The Value of a Sanity Test or Sanity Check

The idea of a Sanity Test or Sanity Check is to allow the person who has prepared the information to step back from it to think about how someone who is presented with it for the first time will make sense of it.

When working to a deadline, and covering a wide range of material, as is the case when preparing for an External Audit in the ISO certification process, it is possible to miss the obvious. When you know how your company works, and where to find the necessary information, and you understand the hierarchy of importance and relevance of the information to your particular company, it is easy to forget that someone from outside your company may not know these things. This can result in someone who is looking at the material for the first time, with an objective eye, seeing incongruence and disorder in the presented material, or even failing to make sense of it.

It is therefore useful to be able to set aside what you know, and quickly and effectively appraise the information to see it as an outsider would see it. Sanity checks should be quick and easy to perform, and involve asking questions such as;

• How would this information be perceived by someone who knew nothing about the company;

• Is the information presented in a way that makes it obvious which pieces of information are most relevant to the Company;

• Would everyone be able to understand what is meant, or are there terms that are specialised to your particular company or industry;

• When presenting figures or charts, do they all add up correctly;

When you have satisfied yourself that any idiot would be able to understand not only the meaning but also the relevance of the information, then your information is ready to be presented.

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