There can be few businesses who are not concerned about business survival, but there are many who are yet to fully realise that it’s only by satisfying the current needs of the existing customer base, and looking to
deliver services or products for them more effectively and efficiently that they can actively plan for survival. I believe that are even fewer who fully realise the need to really understand the needs and expectations of potential new customers and that in failing to do this they risk failing to 'hook' and retain new business.
Developing effective and efficient processes will undoubtably help with business survival but just what does this mean? There are many frameworks and models which businesses can use and the one which is most commonly utilised is ISO9001:2008. A world away from the 20 clause structure of BS5750, this standard encourages businesses to identify their key processes and, more importantly, to identify and understand
how they interact. In understanding how they interact the business is encouraged to look at whether the ‘how’ is effective and efficient and this is where the power of ISO9001 comes in.
Former versions of ISO9001 (ie those which pre-date ISO9001 in the 2000 and 2008 versions) made little reference to the customer and their needs and expectations, and as a result the earlier version of the standard and its predecessor BS5750 had their critics, but the development of a standard which had the 8 Management principles so firmly as its foundation changed the face of quality management in 2000. Those
of us who were involved at that time will well remember how much work was needed in many cases to move to the new standard. Few businesses found the transition easy.
The 8 Management principles, documented in ISO9000:2005 (a standard which is so often overlooked but is, in my view, definitely worth reading), provide concepts which I always look for in a business which is developing or has developed a management system– to me the degree of evidence of them within a business is a good indicator, as an auditor, of how well an audit is likely to go.
The 8 principles are:
Organisations depend on their customers and therefore should understand current and future customer needs, should meet requirements and strive to exceed customer expectations.
Leaders establish unity of purpose and direction of the organisation. They should create and maintain the internal environment in which people can become fully involved in achieving the organisation’s objectives.
Involvement of People
People at all levels are the essence of an organisation and their full involvement enables their abilities to be used for the organisation’s benefit.
A desired result is achieved more efficiently when activities and related resources are managed as a process.
System approach to management
Identifying, understanding and managing interrelated processes as a system contributes to the organisation’s effectiveness and efficiency in achieving its objectives.
Continual improvement of the organisation’s overall performance should be a permanent objective of the organisation.
Factual Approach to decision making
Effective decisions are based on the analysis of data and information.
Mutually beneficial supplier relationships
An organisation and its suppliers are interdependent and a mutually beneficial relationship enhances the ability of both to create value.
So with those underpinning principles understood within the business, minds can turn to how the business will meet the requirements of the ISO9001 standard. When I work with clients on development phases of their systems, many ask why the standard doesn’t more clearly define how THEY should run THEIR system
for THEIR business.
I always explain that the standard is written to be equally applicable to a web design business in Bury, a motor manufacturer in Chicago and a hospital in Geneva, so the terminology used is deliberately open
to interpretation. Experience has shown me that where that interpretation is done with care, and with due regard to the management principles, the organisation will have a good chance of producing a meaningful system which adds value to their business. Sadly all too often the time on interpretation is seen as being of little value to the process and further down the line this presents problems.
There is no doubt that top management (principle 2, Leadership) can have a huge impact on the success of implementation, but there are some other key aspects which need to be considered.
1. What scope of approval will be sought? Which activities will the system therefore need to encompass? Spending time defining the scope of approval may be seen as ‘wasting time’ but get this bit right and the positive impact will be felt further down the line. Principle 1 (Customer Focus) is key here.
2. Identify who needs to be involved, and keep them involved (principle 3, Involvement of People). Everone within the business need to understand how important the management system is and why the
business is investing time and effort in it but also what their role is within the system and how important their contributions are. Systems which are developed in secret will remain ‘secret’, and that’s not healthy for the long term future of the system or the business. Successful systems are broadcast and owned throughout the business. They become ‘that’s the way it is round here’.
3. Develop and document a clear project plan, make sure it’s visible, it’s owned and progress against it is continually monitored, analysed and actions are put in place to address slippage (principles 4 and 5 fit well here - Process and System approaches, together with principle 6, continual improvement). It’s vital everyone knows who is doing what, and by when. Make sure your plan takes due account of the resources which will be required, and that the resources available are balanced against the timescales set. Remember the old adage ‘to fail to plan is to plan to fail’. Wise words! Change the plan if necessary, using facts to help you make effective decisions (principle 7 - factual approach to decision making).
4. Don’t wait till the whole system is written and documented before you start with key monitoring processes such as Management Review and Internal Audit. These key tools will help generate facts which you can base decisions upon (principles 6 and 7). Management Review can be incredibly helpful in the development process, and properly scoped Internal Audits can offer real insight into the effectiveness of your implementation programme.
5. Identify who you are going to use as your certification body and develop a relationship with them (principle 8 applies well here). They are not alien beings and they will be able to offer you sound advice and guidance on the certification process. Remember to choose a certification body which is UKAS approved – the UKAS website gives details of the very many bodies who are out there and their areas of specialism, but also one which feels ‘right’for your business. Remember that many of them have ‘small business’ rates.
So is ISO9001 good for your business? Properly implemented and managed it’s not just good for your business, it’s brilliant!
If you would like advice and guidance on ISO9001 please get in touch and let us help you with our no-nonsense approach to system development, implementation and management.
Click here if you