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How to comply with new leadership requirements in ISO 9001:2015

In many ways, the leadership requirements in the draft version of the 2015 update to ISO 9001 are not new. ISO 9001 has always had the leadership importance of top management as one of the seven quality management principles that form the basis of the standard (learn more about the ISO 9001:2015 revision). Leadership in ISO 9001 version 2015 is important because, without ongoing management support of the Quality Management System (QMS), you are bound to run into problems. If management is not on board with your system, your QMS will be in trouble.

For more on the quality management principles that are the foundation of ISO 9001, see this blog article on Seven Quality Management Principles behind ISO 9001 requirements.

What are the leadership requirements in the new draft of ISO 9001:2015?

Section 5 of the new standard is all about leadership, and most of these requirements are very close or identical to those covered in the current version of the standard under the management responsibility requirements. The first subsection is about the ways that top management needs to demonstrate leadership and commitment with respect to the QMS, such as being accountable for the effectiveness of the QMS, ensuring resources are available, promoting continual improvement, and ensuring the Quality Policy and objectives are in place and consistent with the goals of the organization and the QMS.

The other three subsections cover the need for customer focus, requirements for the Quality Policy, and the organization’s roles, responsibilities, and authorities. These requirements all have mirror requirements in the current standard, with minor modifications. The very important role of top management to ensure that the QMS remains suitable, adequate, and effective has not been reduced, even though some requirements, such as the role of Quality Management System representative, have been removed. Top management still remains important.

For more on what is happening with the quality management representative, read this article on What will be the destiny of the management representative in the new ISO 9001:2015?

Leadership and commitment in ISO 9001 – How to meet the requirements

As I have said, all of these requirements are very similar to what is already in place, so big changes are not required in the way you have top management involved in the Quality Management System. Here are some things that are important to show that top management has a commitment to the Quality Management System:

  • QMS effectiveness is measured, and management is involved in assessing this.
  • The Quality Policy and objectives are in place per management direction, communicated in the organization, and tracked for progress.
  • The QMS is part of the business processes, not a side project.
  • Resource needs are reviewed and addressed by management.
  • Continual improvement is promoted and supported by management.
  • There is a way to ensure customer, statutory, and regulatory requirements are understood and met, and people understand why this is important.
  • There is a management focus on customer satisfaction.
  • Organizational roles, responsibilities, and authorities are assigned, understood by the person who is assigned, and known to those employees who need to assess a person in a certain role.

It is also important to note that the requirements for management review are still present in the ISO 9001:2015 draft standard, so this significant method of feedback to top management on the maintenance of the Quality Management System is still in place. This process continues to have a central role in demonstrating that top management has a continuing commitment to the QMS.

Involving top management isn’t optional

It has been said time and again, if you want your ISO 9001 Quality Management System to be successful, you need management support. Why would you waste the time and money required to implement a QMS, if other priorities are just going to take over the benefits that could be gained if management supported the management system? Without management support, a QMS will be overtaken by other priorities and the benefits from using continual improvement to focus on customer needs will be lost. A management-supported QMS is a successful QMS.

Click here to download the free white paper  Clause by clause explanation of ISO 9001 to help with understanding the requirements.

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.