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Over 400 Articles To Help Elevate Your Compliance

Cleaning Up Your Documents Before The Auditor Comes Over

When it comes to audits there is a popular meme that goes something like this:

  • Before the audit: documents out of conformance

  • During the audit: documents in conformance

  • After the audit: documents out of conformance

We like to laugh at this, and many just say it’s just human behaviour.

When do we clean up our home? Right before our friends and family come over. It’s just what we all do.

However, I believe the problem is much worse than waiting to tidy up our house. The problem has more to do with our behaviours throughout the year rather than the condition of what is being audited.

So what’s going on?

Why do we wait until people come over before we tidy things up when we could experience the benefits from having a place for everything and every thing in its place?

In the case of our homes, we may value the approval of others more than experiencing the benefits of living in clean and tidy home. We may also not want or can not put in the effort to keep our homes clean. We need to be compelled by external forces more than our internal values.

In some ways we are behaving like children having always to be told to clean our rooms.

Cleaning Up Your Documents Before The Auditor Comes Over
Cleaning Up Your Documents Before The Auditor Comes Over

When it comes to audits we value a stamp of approval more than doing what we know is right all the time.

This demonstrates a lack of integrity, and frankly also a lack of honesty.

However, that’s not the worst of it.

Companies hoping to act more like adults will conduct pre-audits to get ready for an internal audit to get ready for an external audit. If that sounds absurd – it is.

This train of audits may improve the chances of passing an audit but it doesn’t address the problem of motivation.

Henry Ford was right

Henry Ford once said,

“Quality is doing it right when no one is looking.”

He was right.

Not only is doing the right thing when no one is watching a measure of quality, it’s also a measure of integrity.

And that's why ethical, forward-looking companies practice proactive compliance.

Instead of waiting for an auditor to tell them if they were off-side they establish measures to make sure they never are.

They always keep their rooms clean because they know it’s the right thing to do. They also know that it will deliver benefits.

These organizations are able to say:

“Audit us whenever you like. We already know the answer."

They can also say:

"The time we are saving by avoiding excessive audits we use to get ahead of our competition who spend their time getting ready for their many audits, performing corrective and preventive actions, and paying back for losses from not meeting their obligations throughout the year.”

It's not about audit readiness

The goal is not to always be ready for an audit as many suggest.

That still focuses too much on external motivation.

Instead, the goal is to behave with integrity.

This means keeping the promises we made connected with our legal license to operate and stakeholders expectations.

We need to become an organization that our stakeholders can trust not because we pass an audit once a year but because we are trustworthy, reliable, and keep all our promises everyday – all day.

You can continue to practice reactive compliance and perhaps even reduce some of your losses.


You can practice proactive compliance and avoid the losses altogether, and experience the benefits that come from always being between the lines and ahead of risk.

So, clean up your documents and put in a process to keep them always evergreen.

Do it not because you are told, but because you are keeping your promise to meet all your obligations.



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