Aligning quality objectives of the QMS with the strategic direction of the company
One of the new concepts that have been brought into the latest version of the ISO 9001:2015 standard is that the Quality Management System (QMS) of a company needs to include an understanding of, and alignment with, the strategic direction of the company. The strategic direction of the company comes up four times in the ISO 9001:2015 requirements in relation to understanding the organization’s context, ensuring the quality policy & quality objectives are compatible with the strategic direction, verifying that the quality policy supports the strategic direction, and confirming that the management review checks that the QMS is in alignment with the strategic direction. For this article I am focusing on how the quality objectives are to align with the strategic direction, but it is important to note that there are other alignments necessary in the ISO 9001:2015 requirements.
So, what does this mean for you and your company?
Do you know your strategic direction?
This may seem like an unnecessary question, but do you know the strategic direction of your company? If so, does everyone who is creating the quality objectives know the strategic direction? How have you recorded the strategic direction so that it can be understood and used? It may come as a surprise that many companies have not fully thought through their strategic direction, much less recorded it in such a way that it can be used. So, what is a strategic direction, anyway?
“Strategic direction” refers to the actions you are taking to achieve the goals of your organizational strategy. Some companies use a “vision statement” or “mission statement” to define where the company wants to be, but in short, this statement is a way for the company to set the direction that the company wants to go, and define what it wants to be in the future. Your strategic direction includes the plans and actions you have put in place to work toward this vision of the future for your company.
Whole articles could be written on using vision statements and mission statements, as well as implementing company strategies, but it is clear that having a statement is only the first step in your strategic direction. How do the quality objectives work with your company strategy to move your company in its strategic direction?
How do you use quality objectives to work toward your strategic direction?
So, if your strategic direction is your set of plans and actions that you are putting in place to achieve your overall vision, why would you not use your quality objectives as one of the ways that you implement your strategic direction within your company? Because your quality objectives are intended to be target statements that are used for continual improvement, and will have plans created to achieve them, they are inherently designed to be compatible with the improvements you need to make to achieve your overall company vision.
An example of how this might work would be as follows:
Mission Statement: XYZ Company will help widget manufacturers with improved widget mechanical measurement equipment and calibration services.
Quality Objective: XYZ Company will decrease calibration errors on customer equipment from 6% to 4% within the next 8 months.
You would then have a plan in place to reduce calibration errors and make this quality objective happen, and in so doing, your work toward meeting your quality objective will also be work on your strategic direction toward your company vision of helping widget manufacturers with your calibration services. Your quality improvements, driven by your quality objectives, are aligned with your strategic direction to meet your overall company vision.
What if our company does not have a strategic direction?
If you are one of the companies that have not yet worried about defining and recording your company vision and strategic direction, now is the time to do so. As you are implementing ISO 9001:2015, or if you are making the transition from ISO 9001:2008 to ISO 9001:2015, having an overall mission or vision for your company is critical for a successful implementation of the new QMS requirements. Without having an overall vision, you will have problems demonstrating that your quality policy, quality objectives, and management review are aligned with your strategic direction.
For some more information on making the transition from ISO 9001:2008 to ISO 9001:2015, see this article on How to make the transition from ISO 9001:2008 revision to the 2015 revision.
In fact, starting from defining your vision may be one more way to ensure that your QMS is providing the best return on your investment, as it will help you to focus all of the elements of your QMS so that you get the best continual improvement that your company can get. This may even help you to find new ways to improve the satisfaction of your customers and grow your business, which should be why you want to implement ISO 9001 in the first place.
Click here to download this free whitepaper: How can ISO 9001 help your business grow? to see how to use ISO 9001 to achieve the strategic goals of your company.