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A new opportunity

It is 32 years since BS5750 "knee jerked" many engineering businesses into a further stage of complacency and apathy regarding the relationship of profitability through satisfying customers. Over the years most of the 60,000 businesses gaining registration have failed to understand the fundamental principles behind the standard and sadly many of them failed to prosper as they had expected they would. Many businesses, of course, did not need the emergence of a Quality prescription to cure their or their customer’s pain. They had discovered that for themselves, they understood the basic principles.

SO 9001 is now in its third edition but as we approach 2012 it's  time for all businesses to stand back and seriously review whether they are really adding value to their stakeholders by using ISO 9001 to support their business objectives. Those who are serious about continually improving their performance will critically examine their business practices and use the fundamental principles behind the standard to identify opportunities for improvement. For them the decision will not be difficult.

However it is fairly certain that many senior management will try to continue as before, believing that ISO 9001 is a ‘quality badge’ that the quality manager has to make sure the Certification Body keeps renewing, with minimum hassle. For them the decision will not be so easy.

For Certification Bodies, they too must take stock and review the way in which they deliver certification services to their customers. There has been an increasing acceptance that the standard of auditing is too low and extremely variable. We continually hear reports of auditors who spend most of their time nitpicking forms and documentation, simply creating an irritating experience and adding no value to the organization being audited. Of course, there are auditors who do focus on identifying improvement opportunities and giving sound advice, but some auditors still maintain that it is not their role to look for improvements or offer advice, compliance with the prescriptive requirements being the focus.

For many organizations, the correlation between successfully ‘passing’ an external audit and continually achieving performance objectives has become increasingly spurious.

The challenge for Certification Bodies will be to provide value-adding audits delivered by competent, business focused auditors. This, for most means a significant investment in training and recruitment. Auditors cannot continue to use the language of documentation control and compliance. They must learn to recognize and assess effective processes within the broader context of business excellence, in order to command the attention of top management. Survival is an issue for them too.

The big picture has changed

During the last 20yrs  there has been an undeniable movement towards the recognition of stakeholder importance in effective organizational management.

Investors in People emphasises the relationship between achieving individuals expectations, potential, objectives, and development and successful organizational performance.

The Charter Mark award in public services has emphasised the importance of Customer focus. A Charter Mark means an organization has shown that it put its users first.

Best Value in public and community services has focused on efficient use of resources to minimize overall costs.

The Tomorrow's Company project developed and publicised the "Inclusive" approach, intended to enfranchise the employee, environment, local community, supplier and customer alongside the existing rights of the shareholder.

Business Excellence models across the world have recognised the relationship between leadership, planning, resources, effective processes, information, measurement, people management, satisfied customers, community responsibility and business results.

All of these approaches share some underlying principles that, not surprisingly appear to most of us as ‘common sense’:

  • Be clear about who the customer are, what they want and what they do not want; customer first.

  • Establish a strong sense of shared direction and common commitment; effective leadership.

  • Involve and manage the key people and partners to release their full potential; people involvement.

  • Identify, provide and efficiently manage the resources required; resource management.

  • Design and manage the best ways to deliver all stakeholder needs: process management.

  • Be environmentally responsible; corporate citizenship.

  • Continually seek better ways to satisfy stakeholder expectations. Continuous improvement.

The trend has been over the last decade that the more successful organizations have been at focusing on these principles, the more successful those organizations have been in achieving their objectives. The trend has also been that ‘success breeds success’; more and more organizations are willing to share their best practice with others, from local and regional groups to the DTI Inside UK Enterprise programme.

How is ISO 9001:2008 different?

How one sees the difference depends very much on one’s perspective.

The important changes in focus and emphasis are to be seen by taking the ISO 9001 and ISO 9004 documents together. (The original ‘family’ of ISO 9000 documents has been reduced to a 2000 ‘family’ of 4 with ISO 9001 addressing the requirements and ISO 9004 addressing improvement).

It can be seen through these two documents that the basic underlying common sense principles outlined previously are now firmly reflected in the new standard.

These principles emerge as:

  • Customer Focus

  • Leadership

  • Involvement of people

  • Mutually beneficial supplier relationships

  • Factual approach to decision making

  • Systems approach to management

  • Process approach

  • Continual improvement.

It is therefore clear from these principles that ISO 9000 is following and supporting the changes in the big picture, and moves closer to the concept of ‘business excellence’

For those who are bold enough to accept the challenge the revision offers some key changes of emphasis. These include:

  • A move away from 20 separate, loosely connected elements  to the notion of the management of quality as a process that converts customer requirements into customer satisfaction.

  • A strong focus on appropriate and effective measures of success, that are customer oriented.

  • A clear linkage between policy, objectives and the processes to achieve them

  • Identification and management of the key processes that deliver stakeholder satisfaction.

  • Internal communication and deployment of organizational objectives.

  • The linking of individuals objectives and contribution to organizational objectives.

  • A change from skills acquisition to competency based training.

  • Decisions based on facts efficiently generated from the management processes.

  • The objective review of performance and seeking out improvement opportunities.

  • Continual improvement in measured success not compliance to the status quo.

  • The use of proven problem solving and statistical methods.

  • A move away from conformance to performance with greater emphasis on achievement of objectives and process performance

  • Top management rather than ‘quality managers’ being responsible for quality management.

 This last point offers one of most significant opportunities.

In the past, quality mangers and external auditors have criticized  ISO 9000 for its lack of emphasise and recognition of the importance of ‘top management’. This has led to a self-fulfilling prophecy: Although the standard required a management representative not a quality manager, and all the requirements were addressed to the supplier not any particular manager, in practice, organizations have looked towards their quality managers to fulfil the requirements. Quality issues are passed to the Quality Manager, The external auditors only liase with quality managers, and despite the requirement for management review the quality managers review the system and top management merely oversee the process instead of being active participants. Top management is not involved; top management is not interested. The standard is the quality manager’s responsibility. 

The revision changes that focus and emphasise the responsibility of top management may well be a significant catalyst for a change of role for the quality manager. It certainly offers a challenge to auditors who will have to assess the practical involvement and effectiveness of top management actions. No longer will any internal or external audits be carried out without the involvement or knowledge of senior management.

Some ‘quality experts’ will say of course that the revisions have not gone far enough. That may well be true but for most of the 60,000 or so registered organizations, if they can meet the spirit of the principles and requirements by the end of the year 2000 their performance will be significantly better than it is now. Then they can go further.

Many ‘quality’ people will also argue over the precise interpretation of the grammatically correct (or incorrect) words and sentences. In doing so they will get preoccupied with the semantics and miss the message and the opportunities. For as long as people use the standards for conformance purposes, this will remain an issue. Such issues have only arisen because the principles underpinning the requirement were not clearly expressed. Now these principles have been clearly defined they assist us interpret the requirements with greater consistency than has hitherto been the case.

A real challenge

Let us look back at those eight principles in practice. If you are bold enough try the Self Assessment Consider your own organization for 5 minutes and score each of the following on the scale 1 to 9 using the indications shown.

If your score is less than 65 you have probably identified some areas for improvement. In a recent survey of over 700 organizations(1), the average score was less than 50 indicating that many organizations have no justification for being complacent. If your view concurs with others in your organization then you should be performing better by the end of the year 2000 and certainly have little difficulty in meeting the requirements of the revised issue of ISO 9000:2000 – if you take up the challenge!

 (1) Data gathered during the IQA ISO 9000 Seminars from June  to August 1999 and June to October 2000 in which this Self Assessment Questionnaire was used by Transition Support Ltd.  


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