide for helping you navigate an audit: Behind the Audit Curtain: Insider Strategies for Preparing for an Audit. In it, you will find strategies based on first-hand experience. Click here to download your free copy.