If You’re an Interested Party, How Can You Be Irrelevant?

ISO 9001:2015[1], the quality standard, says that when an organization is in the planning stage of design and development – we’re at the beginning of the product life cycle – that organization must keep in mind what its customers and other relevant interested parties[2] might expect.

Customers. Of course, they’re interested parties. Their expectations are very important. Ask Apple – their “iPhones” have set expectations extremely high, within and without. The Apple Watch has, so far, failed to meet the public’s expectations[3][4]. (The company’s not saying if their own expectations are being met.)


Any interested parties out there? (Forbes Images)

So, customers have an interest in the outcome of an organization’s design and development, or D&D, process. They have a stake in the outcome. But who might the “other relevant interested parties” be? Who, besides the customer, has a stake in the outcome of the D&D process?

First, what does it mean to be an “interested party” in this context? I’m interested in the outcome of tonight’s hockey game. Am I an interested party? No. While I want the Blues to win, I don’t have a material interest in the team’s success, like the owners or the players. If you’re an “interested party”, you have more than an emotional stake: you are meaningfully linked to a process and its outcome.

So who’s an interested party besides the customer? People within the company! Everyone who draws a paycheck from the company, including contract workers and hourly employees. Those who have a role in the D&D process are interested parties, but there are others who provide the service, make the product, package the product, store the product, and sell the service or product. They’re interested parties, too.

Who else is an interested party? Investors. People who put up the money the company needs to operate. They have “skin in the game”. Investors must see a return on their investment or they stop investing. Therefore, also an interested party.

Who else is an interested party? How about vendors? You might outsource part of the design. You may need to make a prototype, for which you need parts and materials. Those vendors are interested parties.

Now, how about the local government? Isn’t it an interested party? Jobs and taxes, after all. What about the utility companies? Cybersecurity? Janitorial? Lawn and landscaping? Food service? Maybe, and maybe not.

This is why the term “relevant” is included. Not everyone and everything is truly an interested party. “Relevant” separates the casually, emotionally, and most tenuously interested from those who have a material interest.

If someone or something doesn’t have a connection to the D&D process – if they don’t have a stake in the outcome – they’re not relevant interested parties. Your employees contribute, directly or indirectly, to the success of your plans. Some of your vendors directly contribute to your success. Those are “relevant interested parties”. Those who make and enforce pertinent laws and regulations – like worker safety or pollution prevention – also are relevant.

But the nearby gas station or the school district in which the business operates? Hardly. No offense, McDonald’s Restaurant just a couple of blocks away, where a lot of the organization’s employees stop for a steamy McCafe and a McGriddle or an Egg McMuffin before clocking in: you are not McRelevant. Sorry, Walmart – you’re also irrelevant. Huge, but irrelevant. (Or are they? Hmmmm…)

Now, think about your own organization. When you plan to develop a new product or service, who are your relevant interested parties? What expectations do they have?

Need help solving vexing issues of quality? Reach out to me next time.

And thanks for your time this time.


[1] “Quality Management Systems – Requirements”, ISO, Sep., 2015

[2] See clause 8.3.2.i, “Design and Development Planning”

[3] “How Well Is Apple’s Watch Really Doing?”, Bloomberg News, March 21, 2016 (http://www.bloomberg.com/news/videos/2016-03-21/how-well-is-apple-apos-s-watch-really-doing)

[4] “Apple Watch Gets $50 Price Cut, New Watchbands”, Fortune, March 21, 2016 (http://fortune.com/2016/03/21/apple-watch-50-price-cut/)


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Posted in Customer focus, Design and development, ISO 9001:2015

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