In my capacity as a trainer, consultant, and as an external auditor for a Certificating Body of International Standards, I’m more and more astonished by this particular, and surprisingly common, thing.
we’re not talking Quality novices, here – these are Quality engineers or managers who have been sent on expensive training courses to supposedly help them in their role.
The thing is, I often find the clients I help to implement ISO 9001 (or other ISO Standards) stare blankly at me as I explain a requirement of the Standard; or the principle underpinning a clause; or maybe the risks and consequences for the business of not meeting particular requirements. And we’re not talking Quality novices, here – these are Quality engineers or managers who have been sent on expensive training courses to supposedly help them in their role.
Now, it may be that they have been told… but were given no context on which to hang the information. But surely that, also, is a failure of their trainer?
A good management system aligns with an organisation’s strategic direction. We must ‘program’ it to provide data on which we can base effective business decisions. But how can you achieve this without fully understanding:
- what the management system is,
- how it works,
- why it exists,
- how it can be successful,
- who needs to be involved, take responsibilities and assume authority for decisions and actions,
- and many other key pieces of management system information?
Without understanding all of this, it’s truly impossible. But there are some trainers and consultants who merely tell clients what to do and what to create (documents). At best, this is laziness; at worst, it’s negligence!
When I ask (with my auditor hat on) what a company’s management system is for, or what are their expectations from it, I’ll sometimes get an excellent response. But often, I get… silence.
Even if the response is merely: “to have the certificate on the wall”, at least then there are several other parts of the standards that will fall into place...
I wonder how the implementation and maintenance of a management system proceeds without this information. Even if the response is merely: “to have the certificate on the wall”, at least then there are several other parts of the standards that will fall into place – once they know what the system is expected to achieve for them. For example:-
- How do top management ensure the Quality Management System (QMS) achieves its intended results?
- How do top management ensure that adequate resources needed for the QMS are available?
- How do top management ensure that the Quality policy is appropriate for the purpose and context of the organisation, and supports its strategic direction?
And so on. In fact, there are at least TEN other occasions on which auditors look for evidence of the effectiveness of the QMS in achieving its purpose or intended outcomes.
In addition, clients are left confused about the nature of clauses like ‘Organisational Knowledge’. Surely it’s not too much to ask to have some awareness and understanding of theories of growth, learning and longevity in business, or the nature of knowledge-creating companies?
The context of the organisation is part of the determination of the type of management system a company will ultimately create. All the issues listed in Notes 1 – 3 below Clause 4.1, are issues that may provide freedoms or constraints on the establishment, implementation and maintenance of a QMS.
We need to give more and be asked for more information about the requirements of International Standards.
At SQMC, we are fond of quoting the Quality guru, W. Edwards Deming. I'll finish this article with one we feature in our Lead Auditor course manual, which seems especially apt!:
It is not enough to do your best; you must know what to do, and then do your best.
About the author: Karen MacKenzie is a highly-respected business and quality consultant, having the vision and intellectual capacity to discern the key processes and personal development issues which are of paramount importance in any organisation. Karen is an ISO 9001 Lead Assessor, Internal Auditor and implementer of ISOs 9001, 45001 & 14001 systems in diverse industries - from construction to fabrication; and from environmental landscaping to Health & Safety consultancies. She is also an advisor to Scottish Enterprise National on the quality assuring of vocational education and training programmes, and has responsibility for rolling out the programme of self-assessment, quality development planning and continual improvement for education and training providers within Scotland.