Using Competence, Training and Awareness to Replace Documentation in your QMS
Have you wondered how to reduce the amount of documentation in your Quality Management System, while making sure that key information is still maintained? Fortunately, Section 6.2.2 of ISO9001:2008 gives you this flexibility and identifies three areas where this can be accomplished with the application of the human resources components of Competence, Awareness and Training.
One of the Key Principles of ISO9001:2008
One of the key principles that distinguish this version of the ISO Quality Management standard from previous versions of ISO9000 is the concept of balancing the need for detailed documentation with the knowledge and competency of the people the company employs. In previous versions of ISO9000, the catchphrase was “Write what you do, then do what you write,” focusing the company on making sure that every possible process was intricately documented so that new employees could take over if needed by simply reading the documents. With the last two revisions of ISO9001, starting with ISO9001:2000, this concept has changed, and the need to document has been replaced with making sure that you have identified the competencies needed for employees to perform required tasks. Documentation is left for what is important for your company’s efforts to avoid non-conforming products and services, rather than documenting every process.
The first area identified by the standard to look at is competence. This starts with identifying what skills and knowledge are necessary for each position in the company, and is often captured in a job description that is used to identify people to hire. If your job description for an administrative assistant or service professional defines the skills to use the computer software packages that are used by your company, and you check this when hiring the person, you won’t need to have a documented procedure on how to use these tools in the day-to-day job. Probably the best example is when identifying a tradesperson position. If you have a machine shop that only hires certified machinists and apprentices, then you don’t need to document the process required to use a lathe. This is knowledge that they already have due to their certifications. Competencies of employees that have been verified are often a better way to avoid non-conforming product problems in your Quality Management System than trying to ensure you have every step flawlessly documented.
For more information, see Deciding which procedures to document in QMS.
Training is the second area identified in the standard, and is used where applicable to fill in the required areas of competence that an employee newly hired to a position might lack. Capturing this in a training package often allows for a more visual and easy-to-assimilate message than a written procedure that might be hard to follow for some people. Training can come in the form of a video, or peer on-the-job support, which allows the employee new to the job to acquire the missing skills in a way that is easiest for them to learn. The training of the company, either done internally or through an external training course, is used to fill in the competencies that are required for the job, but are currently lacking in the applicant.
One of my favorite examples is the local transit authority in a city near where I live. When hiring bus drivers, they have identified a list of competencies that are required, only one of which is possession of a license to drive a bus. In fact, they are focusing on the many competencies required to fulfill the customer service aspects of the job, and deciding that they would rather hire people with good customer service abilities and people skills, and then train them to drive a bus, rather than focusing on applicants that have this level of license and hoping they have, or can develop, good people skills.
The last part of this requirement talks about making sure that employees are aware of the aspects of their activities that are important, and on making sure the product or service delivered meets the needs of the customer. This can be done in many ways without raising a document to define it. Some examples are posters in the area identifying the customer needs, service goals that highlight what the customer is focused on, or even highlighted areas on a process record form that highlights the critical checks of the service.
Focus on the required competencies to ensure the product or service is good
Focusing on the competencies required by employees, identifying these competencies during hiring, and training to complete employee competence are the key ways to ensure that all aspects required to meet customer needs are fulfilled without having to write down all steps in the process. Often, hiring good, competent employees is the best way to ensure that the customers get what they need to keep them coming back for more, and in many ways, this is more effective that having a strictly documented process. Reducing documentation in your Quality System can help make your organization leaner and more efficient.
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