© Transition Support Last edit 24/11/2023
A flexible approach to business improvement
There are two schools of thought on quality management. One views quality management as the management of success and the other the elimination of failure. They are both valid. Each approaches the subject from a different angle. In an ideal world if we could design products, services and processes that could not fail we would have achieved the ultimate goal. Failure means not only that products, services and processes would fail to fulfil their function but that their function was not what our customers desired. A gold plated mousetrap that does not fail is not a success if no one needs a gold plated mousetrap! Perceptions have changed over the last 40 years. The aim of the requirements in ISO 9001:1987 was to prevent nonconformities at all stages from design through to servicing with no mention of customers. By 1994 this had changed to at achieving customer satisfaction by preventing nonconformity at all stages from design through to servicing and by 2000 the notion of preventing nonconformity had be replaced by enhancing customer satisfaction through the effective application of a quality management system and this continues with the 2015 version.
Hence through the lens of ISO 9001, quality management has changed from being a means for planning, organizing and controlling the prevention of failure to enhancing customer satisfaction. If we change lenses and look at it through ISO 9004 we find the aim changed from satisfying customers to satisfying interested parties and the improved performance of the organization. Thus all the tools and techniques that are used in quality management serve to increase the quality of the organization’s outputs.
Quality does not appear by chance or if it does it may not be repeated. One has to design quality into the products and services. It has often been said that one cannot inspect quality into a product. A product remains the same after inspection as it did before so no amount of inspection will change the quality of the product. However, what inspection does is measure quality in a way that allows us to make decisions on whether to release a piece of work. Work that passes inspection should be quality work but inspection unfortunately is not 100% reliable. Most inspection relies on the human judgment of the inspector and human judgment can be affected by many factors some of which are outside our control such as the private life, health or mood of the inspector. We may fail to predict the effect that our decisions have on others. Sometimes we go to great lengths in preparing organization changes and find to our surprise that we neglected something or underestimated the effect of something. So we need other means than inspection to deliver quality products. It is costly anyway to rely only on inspection to detect failures -
Quality management is both a technical subject and a behavioural subject. It is not a bureaucratic administrative technique. The rise in popularity of ISO 9000 has created some unhelpful messages such as the 'document what you do' strategy. There has also been a perception in the service industries that ISO 9000 quality systems only deal with the procedural aspects of a service and not the professional aspects. For instance in a medical practice, the ISO 9000 quality system is often used only for processing patients and not for the medical treatment. In legal practices, the quality system again has been focused only on the administrative aspects and not the legal issues. The argument for this is that there are professional bodies that deal with the professional side of the business. In other words the quality system addresses the non-
Another often forgotten aspect of quality management is the behaviour of people in an organization. Such behaviour is formed by the core values to which that organization subscribes. The absence of core values that form a positive behaviour, may not have an immediate effect because individuals will operate according to their own personal values. When these conflict with the organization's values, an individual could resent being forced to comply and may eventually adopt the values of the majority or leave to find a more suitable company to work for.
The management of quality involves many aspects of an organization. In essence quality management is concerned with the failure potential of processes, products and services as stated previously. Organizations comprise many functions and all must be essential for the organization to function efficiently and effectively. It follows therefore that if any function fails to perform, there will be a corresponding detrimental effect on the organization. Whether this failure has any effect on the products and services offered for sale depends on the time taken for the effect to be damaging. Some failures have an immediate effect where they contribute directly to the supply of products and services. Others have a long term effect where their contribution is indirect such as the behavioural aspects. People work best when management shows it cares about them. Neglect the people and you eventually impact product quality. A failure in a support function, such as office cleaning, may not affect anything initially, but if the office remains unclean for a prolonged period it will begin to have an effect on productivity.
If a Total Quality Management philosophy is to be adopted, every function in the organization regardless of the magnitude of its effect on processes, products and services is brought into the system. ISO 9001 only addresses those functions that contribute directly to the sale of products and services to customers. The difference is that ISO 9001 and other standards used in a regulatory manner are not concerned with an organization's efficiency or effectiveness in delivering profit. However, they are concerned indirectly with nurturing the values that determine the behaviour of the people who make decisions that affect product or service quality.
Learn more about increasing the quality of an organization’s outputs in the ISO 9000 Quality System Handbook 7E