Aligning Business Activities with Your Quality Management System
BY DAVE BROWN
In ISO 9001:2015, Top Management is responsible for the following:
- Ensuring the quality policy and quality objectives are established…and are compatible with the context and strategic direction of the organization
- Ensuring the integration of the quality management system requirements into the organization’s business processes
One of the main goals of the ISO 9001:2015 standard is to assist organizations in achieving value. Many organizations that are currently registered to ISO 9001 have difficulty in identifying the return on investment that ISO registration provides because they treat their quality system and business activities as two separate operations. In order to achieve value, these two operations must become aligned. The standard provides direction on how to make this possible.
The standard now requires that an organization consider what internal and external issues may affect its strategic direction and the intended results of the quality management system. This implies that an organization have a strategic direction and that it is connected to the quality management system. It also implies that the organization knows what it is trying achieve through the system. It is important to remember that ISO 9001 does not certify products but systems. So, what is your system trying to achieve and what is the direction of the organization? These answers need to be provided by the top management of organization. Therefore, there is now a greater responsibility on top management to provide leadership in the execution of the quality management system.
Once you have identified the strategic direction of the organization, a quality policy must be established. According to the standard, the policy must be relevant to the strategic direction of the organization and provide a framework for quality objectives. Your quality policy can not be copied from another organization. Your direction is unique to your organization and therefore your policy needs to make sense to your organization. Once your policy is established, it needs to be communicated and understood within your organization.
Now that you have a strategic direction and a relevant quality policy, you can establish quality objectives that are relevant for your organization. These objectives need to be measured and monitored. They need to be communicated throughout the organization so that your staff know what the organization is trying to achieve.
Once the strategic direction, policy and objectives are aligned, communicated and understood your staff will have the ability to make decisions as to what activities are value-added because they will know what the company is trying to achieve. Unfortunately, many organizations either don’t have a strategic direction, or if they do, they keep it a secret from their staff. How can you expect your staff to assist you in achieving your goals if they don’t know what they are? How many organizations have rogue departments or staff not because of rebellion but due to a lack of leadership or lack of communicating expectations?
Here is an example of how each of these elements work together:
If I were part of your organization, and part of your strategic direction was to increase profitability over the next five years, I would expect to see something related to profitability or cost reduction in your quality policy. There could then be an objective related to waste reduction (to reduce costs or increase profitability) perhaps in the amount of time spent on reworking product. As an employee, I should know that there was an expectation that I would follow all procedures, not because “ISO says so,” but because by following procedures I reduce the chance of making a mistake. By reducing mistakes, I reduce the need for rework. By reducing rework, I reduce the cost of production which can increase profitability. By measuring rework costs over a period of time, we could see the actual amount the company is saving, and I could know that as an employee I have a valuable role in to play in helping the company achieve its goals. Management could then set new objectives that support the direction of increasing profitability.
If you have treating your quality management system as something extra that you “have to do” in order to satisfy certain customers, I encourage you to take this opportunity of transitioning to the new standard to develop a tool that will actually help your organization in achieving value. BL
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