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    Where does quality management / ISO 9001 fit into your organization?

    ISO 9001 is the premier business standard used to facilitate the satisfaction of customers through effective operation of a Quality Management System. More than 1.5 million certificates were awarded in 2015 (source: https://www.iso.org/the-iso-survey.html), which represented a 3% increase over the previous year; therefore, ISO 9001 continues to grow in importance as a business and quality management tool for modern businesses. While businesses have many and varied reasons for complying and becoming certified to ISO 9001, following the terms of the standard can bring many benefits for a company, especially in business sectors where having stringent quality control measures is a requirement. So, given that businesses can place varying importance on quality management, where exactly does it fit into your organization?

    Quality management – What is your organization’s approach?

    “Why did you choose to build a Quality Management System and implement ISO 9001?” is a very simple question, but the answer can tell you a lot about an organization’s approach to quality management. If the answer is: “to meet the demands of the customer,” it may be that the organization is reactive, whereas if the QMS was established through a real desire to provide consistent product and show continual improvement, then there is at least an element of proactive thinking in the organization’s outlook. In our previous article, Six key benefits of ISO 9001, we looked at the undoubted benefits of implementing the standard after establishing a QMS, and it is certainly worth bearing these in mind when considering establishing a system. Most organizations that are “quality driven” will have a perspective on these benefits before they begin. But, are there any “vital signs” we can see quickly with an organization that can tell us where quality management fits into the organizational thinking? Let us consider:



    1) Is the process approach in use? In the previous article, ISO 9001: The importance of the process approach, we looked at the benefits that the process approach can bring to an organization. In a manufacturing facility, the presence of organized, methodical, and tidy processes can also indicate that the organization is “quality-centric.” From speaking to staff in various departments, it generally can be seen whether the “process approach” has truly been applied, and if there is a collective approach to achieving quality objectives and continual improvement. This presence of organizational knowledge recorded as “documented information” also guarantees that as the organization’s size changes and fluctuates, consistency of behavior and training of new employees can ensure that performance of the QMS and organization is consistent.

    2) Is there quality-related data on display? Whether on notice boards, digital displays, or personal workstations, many quality-focused organizations like to display results for both informational and motivational purposes. Employees being well informed regarding achievement against objectives demonstrates that an organization takes quality seriously, and not just for the sake of an external or customer audit. You can learn more about this element in the article How to ensure competence and awareness in ISO 9001.

    3) Does the organization have a quality department? The article What is the job of the Quality Manager according to ISO 9001? is relevant in this case, and you can assess how a company values quality by looking at its quality department, although obviously, it is not unusual for a micro-business not to have a separate quality department. If a larger organization has no quality department, that tells its own story. On the other hand, if the quality department is present and led by a knowledgeable, focused, and driven manager, then it is clear that quality issues and performance are vital to the organization.

    4) Is the company successful, and what is its reputation? It is universally recognized that an organization that does not pay attention to quality cannot be successful in the long term. If a business has survived and grown over several years, it is obvious that the requirements of customers are being met and that continual improvement has taken place. Without these two factors, it is unlikely that a business will survive in the long term. It is also possible to gauge an organization’s reputation in these days of social media by looking online and assessing the general public opinion on the business. Customer feedback is a critical part of the ISO 9001 standard, and again, most organizations that do not take notice of customer feedback will not survive, let alone flourish. You can learn more about this element in the article How the ISO 9001:2015 standard can help you improve relationships with your customers.

    5) Does the organization have quality-related documentation? “Documented information” is a central part of the ISO 9001 standard, and the standard gives information on what is deemed mandatory and what is not. Many organizations who do not value quality in its process or products do not go to the trouble of creating documents, as it is too difficult and time consuming, whereas quality-driven organizations generally realize that producing standard operating procedures – especially if your processes and products or services have a high level of complexity – can be of great advantage, and that the time invested can yield huge benefits in terms of product consistency. You can find out more about this element in the article How to structure quality management documentation.

    Quality management – What does it mean to your organization?

    So, whether looking at your own organization or an external one, these factors can help you assess how the organization treats quality matters and where quality management truly fits into the organization. A company that has true aspirations to continually improve and grow will understand the relationship between quality management and customer satisfaction, as the two are inextricably linked.

    The organization that does not recognize and practice the vital elements of quality management in the long term cannot guarantee customer satisfaction; and, with no customers, it is only too clear how the future looks for such businesses. Ensuring quality management is at the heart of your business and activities can ensure that this does not happen to you.

    Use our free online training ISO 9001:2015 Foundations course to improve your quality management knowledge.

    Advisera John Nolan
    Author
    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.