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Guidelines for Assessors

Objectives

  1. To assure the worldwide CMC standard.
  2. To assist ICMCI Member Countries in maintaining and developing their certification standards and processes.

Use of this Assessment procedure

This assessment procedure may be used in three ways:

  1. Self-Assessment – for use by an ICMCI Member Institute to assure its compliance with the CMC standards and the adequacy of its certification processes.
  2. Peer Review – for use when two (or more) ICMCI Member Institutes review each other’s compliance with the CMC standards and the adequacy of each other’s processes.
  3. ICMCI Assessment – for use when ICMCI ExCom appoints assessors to conduct an assessment of a Member Institute’s compliance with the CMC standards and the adequacy of its certification processes.

Documents

There are four documents:

  1. Quality Assurance Process Description (Description).
  2. Statement of Equivalence with the ICMCI Standard (“Statement”).
  3. Assessment of Equivalence with the ICMCI Standard & Adequacy of supporting processes (“Assessment”).
  4. Guidelines for Assessors (“Guidelines” - this document).

Principles

1. Continuous Improvement: the assessment should be conducted so as to be helpful and supportive to the Member Institute, and to encourage continuous improvement in the application of CMC standards.    It should be viewed as a constructive step in a long-term programme, and not as a short-term assessment of approval or disapproval.

2. Client ownership:  the Member Institute should be treated as the client, and encouraged to take ownership of the assessment report.   The assessors should consider themselves as management consultants for the assessment task.  The findings should be considered to be the property of the client (and of ICMCI QAC in the case of an ICMCI Assessment) and confidentiality respected accordingly.

3. Transparency: all dealings between the assessors and the Member Institute should be completely transparent, and the process and outcome of the assessment should be shared fully.

4. Equivalence:  ICMCI requires that a Member Institute demonstrate to the satisfaction of ICMCI that the Institute CMC Standard requires at least the equivalent level of professionalism and ethics in candidates as the Amsterdam Standard with subsequent additions.  The concept of Equivalence is defined and explained in the Description.

5. Adequacy: Adequacy is the measurement of the effectiveness of the processes that support the Standard.   The concept of Adequacy is explained in the Description.

6. Respect: ICMCI respects the historical, cultural and legal diversity of its Members.   This should be reflected in the conduct of the assessment at all times.   Where possible, at least one assessor should have a good knowledge of the language of the Member Institute.

7. Independence: the assessors should be independent of the Member Institute being assessed.   Two assessors are recommended as providing greater credibility, and being able to offer valuable checks and balances on the work and judgement of each other.   Where self-assessment is being conducted, the assessors (or assessors) should not have been involved in the design or implementation of the certification programme and processes.

8. Immediate feedback:  the assessment process is designed to give the client feedback throughout the duration of the assessment, and to leave the client with a written report at the end of the assessment day.  The assessment has been structured with the intention that it should be completed in one working day. Typically a more comprehensive report will be prepared in the first few weeks following the assessment.

Work prior to the Assessment

  1. The two assessors having been selected, they should agree which of them will be responsible for contact with the Member Institute (client).
  2. The contact assessor should agree the following with the client:
    • Date of the assessment.
    • Travel/hotel arrangements.
    • Responsibility for expenses (this will normally have been agreed in advance within ICMCI guidelines, but should be confirmed to avoid misunderstanding).
    • Location of the assessment (office).
    • Availability of CMC documents/files.
    • Availability of PC, communications and internet facilities if requested.
    • Client contact person (usually the most senior staff member or officer responsible for the CMC assessment process).
    • Availability of client officer(s) and staff on assessment day.
    • Availability of CMC’s (1-3) for interview by the assessors.
    • Date by which the client will complete the Statement of Equivalence and send it to the contact assessor with supporting documents.
  3. The client should complete the Statement and send it with supporting documents to the contact assessor.
  4. The contact assessor should copy the Statement and supporting documents to his/her fellow assessor. (Preferably the client may send copies to both assessors.)
  5. All arrangements should be confirmed between the client and both assessors.
  6. The assessors should check that they have copies of the Statement and Assessment, in hard copy and on disk, and PC facilities if required.

The Assessment – stage 1 – preparation

Prior to meeting the client, the assessors should:

  1. Read the Guidelines and discuss them together.
  2. Review the Statement and supporting documents to identify questions, gaps, documents required.
  3. Share any concerns or perceived difficulties about the certification or its assessment.
  4. Agree which assessor will lead in briefing the client.
  5. Agree the work programme elements, including working through the Statement with the client officer/staff, interviews with CMCs and examination of documents and files.
  6. Agree how findings will be recorded and presented to the client
  7. Agree the overall approach to the client, how questions will be posed and what you want the client to get out of the assessment and feel at the end of the process.

    On meeting the client:
  8. Introduce yourselves.
  9. Explain what you are going to do, and agree the agenda.
  10. Reconfirm timings and availabilities.
  11. Ensure the client understands the concepts of Equivalence and Adequacy.
  12. Emphasise that the client has ownership of the report, and that you will respect confidentiality.
  13. Ensure that the client has a copy of the Statement, and give him/her a copy of the Assessment form (this may have been done prior to the assessment).
  14. Ask the client for any relevant supporting documents not previously supplied.
  15. Ask the client for any background information you need on theInstitute or the history of the certification process.

The Assessment – stage 2 – conduct

Work through the Statement, taking each heading in turn, and asking questions to ensure you both understand the standards.  List all relevant documents against each heading.   Note clearly where there are omissions, divergences from the standards, or lack of documentation. 

As the assessment progresses, comment on each heading so that the client is receiving continual feedback, and has the opportunity to explain or add to the information you have.

  1. Ask to see a list of CMCs, and select a number of their files; it is suggested you sample from both early and most recent candidates.
  2. Trace through each file the process of their application and assessment.
  3. Pay particular attention to the information given to candidates and to their preparation for the certification assessment.
  4. Record where files support or do not support the standards in the “Relevant Documents” column.
  5. Make notes on a blank Assessment form of compliance or adequacy of process.
  6. The number of files you review will depend on your findings, and the need to support them with evidence.

Interviews with a small number of CMCs are intended to provide further validation of your assessment findings. Interviews should last about 25-30 minutes. 

  1. You should explain the assessment purpose.
  2. Ask the interviewee to give you a summary of his/her consultancy experience, to explain the type of work he/she does, and the nature of the practice.
  3. Ask why he/she wanted to become a CMC.
  4. Enquire about preparation for the assessment, and experience of the process.
  5. Ask how the Code of Professional Conduct is understood and used, possibly any recent dilemmas.
  6. Finally ask about the benefits of being a CMC, and check that the designation is being used on the business card and letterhead.  

Check through the files of interviewees to ensure that the documentation is complete and corroborates the information they gave you.

It may be apparent from the CVs of candidates and from the interviews that the result of the certification process is the admission of consultants of an equivalent standard to the Amsterdam CMC Standard with subsequent additions, but the documentation is inadequate.  This should be reported as a requirement to improve process, while acknowledging compliance with the Standard.

Where the client has a Certified Practice arrangement in place (recommended by ICMCI but not mandatory), the process for assessing prospective Accredited Practices (ACP’s) needs to be reviewed.  The purpose is to ensure that it does not place the client’s CMC standard at risk, i.e., that the process adequately assesses the professional standard and the training, development and appraisal processes of provisional ACP’s.  The test to be applied is that consultants recommended by ACP’s for CMC are of the same standard as other successful candidates.   In addition, a selection of client files for ACP’s should be examined, and, if possible, one of the ACP’s interviewed.  Depending on the number of ACP’s, it may be necessary to extend the total assessment time beyond one day.

Finally, check that you are satisfied that you have all the information and documentation you require for every heading in the Statement.

The Assessment – stage 3 – report

The assessors should take time on their own to discuss and finalise their report.   The following guidelines may be useful in completing this task:

  1. Identify the key messages you want to convey.
  2. In particular, identify if there are any areas where the standard or practice may put CMC credibility and acceptance at risk.
  3. Decide and describe recommended actions for remedy/improvement. 
  4. Set priorities for action.
  5. Avoid “nitpicking” and commenting on minor details.  Use the concept of materiality or substantiality – is it important?
  6. Take account of cultural, historical and legal diversity.
  7. If in doubt be positive towards giving the client the benefit of the doubt –reasonable evidence is what is required, not “absolute proof”.
  8. Remember that it is Equivalence and Adequacy that are being assessed, not precise adherence to a single model.
  9. Where it is helpful, indicate from the assessors’ experience ideas for improvement, and acknowledge good practice that may be of benefit to other Member Countries.
  10. At this stage in the assessment day, nothing in the report should come as a surprise to the client

The Assessment should be completed with an entry against every heading.  Place an “X” in the appropriate Compliance or Adequacy box.   Where the assessment is “Compliant/adequate with minor rectifications” or “Not yet compliant/adequate”, what needs to be done must be clearly stated in the “Rectification action(s)” box.   The Assessment is a profile of compliance/adequacy under each heading, and there is no overall assessment.

The Assessment, together with the Statement, comprises the report to the client.  Both documents may be completed on a PC (recommended) or handwritten and copied.

The assessors should present the report to the client, going through the Assessment line-by-line, ensuring that the client has understood and accepts the findings.  The client should not be asked to respond to the findings and proposed actions at this meeting, though he/she may wish to do so.   The assessors should confirm that the report remains confidential to the client (and to ExCom in the case of an ICMCI Assessment).

Recent assessor reports have been formulated in writing in the first few weeks following the assessment.

Follow –up

The client’s response – actions to be taken and timescale – should be forwarded to the contact assessor within a time to be agreed between them.  This would normally allow for the client’s staff to prepare plans for agreement by their board – two to three months may be a reasonable yardstick.

In the case of an ICMCI assessment, when the assessor has received the client’s response, this should be forwarded to QAC, together with the assessors’ report, and any comments from the assessors.   These comments should include a section documenting any comments/ suggestions arising from the assessment concerning the assessment process and its application, and the Amsterdam Standard with subsequent additions and their interpretation, which may be of help in future assessments.   This will greatly help in continuous tuning and improvement of the assessment Description, and in assuring consistency of application.

Download the guideline in Pdf

Click here to download the Assessor Training Material (delivered at the London Congress 2009)

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