Managing the QMS after your consultant leaves

Most of us, probably at a time in our career where we were less experienced, have needed the help of an ISO 9001 consultant to assist us with the implementation of the standard in the organization where we worked. When you are faced with shaping a quality system and all the accompanying documentation from scratch, it can be extremely daunting, and assistance from anyone with previous experience is always welcome.

However, that implementation stage can be so busy and involved for you that it can pass in a flash, so it’s vitally important that you learn as many lessons as possible with a view to ensuring that you know exactly what to do when that “hired hand” disappears. That consultant also has a part to play, and here is how you can ensure the legacy that remains is a valuable one.

Separating the present and the future

Being involved in your very first ISO 9001 project can be intimidating. As well as the mandatory documents that must be tailored for your organization, and which are dealt with elsewhere in these pages, you also need to educate, implement and ensure that “top management” are committed to the project every step of the way. If work for a large organization or manufacture a complex service or product, you will more than likely develop a tranche of documents with multiple links and references to each other. In all probability you will need corrective action procedures, and internal audits and risk assessments are an integral part of what you will do, at times and frequencies specified by your management and quality teams.

There is so much to remember, and when you do get through your audit, you will feel relieved. But the next morning, that feeling of having to start all over again from scratch can be too familiar. So, how can you avoid this?

Turning today’s tasks into tomorrow’s plans

I have found that the most efficient method of planning for the future is to establish an “Event Calendar” on day one of your project. Anything that needs to be scheduled can be placed in there, from Quality Meetings, to Risk Assessments and requests and reviews for customer or supplier feedback. When you start to develop your QMS further, you will have management directives to complete more tasks, such as Internal audits, perhaps stretching out as far as the whole year ahead, depending on how your system is structured.

Make sure you capture everything that is required from a policy or anything that “drips down” from the Quality Team meetings or Management Reviews into that calendar. It is likely that the tasks you need to carry out next year will be similar, although the “plan, do, check, act” cycle will ensure that risks and situations change, and your commitment to continual improvement should hopefully mean that next year is not exactly the same as this! You can even schedule when your company cars need serviced, or when the company gas bill is due!

ISO 9001 compliance for next year, as well as this

Documenting your routine tasks on the event calendar will accomplish two things for you:

  1. Ensure you meet your commitments to achieve compliance and accreditation for this year
  2. Give you the framework of your plan and itinerary for next year

In this way, the day after your audit you can plan your schedule for maintaining compliance for next year. You have a framework of what needs to be achieved and when, and while Quality Meetings and Management Reviews will be used to decide the subject and frequency of some of your tasks, your “Event Calendar” can serve as a “ready reckoner” to tie back the scheduled tasks to your policy, and ensure that you have the correct disciplines going forward.

You can easily click through the pages of your Event Calendar before every Quality meeting for example, to ensure that there is no fundamental practice you have executed last year, but has slipped your mind this year. Perhaps it would even be wise to add this review to your monthly or quarterly meeting? In this way, by the time your audit is over, you already have a firm and documented picture of what needs to be achieved next year to attain the same high standard. Then you really can wave your consultant – and the costs that come with him – goodbye.

Enroll in this free online training: ISO 9001 Foundations Course to learn how to maintain your QMS.

Advisera John Nolan
John Nolan
John Nolan is a Fellow of the Institute of Leaders and Managers in the United Kingdom, and Prince 2 accredited with a background in Engineering and Electronics and Data Storage and Transfer. Having studied and qualified as both a Mechanical and Electronic Engineer, he has spent the last 15 years designing and delivering Quality Systems and projects across many sectors in the UK, including both national and local government.