Occassional thoughts about orienteering

Wednesday, May 07, 2003

Auditing and orienteering


The Nordic Champs last weekend was a bit of a fiasco. The men's relay was thrown out. If you're interested in the specific problems, you can read about it at Alternativet's english language pages.

When I was running tonight I amused myself by thinking about what auditing could tell us about how to organize a good O' event.

One way to look at controls in an auditing context is to think about the environment, practices and reporting. All three of these things are important for an adequate control system. Good controls don't prevent failures, but they reduce the chances of problems and the significance of problems when they do occur.

How would it work in an orienteering context? What sort of environment, practices and reporting would help prevent problems like those at the Nordic Champs?

Without going into detail, I can illustrate the elements of a system that ought to improve the quality of an O' event:*

Environment -- the environment ought to emphasize quality. An indicator of a environment reflecting a quality event might be that the meet director sent an email to all of the workers reminding them that the participants invested a lot of time and money in coming to the event, let's make sure they remember how good it was. An indicator of a problem environment might be an organization that viewed hosting an A-meet as a chance for locals to compete in an A-meet without having to travel.

Practices -- the practices ought to be aimed at ensuring quality. Good practices are things like having an independent controller double check the location of markers; having experienced course setters designing the courses; and reviewing the pre-printed maps to make sure the courses are correctly marked.

It is, of course, important that the practices don't cost more than they're worth. You probably don't need to man every control at an event to make sure the controls don't get stolen. That'd be a waste of resources that could be used better elsewhere.

Reporting -- reporting ought to let the meet director know what is going on. The meet director might have a checklist with tasks, assignments and due dates that they update as workers tell them they've completed the tasks.

The three elements of the control system (environment, practices and reporting) should be designed in a framework that recognizes different risks. The risks in organizing a meet vary enormously. You could make a mistake and order the wrong number of event T-shirts. That's a mistake, but not really a big problem. But, you could put a control in the wrong place or misprint the courses. Those are huge problems. Those are huge risks. So, the control system should be designed to focus on the high risks.

Maybe the Nordic Champs would have turned out better if a few auditors were in the organizing committee?

* This is a fairly standard model of controls used by auditors. But, the specific language is a bit different. I changed it because the audit terminology is a bit awkward.

posted by Michael | 7:22 PM


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