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How does the ISO 9001:2015 revision affect the Quality Policy?

ISO 9001:2015 has brought many changes to the Quality Management System (QMS), as compared to ISO 9001:2008, but one thing that has stayed constant is the need for a Quality Policy. While many of the requirements for the Quality Policy have remained the same, there are some new things to think about when you create or update this policy.

What has remained the same?

In the article on How to write a good Quality Policy, there are descriptions of the steps to go through to ensure that your policy is adequate and communicated in your organization. Many parts of this process remain unchanged; for instance, the Quality Policy is intended to be the goal of the QMS for the organization, and it should start with understanding your customer requirements. Likewise, internal party inputs are also very important, as is the need for the Quality Policy to be communicated and understood throughout the organization. People still need to know what the policy is and how the work they do aligns with this policy.

As was outlined in the article above, a good Quality Policy can be used as a filter for business decisions to ensure that what you do in your business practices always aligns with the goal of the organization. In fact, many of the changes to the requirements in ISO 9001:2015 make the Quality Policy even more valuable as a decision-making tool.

What is new in ISO 9001:2015?

So, what has changed regarding the requirements of the Quality Policy in ISO 9001:2015? Below are the additions and how they fit into the creation strategy that is included in the above-mentioned article on writing a good Quality Policy. You will see that these small changes have greatly improved the value of this important policy.

1) Appropriate to the purpose and context of the organization. One of the big changes to the ISO 9001:2015 standard’s requirements is the need to identify the context of the organization. This entails identifying the internal and external issues that affect the QMS; and, once these have been determined, the Quality Policy needs to match this context. You don’t want a policy that talks about products and services that are unrelated to your business; you want your policy to take into account the overall issues that can affect your ability to meet your goal.

For more information on how this works, see this article on How to identify the context of the organization in ISO 9001:2015.

2) Support the strategic direction of the organization. Another new requirement for the Quality Policy is to align with the company`s strategic direction. Of course, this means that you know what your strategic direction is, so that you can ensure that this quality goal is aligned with it. For smaller companies this strategic direction can be a simple process, with the owner identifying what they envision the company becoming in five years. However, for larger companies the senior management may need to define this plan for the company. If you haven’t already done this high-level activity, it is important for your QMS that you complete it.

There is also a requirement for the quality objectives, for which the Quality Policy provides a framework, to align with the strategic direction. So, understanding where your company is planning to go with respect to quality is an important addition to the ISO 9001:2015 standard.

For more on this subject, see this article: Aligning quality objectives of the QMS with the strategic direction of the company.

When you consider that you need to align your Quality Policy, which is your quality goal, with your organizational context and strategic direction, your QMS will benefit even more.

How do these changes reflect on the Quality Policy?

Unfortunately, there is no easy answer to this question, because it will depend on a lot of variables: your industry, company size, complexity of products and services, applicable legal requirements, etc. Taking this into account, your Quality Policy needs to include your commitment to meet all requirements (customers’, legal, etc.) and to continually improve your QMS.

So, you might have a Quality Policy that includes important customer requirements regarding on-time delivery and quality, as they relate to the strategic direction required to grow your business, like this:

“The XYZ Company will deliver superior widgets to our customers that are right the first time, and on-time every time, according to customer requirements and needs. By fulfilling all necessary requirements, along with continually improving our processes and productivity, we will increase our market share in the lawnmower widget supply industry.”

This Quality Policy is aligned with the customers’ and other requirements, includes the commitments required by ISO 9001:2015, and aligns with the company’s strategic direction to increase market share. This can make your overall quality goals clear to everyone in the company, so they can ensure that their activities align with these top-level goals.

By ensuring that you have a Quality Policy in place to guide your employees, you will find that their activities will help your overall business meet its goals of improving not only its processes, but also customer satisfaction. With everyone working towards these targets, you will find that your Quality Management System will not end up becoming just another drain on company resources. Instead, you can find the improvements and cost savings that will make your QMS a valuable tool in your company. Make it work for you.

For a better understanding of the changes in the ISO 9001:2015 requirements, see this white paper: ISO 9001:2015 vs. ISO 9001:2008 matrix.

Advisera Mark Hammar
Mark Hammar
Mark Hammar is a Certified Manager of Quality / Organizational Excellence through the American Society for Quality and has been a Quality Professional since 1994. Mark has experience in auditing, improving processes, and writing procedures for Quality, Environmental, and Occupational Health & Safety Management Systems, and is certified as a Lead Auditor for ISO 9001, AS9100, and ISO 14001.