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Why do more than ISO 9001 requires?

We have often been asked this question. Why  indeed do more than the minimum requirements of ISO 9001? There are two sides to this question.

  • Do we need to do more than necessary to get the certificate?

  • Do we need to do more than ISO 9001 requires?

The goal

One needs to be clear about the goal. Is the goal simply to get ISO 9001 certification or to develop a capability to satisfy your customers? In theory the answer to these two should be identical because organizations should not get a certificate if they don't have the capability to satisfy their customers. In reality this is far from the truth. ISO 9000 registered organizations are failing to meet their customer's expectations on a daily basis.

Doing more than necessary to get the certificate

In truth, this is the wrong question because if you need to ask this question, you have probably misunderstood the purpose of ISO 9000. ISO 9001:2008 is an assessment standard - it is used to measure the capability of an organization's quality management system to deliver products and services that satisfy customer needs and expectations. Therefore the objective is not to get a certificate but to develop a capability to satisfy customer needs and expectations. By demonstrating that the organization has this capability, a certificate is awarded. So if we turn around this question, we should ask, 'Why do more than necessary to develop a capability to satisfy customer needs and expectations?'

To get the certificate you need do no more - to run an effective business you need to do much more.

Doing more than ISO 9001 requires

Doing more than ISO 9001 requires is like limiting your education to the questions on the exam paper. People who get on in life learn much more than the scope of the examinations they take. So it equally true of business. Businesses need to do more than what is prescribed in ISO 9001 to operate successfully. There is no organization on the planet that only does what is prescribed in ISO 9001 simply because it is not a prescription for how to run a business.

ISO 9001 addresses only certain aspects of the system organization's need to operate to enable them to satisfy customer needs and expectations. Not all aspects are covered although it rather depends on how one interprets the words. One could argue that staff salaries have nothing to do with ISO 9001. But if one asks, what affects our ability to satisfy our customers we are likely to list among the answers, the competence of our people - and indeed competence is addressed by ISO 9001. But if we then ask, what affects the competence of our people we might discover that staff moral has a significant impact. Moral can be adversely affected by dissatisfaction with salaries. As almost anything can have an impact on customer satisfaction it would be unwise to limit one's examination to the topics included in ISO 9001. There is of course the Preventive Action clause which catches all - even staff salaries if one uses the 5 How's technique to get at the route cause.

Not long ago a nuclear processing plant was in the news for falsifying quality control records. Day after day, the workers would measure hundreds of tiny pellets of fuel. Tedious, repetitive and not really necessary - because the work had already been done by a computer. But, at some stage, some workers alighted on a novel solution to their boredom. They would fake the results by using data from previous tests and manipulate it to look like fresh data. The only problem was that the company's Japanese customer, insisted that it be carried out to ensure quality control. A worker admitted what had been going on to the company. The company warned the Health and Safety Executive's Nuclear Installations Inspectorate and an investigation began. Five men were sacked. The report, by the Chief Inspector of Nuclear Installations, blames a systematic failure in management for a decline in the company's safety culture. If proper structures had been in place, it says, falsification of data could never have taken place.

This is a company that had obtained ISO 9001 certification but the certification body had not examined culture when conducting the audit. Customers were not satisfied. Culture is not overtly covered in ISO 9001 therefore one sometimes has to do more than what ISO 9001 requires to develop the capability needed to satisfy customer's needs and expectations.


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Last amended 24/08/2013
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