Punk rocks

Richard Green discusses the importance of maintaining a noble profession, as well as his recent travels to Scotland, Birmingham and Chiswick.


I’ve recently been introduced to Punk IPA, a rather tasty craft ale lovingly prepared for mine and others’ delectation by the Brewdog brewery, and the good news is we are getting on famously.

Brewdog are based somewhere in the untamed wilderness that lies north of Hadrian’s wall and have gone from nothing in April 2007 to beer making legends today. It would be fair to say they have an unconventional approach to running their business, one which certainly resonates with yours truly, as is illustrated by the example below.

Recently one of their employees decided to replace the ‘best before date’ wording on the bottom of their cans with something very rude indeed resulting in the need to recall 200,000 units. Unsurprisingly, the Brewdog senior management team decided they would like a ‘quiet word’ with the individual concerned. End result, they fired him.

Well actually no, they all had a good laugh about it and then made him employee of the month. How cool is that? And that got me thinking. Would the same approach work in the world of Certification Body assessment? A few expletives in the audit report? Surely this type of ‘edgy’ behaviour would go down well with the client?

Well apparently not. A CQI member pointed us to a case in the good old US of A where an auditor appears to have deviated somewhat from the spirit of ISO 17021. During the course of an assessment he is alleged to have been overtly sexist, racist, rude and threatening, asking people to sign blank NC’s and making up his own ISO 9001 requirements before finally going to sleep in a corner. Inexplicably this was not well received by the client, which just goes to show how important it is to ensure you tailor your audit approach to your audience.

If the case above is true, it’s a terrible indictment on our noble profession. I haven’t experienced anything in this league myself and I would hope such instances are extremely rare, but I have seen the counterpoint in respect of poor client behaviour. Like an Australian organisation whose health and safety policy referred to female employees as ‘Shelia’s’ and forbade male employees ‘twanging the Sheila’s bra straps during office hours’, (presumably on the basis that what adults do in their own time is a matter for themselves). That was back in the late 80’s, during a second party assessment. They didn’t get the contract and seemed generally surprised as to why we elected to award our business elsewhere.

These days, opportunities to audit have all but disappeared as evidenced by my transfer to our Principal Auditor grade. Interestingly we still get people referring to themselves as ‘Principle’ Auditors which historically caused us to question the effectiveness of the state education system but I’m now thinking maybe this is deliberate. Could it be that they are part of an undercover splinter group of assessors whose self-styled mission is to specialise in cases such as those outlined above? An ethics police, dedicated to driving good audit behaviour?

No, my money’s on the education system failure.

In the absence of opportunities to poke my nose into other people’s work environments (or environments for the operation of processes in ISO 9001:2015 speak) I’ve had to find other ways to occupy my time.

I’ve just delivered a ‘what’s hot and what’s not in ISO land’ presentation to our West of Scotland branch. Naturally, the subject of a second Scottish referendum came up. Personally I’m 100% in favour, the English should definitely have a vote as to whether we want to keep Scotland as part of the UK. Only jesting, I love the place!

Prior to that we had an important meeting in Birmingham with our Regional Operations Panel where we reviewed the governance and purpose of our branch network. We’ve had a lot of requests to create additional overseas branches but before we do so we want to make sure we’ve got the domestic model right. I also spent a day at BSI’s HQ in Chiswick, reviewing the UK comments on the Occupational Health and Safety standard ISO 45001:2016 (or 2017 as it seem destined to become). I would like to think I’ve come a long way in respect of my appreciation of this subject since the day I was expelled from a health and safety briefing in a previous organisation. When asked to describe the three elements of the ‘fire triangle’ I replied ‘a hoodie, petrol and a match’. When the presenter told me not to be so stupid I pointed out I’d actually seen this work in practice.

Japan is looming on the horizon, both literally and metaphorically, after which Alex Woods and I will be spending Saturday 9 July in the Land of my Fathers at the Wales branch annual quality conference.

What? Apparently I’ve just been called to a meeting. Has someone from the Senior Management Team just worked out that by taking the first letter of each paragraph of my ISO 14001 transitioning report you spell the same phrase that appeared on the Brewdog cans? Let’s hope not as I suspect the outcome may be somewhat different!

Richard Green is interim head of membership services at the CQI

For more technical insight and events, visit the CQI website.