Last week, we presented 3 of the top 7 New Year’s resolutions based on ISO 9001, the international quality standard: (1) control of records, (2) management commitment, and (3) competence, awareness, and training. This week, let’s look at four other ISO 9001-based resolutions:
- Customer satisfaction,
- Internal auditing,
- Corrective actions, and
- Preventive actions.
Keep Your Customers More Than Satisfied (clause 8.2.1)
Any organization that wants to keep its customers satisfied — let alone elated, ecstatic, and fanatic! — must be concerned about its customers’ perceptions. Never mind that you are meeting their stated requirements, item-for-item. They want 10,000 units, all uniform and all fit for their intended use, delivered to their location within 30 days of placing an order — you give them 10,000 units, all uniform, all fit for their intended use, and delivered to their location within 30 days of the order being placed. That’s often not enough.
How can you delight your customers? Might it help them if you send 2,500 units a week for the next 4 weeks? Can you do that while meeting the same high quality standards your customers — and YOU — demand? If you show some flexibility, some willingness to go beyond expectations, imagine how that would enhance their perception of your company. Resolve to improve how your customers perceive your company. It needn’t be an earthshaking event: often, what we consider small gestures make a huge difference in how they feel about us.
Start Conducting Internal Audits (clause 8.2.2)
…or, if you’re already doing so, improve your quality audits. Increase the value of your audits.
ISO 9001 states that a quality company has to conduct internal quality audits at planned intervals (every quarter, for instance) to determine if its quality management system conforms to planned arrangements, ISO 9001 requirements, and the organization’s requirements, and determine if that QMS is effectively implemented and maintained. You don’t have to be ISO 9001 certified to understand the value of regular audits. Isn’t it better that you identify real or potential problems — opportunities for improvement, if you like — before your customers do?
Besides, if you don’t audit your business processes, how do you know they’re effective? How do you know they don’t need improvement?
Take Corrective Action (clause 8.5.2)
In the best-run, most effective organizations, nonconformities will occur. Inferior parts make it to a customer…a customer’s invoice contains an error…a vendor is two days late delivering a subassembly and your customer suffers the consequences. Mistakes will happen. Your customers can understand this — they make mistakes, too. They can be amazingly forgiving, as long as you don’t make the same mistakes over and over.
Quality organizations, like yours, act aggressively to prevent recurring problems. They take action to identify and eliminate the root causes of nonconformities and prevent those mistakes from recurring.
Take Preventive Actions (clause 8.5.3)
Quality organizations will always go corrective action one better: they act to prevent problems from occurring in the first place. They continually monitor and measure everything, from use of raw materials to customer opinions. They study their processes to determine the potential for mistakes and identify the root causes of these potential errors. They then act to minimize or eliminate those root causes and prevent problems from occurring.
Preventive action is immeasurably easier, less painful, and more cost-effective than either corrective action or the time-honored “fire-fighting approach” (i.e., fix the problem and move on). Unfortunately, in the last couple of decades we’re experiencing a collective myopia about business problems. Too many of us think that “if it doesn’t happen in the next month, or the next year, it’s too far off to concern me. I probably won’t be around when it falls apart, so why worry?”
But if you want the business to grow and last — like 5 years, 10 years, or longer — resolve to make preventive action a priority.
So, that’s it. Our top 7 resolutions for a successful year. I hope that in the coming year, success finds you. Better yet — make it happen.
Best wishes for 2014, everyone. Thanks for your input and send me your questions. Hope to see you soon.