Auditing The Memphis Belle


Today I finished up the last of the first three audits I performed for BP.  My count isn’t completely accurate but a rough estimate is that I did over 150 quality audits when I worked for Cessna and while the scope & rules of engagement are different, the feeling I get from doing them remain the same.  It’s truly a passion for me.

Ok … that last sentence … it maybe the one thing that those who don’t know this role will shake your head about.  For most, audits are this massive imposition where someone comes along and looks for all the stuff you screw up or don’t know you should be doing so they can punish you.  Many think IRS or an Accountant coming in and digging through every possible way to make your life uncomfortable.  Some think auditor’s primary role is to be a jerk and bad things for you just because they can.  I won’t say that auditors aren’t like that (or even that auditors that do what I do aren’t like that) but that just isn’t what this job is about.

I am a Quality Auditor (officially a Certified Quality Auditor or CQA … which if you saw my facebook post this weekend can be put at the end of my name like in the best example given: “Let me introduce you to my hot roommate, Mitch Nelson CQA”).  My role as a quality auditor is to evaluate a supplier against known criteria to see where those suppliers meet the criteria and where they can make improvements.  Most of the time, suppliers are either failing to meet that criteria because it is something they missed unintentionally or they have a process that just isn’t effective.  So, I work with them to enable what they do to become more effective.  In short, my job is to leave a supplier better because I was there.

The only way … The Only Way … let me just reiterate this for emphasis … THE ONLY WAY to do my audits effectively is to recognize what a supplier does right!  You have to know the whole picture, and the postitives are always where improvement begins.  Once you recognize a supplier for the positives they respect what you have to say, and you respect what they are trying to achieve. 

If any of you reading this are band judges, this all should sound very familiar for a reason … all you have to do to turn a role of quality auditor into a band judge is to replace the words “Calibration” & “Key Performance Indicator” with “Lavender Silks” and “Pirates of the Caribbean”.

To be honest, auditing is an exhausting effort.  I can always see it in the suppliers I am with, but just as much for me.  You have to be focused and centered, your mind constantly analyzing what you are hearing, seeing, reading, they digesting it fast enough to be able to make the most of your limited time with that supplier.  It’s incredibly energizing, but when I am done … I am done.  That’s where I am at now.  Every time I finish a week of auditing like this, I think of the movie “Memphis Belle.”  In it, a WWII bomber crew becomes the first to complete its tour of duty.  After they drop the bombs, the captain makes the announcement: “We’ve done our duty, boys.  Now we are flying for ourselves.”  This trip I don’t fly home until tomorrow afternoon and have a fair bit of work ahead of me before then.  But when I got back to PBOC today, I need some time off … I needed to fly for myself for a while.


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