Paths is a design method that we are increasingly applying in our audits. By walking through a regulation or system with a user or auditee, we gain more practical insights into the audit subject.
Why do we use this method?
The method is an effective means to present information in visual and concrete terms. It reconstructs a series of events that we can then visualise. It allows a path to be discussed freely and specifically with experts.. In addition, it produces specific examples of events that we can examine in depth during the reconstruction. We can thus tell a better story including concrete examples to the House of Representatives and other interested parties.
What does the method involve?
A system often involves many different parties. The auditor’s task of fathoming out how the whole system works can be very challenging.. But by focusing on specific events from a variety of angles, we improve our understanding of how the system actually works. The events we encounter on a path can be incidental (unintentional) or caused by a system error like a bottleneck.
We then ask various parties to help us reconstruct each path. The reconstruction is based on the classic audit methods of interviews and document analysis but its practical approach leads to very concrete talks with experts. We ask whether we made the right presentation, whether we identified the right obstacles on a particular path, whether the timeline was correct, whether the path was the ideal path, whether the system design was optimal and whether improvements can be made.
For example, to audit the award of licences, we usually look at the system as a whole. Looking at the system from the position of a licensed product or walking through the process from the start of an idea for a new product to the approval or rejection of a licensing application, for instance, produces fresh insights.
During our audit on CE marking we made a product journey (path) for a number of products that were taken off the market even though they bore a CE logo. The reconstruction brought several insights into how the system functioned.