© Transition Support Last edit  12/12/2022 







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Quality management principles

Over the last 35 years or so, several principles have been developed that appear to represent the factors upon which the achievement of quality depends:

  1. Understanding customer needs and expectations (i.e. a customer focus)
  2. Creating a unity of purpose and a quality culture (i.e. leadership)
  3. Developing and motivating the people (i.e. engagement of people)
  4. Managing processes effectively (i.e. the process approach)
  5. Understanding the complex relationship between cause and effect (i.e. the systems approach)
  6. Continually seeking better ways of doing things (i.e. continual improvement)
  7. Basing decisions on facts (i.e. evidence-based decision-making)
  8. Realizing that you need others to succeed (i.e. relationship management)

A principle is a fundamental truth or law and therefore quality management principles are the fundamental truth or laws that form the basis of quality management.

These principles have been identified to facilitate the achievement of quality objectives and form the foundation for effective quality management. Seven of these principles are defined in ISO 9000:2015 in terms of a definition, the rationale, key benefits and possible actions.

Any revision of existing quality management systems should be carried out using the 8 QM principles otherwise the resultant system will not satisfy the intent of ISO 9000:2015. A graphical illustration of the principles and their relationship with quality is below.


Principle as described in ISO 9000:2015 except where stated


Customer focus

The primary focus of quality management is to meet customer requirements and to strive to exceed customer expectations.

This is more like a statement of purpose than of a principle.  Perhaps a better way of expressing this as a principle would be as follows:

When an organization manages in a way that increases the quality of its outputs, it will inevitably meet customer requirements and exceed customer expectations.


Leaders at all levels establish unity of purpose and direction and create conditions in which people are engaged in achieving the organization's quality objectives

Engagement of people

Competent, empowered and engaged people at all levels throughout the organization are essential to enhance its capability to create and deliver value.

Process approach

Consistent and predictable results are achieved more effectively and efficiently when activities are understood and managed as interrelated processes that function as a coherent system

This is the result of merging two principles that were previously referred to as the process approach and the systems approach.

Systems approach to management

(Omitted from ISO 9000)

An approach to managing an organization that recognizes its performance results from the interaction of interrelated elements and cannot be predicted by analysing each element taken separately.

The system approach principle was merged with the process approach in the 2015 version but this change does not fully recognize the principle involved, that the behaviour of a system is inherent in its structure, that it’s the interconnectedness among the elements that produces its behaviour. this principle has been applied even if it is not stated


Successful organizations have an ongoing focus on improvement

This is more like a statement of good practice than of a principle. Perhaps a better way of expressing this would be as follows:

An organization's performance will decline unless it focuses on improving its efficiency and effectiveness.

Evidence based decision making

Decisions based on the analysis and evaluation of data and information are more likely to produce desired results.

Mutual beneficial relationships

For sustained success, organizations manage their relationships with interested parties, such as providers.

This is more like a statement of good practice than of a principle. A better way of expressing this appeared in the following Rationale statement beneath the principle.

Sustained success is more likely to be achieved when the organization manages relationships with all of its interested parties to optimize their impact on its performance.


(Omitted from ISO 9000)

To attain and maintain standards for performance, work needs to be under control and this only arises when those with responsibility for the work are aware of those standards and are able to regulate the variables that cause variation in their performance.

This principle has been applied even if it is not stated in those requirements for control within ISO 9001


(Omitted from ISO 9000)

The need for confidence in the integrity of the provisions made to create and supply goods and services increases in proportion to the complexity of organizations and their goods and services.

This principle has been applied even if it is not stated in those requirements for documented information within ISO 9001.

More information about the quality management principles can be found in Chapter 5 of the ISO 9000 Quality Systems Handbook 7E

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