Every business needs to improve if it is to remain competitive – right? The worst thing that can happen to any organization is complacency or hubris – the notion that if it isn’t broken, you don’t fix it. In spite of how well our businesses seem to be doing at any given moment, we can’t be content with who and where we are.
In the spirit of the times – we’re just a week into 2014 – we’ve put together a list of New Year’s resolutions based on the common-sense wisdom of ISO 9001, the international quality standard. Make no mistake – every requirement of ISO 9001 is important! – but we believe these concepts are particularly important to the success of any business. Moreover, putting these ideas into practice doesn’t require ISO 9001 certification on your part.
These cornerstone resolutions for the New Year are:
- Get better control of your records
- Management – show your commitment
- Increase the competence, training, and awareness of your personnel
- Increase your customers’ level of satisfaction
- Employ internal audits to identify opportunities for improvement
- Take meaningful corrective actions – don’t just slap a bandage on problems
- Develop preventive actions to lessen the need for corrective actions
Record Control (clause 4.2.4)
The “Control of Records” clause says that when you create records to prove that:
- Your company is conforming to requirements and
- Your quality management system is operating effectively,
You must maintain control of those records. Obviously, if people can change your quality records at any time and for any reason, that’s not good for your business.
We keep records for many reasons – certainty of meeting our financial obligations, for example. We keep records to be sure we’re meeting our objectives – quality objectives, sales objectives, and so forth. Another reason we keep records is to identify good and bad trends, like whether our product quality is improving – or declining – and our customer base is following suit.
Not keeping our records safe and secure exposes us to all sorts of risk, the ultimate risk being the loss of our business.
Management Commitment (clause 5.1)
This ISO 9001 clause says “top management” shall prove it is committed to:
- Developing and implementing a quality management system and
- Continually improving its effectiveness.
It does so by (1) communicating to the entire organization how important it is that they meet customer, statutory, and regulatory requirements and (2) ensuring that everyone – full-time employee, part-time employee, contractor, or temporary worker – has adequate resources to meet those requirements.
It’s not enough for those perched atop the org chart to say “we’re committed”. They have to continually back up those words with actions.
Competence, Training, and Awareness (clause 6.2.2)
This is a rare clause in ISO 9001, in that it doesn’t mention the word “quality” once. It states that the entire organization – not the whim of one individual – shall define what competence means. Think about competence in your particular environment. What sort of knowledge, skills, and behavior must you display to be considered competent? If you don’t pick up additional knowledge or skills in the coming year, will you still be considered competent?
If personnel don’t meet that definition, the organization needs to provide training or take any other action needed (e.g., find a qualified training provider) to help them become competent. Furthermore, the organization must evaluate the effectiveness of the training or other action taken (i.e., “Are our personnel competent as a direct result of the training?”).
Finally, the organization must ensure that personnel are aware of how relevant and important their activities are and how they contribute to the organization’s achievements. In other words, give them ownership of what they do.
* * * * * * *
Next time, we’ll look at customer satisfaction, internal audits, corrective action, and preventive action. Thanks for your time. Let me know what you think.
 Top Management is the person or persons making decisions on behalf of the entire organization.
 Unless, of course, the organization consists of just one person.