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ISO 9001 Blog

Mark Hammar

Six greatest myths about ISO 9001

Even though ISO 9001 has been around for years, and many people know about it, the amount of misinformation that surrounds the standard is surprising. Where do these myths come from, and what is the truth behind them? Below are six of the most common myths about ISO 9001 and what is really true:

1) ISO 9001 says we have to do it this way – This is probably the most prolific myth I have heard. People in some organizations do not understand that the ISO 9001 requirements do not define the “how to” of a process; they only identify the important items that need to be addressed in the process. In truth, this can often happen when a process owner can’t understand why something needs to be included in the process, and in order to save time, they are told that the standard requires it to be done this way. In this case, the suggestion of how to incorporate the requirement is interpreted as how it needs to be done. We all need to be careful how we relay the requirements to those who need to implement them.

2) ISO 9001 belongs to the quality department alone – As I have written in my article ISO 9001: Why it should be viewed as a business management system, many people think that the ISO 9001 standard is the sole responsibility of the quality department of the organization. This couldn’t be farther from the truth, since the requirements cover every aspect of the business – from planning through delivery and post-delivery of your product or service.

3) ISO 9001 doesn’t apply to my business – This myth often takes the form of “ISO 9001 is only for big businesses” or “ISO 9001 is not for service providers.” This is, of course, not the case. ISO 9001 is intended to be a set of requirements that can be used by any company, of any size, in any industry. The requirements are written as a set of best practices needed to control all the processes of a business system – no matter what the company does.

4) Everything needs to be documented – This myth comes from the earliest versions of ISO 9001, where the motto was “Write what you do, then do what you write.” While documentation of all aspects of the standard was needed then, this changed in the 2000 version of the standard and every update since. Now, discretion is left to the company as to what needs to be documented to ensure compliance of the product or service. Some other versions of this myth are “procedures need to be in-depth,” “you need to keep records of everything,” “you need to make forms for everything” and “you need to keep stats on everything.” These are equally as incorrect as the first statement.

5) ISO 9001 is expensive to implement and maintain – While it is true that there is some cost associated with the initial implementation of ISO 9001 and some processes to monitor the system, these can be far outweighed by the benefits seen if the system is used well. The main drive of the ISO 9001 quality management system is to help you achieve greater customer satisfaction, eliminate the root causes of problems, and improve your processes. The overall outcome of these activities should be to reduce costs through improvements and increase revenues through satisfied customers. Your return on investment should be well above the costs.

6) Everything needs to be perfect at the start – If this were true, then where would you be able to improve as is required by the ISO 9001 standard? The processes need to be stable and adequately monitored, so that you can detect problems and apply appropriate correction and corrective action to the causes of these problems. This is not the same thing as needing to be perfect. Maybe this myth is the root cause of another myth: that it takes years to implement ISO 9001. In fact, you can take the processes you already have in place, possibly with some minor tweaks, to form the basis of your quality management system. As you use your system, you will improve it.

There are, or course, other myths about the ISO 9001 standard out there, but these may very well be the most damaging to the credibility of those of us who are trying to use ISO 9001 as a method of helping our companies to better control our processes in order to increase customer satisfaction and improve. Hopefully, dispelling these will help more companies find the advantages of implementing a quality management system.

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