3 Simple Improvements for Your Corrective Action Process

This blog shares three simple, proven, economical (yes, free) changes that can improve your corrective action process.

1. Do not issue corrective action requests.

It sounds counter-intuitive, but ask yourself: Why do we issue corrective action requests? Request! Ask. Anything else seems punitive. A well-written nonconformity statement has two parts –

(a) a description of the existing situation, and

(b) a reference that explains why it is a nonconformity.

Ask the potential assignee:

(a) Do you agree that this is a nonconformity? (If not, there may be a misunderstanding or the problem may be poorly described.)

(b) Do you have the organizational authority to resolve this nonconformity? (If this person doesn't have authority to change a process, even the best root cause analysis is wasted.)

2. Abolish your “30 day” interval for responding to corrective action requests.

I read many corrective action procedures and most have a predefined interval for corrective action responses (often 30 days). Having a set interval would be great if all problems were exactly alike! They aren’t. When initiating a corrective action, ask the assignee how long it will take them to:

(a) correct the immediate problem,

(b) determine the root cause, and

(c) eliminate the root cause.

I’ve seen good root cause analysis and elimination take anywhere from 1 day to 18 months. In each case the time frame fit the problem and allocated resources. Allow your organization the flexibility. Also, when the assignee has a say in setting a due date, he is much more likely to honor that date.

3. Use a 2-step process to close corrective actions.

Once the assignee has performed the correction and determined and eliminated the root cause, it is time for follow-up and (hopefully) closure. Sometimes the follow-up shows that corrective action has been implemented and is effective. Other times, the follow-up shows the action has been implemented, but it is too early to know if corrective action was effective.

You can redesign the process for following up on corrective action. Make it a 2-step process. First, determine whether corrective action has been implemented. Assuming it has, is there objective evidence that it will be effective in preventing the recurrence of the problem? If so, it is ready for closure. If not, you will want to schedule a second follow-up date. But you can still show that root cause has been determined, action has been taken and verified and you are slated to follow-up to verify effectiveness.