To what extent should top management be involved in your QMS?

On the first reading of the ISO 9001:2015 standard, it seems to be rather confusing regarding what is the right extent and time in your QMS (Quality Management System) lifecycle to involve management. On the other side, there is a clear referencing to the topics that should be covered by top management in order to keep your QMS effective during its whole lifecycle.

If you are not sure how to determine priorities related to just the right amount of management involvement in the QMS, consider using your existing map of processes to connect them with documented management responsibilities for each type of process, like the main business processes of your organization (e.g., production of furniture, services of call center, equipment maintenance services, and similar), support processes (human resources management, IT support, purchasing, logistics, etc.), and externally provided services to your business (legal advice, cleaning services, translation services, etc.).

Every QMS decision starts with management

It is recommended to start with defining the top management responsibilities given in the ISO 9001:2015 standard that can be assigned through tasks to operational management depending on main, support, and outsourced processes that exist in your organization. It can be considered as follows:

QMS topic Top management responsibility Related topics to be considered
Customer focus Demonstrate leadership and commitment Survey on customer expectations, list of relevant statutory and regulatory requirements, list of risks and opportunities that can affect conformity of products and services you are offering; improvement programs to ensure enhancing customer satisfaction
Quality Policy, objectives, and KPIs Establish, implement, and maintain a Quality Policy Mission, vision, and main values of the organization`s business activity, strategic direction and general goals, quality objectives and targets with KPIs (key performance indicators), training programs on raising awareness of the QMS among all levels of employees, awards program for implementable ideas of employees on continual improvement of the QMS
Organizational roles Assign the responsibility and authority for relevant roles within the organization Matrix of operational management responsibility for each process, matrix of required qualifications and competence levels, job descriptions, process lists with stated process owners, assigned quality manager function in the organizational scheme
Management review Ensure QMS continuing suitability, adequacy, effectiveness, and alignment with the strategic direction of the organization Report on organizational SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats), report on PEST (political, economic, social, and technological) aspects relevant to the organization, customer satisfaction survey, status of quality objectives and KPIs, results of internal QMS audit, supplier and external providers evaluation results, list of planned / used materials, financial and human resources in operational activities, list of actions to address assessed risks and opportunities

As the communication process between top management and operational management is essential in successfully defining to what extent management should be involved in your QMS, it is recommended to learn more about the communication process within the QMS lifecycle: Communication requirements according to ISO 9001:2015.

Connecting the QMS with financial and economic top management decisions

Here is some extra advice: If you want to connect your top management’s role within the QMS to the most important concern of every top management – financial success – you should recommend that they use the ISO 10014 standard (Quality management — Guidelines for realizing financial and economic benefits), which is specially addressed to top management. It provides guidelines for realizing financial and economic benefits through the application of quality management principles. It facilitates the application of management principles and the selection of methods and tools that enable the sustainable success of an organization through its QMS lifecycle. The ISO 10014 standard is currently under periodic review, and it is advised to follow the expected soon-to-be-new version of the standard in order to see how tools like self-assessment, gap analysis ISO 9001:2015 Gap Analysis Tool, prioritization tools, and the RADAR chart can be used to get maximum benefit out of the basic quality management principles in the management decision processes.

Just the right amount of management involvement

There is no unique solution or one that fits all types and sizes of companies. For example, a small service company with no more than 10 employees can include management in all topics and decisions related to the QMS, while a large production corporation with more than 1000 employees will include top management only in a few topics, like:

  • Main strategic direction – mission, vision, and business values
  • General quality goals and main KPIs
  • Approval of the Quality Policy
  • Adoption of an organizational scheme with accompanying responsibilities for operational managers
  • Approval of general awareness and staff training programs on QMS and continual improvement
  • Consideration of input reports and approval of decisions during management review
  • Support to put in practices corrective actions raised after internal and external audits

In each situation, you need to decide separately on the right amount of management involvement. Great advice you can use is to always lean on the benchmarking of the results containing best business practices of the companies similar in size and main activities, in order to be sure that you are on the right track. Some great sources for the benchmarking data can be found at the national and international QMS forums, conferences, and similar expert talks. Try to investigate as many similar companies as possible that have had a QMS for at least a few years, and try to learn from their experience related to the right amount of involvement, and the most useful communication mechanism when it comes to management decisions important for the QMS processes.

Use this free whitepaper:  How can ISO 9001 help your business grow? to learn how to explain implementation benefits to your management.