What Does “Context of the Organization” Mean?

Look up any word in the dictionary. The dictionary will tell you what the word means – it defines the word for you. A word can have more than one definition or meaning; if so, the dictionary normally lets you know. It also shows you – and in the case of online dictionaries, lets you hear – how the word is pronounced.

      beat (beet)

           (verb) strike repeatedly; thrash vigorously; defeat; stir or whip
           (noun) meter or rhythm; sound made by striking

Best of all, the dictionary gives you examples of how the word is used (in a sentence or phrase). It puts the word into context, so you have a better understanding.

       The man, 43, is accused of beating his spouse.
       Beat the eggs thoroughly before adding them to the mix.
       Yes, he was a flashy drummer, but he couldn’t keep a steady beat.

Similarly, ISO 9001:2015 requires organizations to consider their context as they develop, implement, and maintain their respective quality management systems. What is the context of the organization, though, and why does it have to be considered?

Your organization’s context is its setting, its relationships, its philosophy, its activities, and its dynamics. Where you’re located, what you do, what you stand for, who your stakeholders are, what laws and regulations apply to you, how these interact and influence one another – all of these and more comprise your organizational context.

An organization's context consists of its line of business, where it's located, who its customers are, the laws that apply, and much more. (All pictures - Wikimedia Commons)

An organization’s context consists of its line of business, where it’s located, who its stakeholders are, what laws apply, and much more.
(All pictures – Wikimedia Commons)

Clearly, your organization does not exist in a vacuum. It has customers, vendors, contractors, employees, management, neighbors, governmental bodies – it touches a lot of entities, and a lot of entities touch it. (Remember the game of “tag” and “Electricity!”? You do? Damn, you’re old!) Who and what does your organization influence, directly or indirectly, by its actions or just by being there? Who and what influences your organization?

Note that this is not an exercise driven by ISO 9001:2015. The quality standard is not going someplace you’ve never been before. When you start a business, as you try to grow the business, and while you guide it through ups and downs in the environment, you understand that there are people and events that will be affected by you, and vice versa. You understand the context of your organization without ISO 9001. If you don’t, your business does not succeed.

The term “context of the organization” may be new to you but the concept, I assure you, is not.

* * * * * *

Do you want to better understand your organization’s context? Let’s get together over coffee…or send me an email if you’re not in the St. Louis area.


We help small businesses improve their efficiency and effectiveness. Whether you're selling a product or a service, we'll show you how you can improve product and service quality, effectively and affordably. If you need quality, environmental, or health & safety management but can't afford a full-time manager or staff, call on Q9C and we'll pick up the slack. For information or a quote, call or write. Subscribe to the Q9C blog while you're at it.

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Posted in ISO 9001:2015, Quality improvement, Quality management

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