We always say, about the standard of ISO 9001 but ISO 9001 is more than a standard, it should be part of a business’ strategic plan and not simply thought of as a quality management standard for product or service conformance or as a standard to achieve ISO 9001 certification. There are so many organizations simply look at the ISO 9001 standard as a way to manage the quality of their products or services or as a standard for certification, but I’m here to tell you that it’s so much more than that! I personally have always been of the opinion that business is quality and quality is good business. The quality principles that are included in ISO 9001 are just good business practices.
A Business Management Tool
A business model describes the appropriateness of how an organization creates, delivers and captures value for anyone or anything that is impacted by the organization. This may be shareholders, employees and customers, including the community and the local and global economy. The business model itself should outline the mission, strategies, infrastructure, organizational structure, operational processes and procedures that will be utilized to execute the business model. Based upon survey responses of managers, a business model is the design of organizational structures to enact a commercial opportunity. A business must deliver value to its customers, convince customers to pay for that value, and once they pay, the organization must operate in a manner that will result in profitability.
The business model should address what customers need and how the organization can meet those needs. The more I think about this, it looks a lot like what the ISO 9001 standard is all about. Too often organizations do not include quality as part of their business model or plan and they continue to struggle in successfully executing their mission, consistently meeting the needs of their customers and delivering value to their internal and external customers. The ISO 9001 standard states that the adoption of ISO 9001 should be a strategic decision by the organization and its design and implementation is influenced by varying needs, objectives, products provided and processes employed. If the organization has failed to implement ISO 9001 training as part of its strategic business model and plan, the organization may begrudgingly realize some positive benefits, but will not achieve the real value behind the standard. One of the most powerful benefits of the standard is the principle of employing the process approach to managing your business.
I’m often amazed when I ask the question to the employees of my clients’ organizations about their knowledge of their organization’s core processes. I may ask an employee can you explain to me the basic work flow of your organization and I often receive a blank stare. I challenge you today to ask 3 people within your organization to explain your core processes and see how many of them can articulate how work flows. If ISO 9001 is meant to be used as a business management tool, every employee in the organization should have a basic understanding of how the organization generates revenues, the flow of organizational processes and their order and understand their role as part of the overall collection of processes within the organization.
The process approach used as a business management tool, is basically understanding your organization’s processes, their inputs, their outputs and how the processes interact with each other. Without understanding your organization’s processes, it’s difficult to diagnose problems, get to the real cause(s) of those problems and implement real preventive or corrective actions. The process approach is based upon basic principles:
1. Understanding and meeting requirements.
2. The need to consider processes in terms of added value.
3. Obtaining results of process performance and effectiveness.
4. Continual improvement of processes based on objective measurement.
Understanding and Meeting Requirements
Most problems in organizations and in life in general are associated with not understanding and meeting requirements. Just think about it, many marriages fail because the couple did not understand or did not meet the requirements of the other spouse. Employees often underperform due to not having a clear understanding of the requirements of their job; therefore, they are not either equipped or not able to meet job requirements. Customers are often dissatisfied due to the customer’s requirements not being understood and met. In all of these scenarios, the meeting of the requirement is directly correlated to the initial understanding of those requirements.
When requirements are understood up front, it greatly increases the chances of successfully meeting requirements. Understanding requirements is the responsibility of both parties involved. In the marriage, it’s important for both parties to clearly articulate and explain their requirements, so that the other understands the expectations. When I met my wife, she had a “long” list of criteria for her husband before she met me and of course I had a “short” list. When we started dating, we both made our requirements (casually of course) understood and we’ve been working to meet them for the past thirteen years.
For employees to be successful, it’s important for the organization to first identify the requirements for the position, find a candidate that is qualified to meet those requirements and then clearly explain the job requirements to the employee. How often have we seen new employees just plopped down at a desk and asked to execute? When the employee doesn’t work out, the organization looks to the employee failure; rather the organization’s failure to ensure job requirements were understood by the employee, so that the employee could have a chance of successfully meeting job requirements.
When engaging customers, the customer may understand what they want or need, but may not understand the requirements involved in meeting their needs or wants. This is why its important for the organization to educate the customer on what requirements are involved in meeting the customer’s needs. This step increases the chances of customer satisfaction for the organization upon delivery. This principle is also true as departments work with each other internally on a daily basis. Many mistakes, waste and rework can be directly associated with the lack of initial understanding of requirements of the other department. Once requirements are understood, the chances of those requirements being satisfactorily achieved are greatly increased and the process can add value to the organization.
In conclusion, I hope I have provided some insight on how ISO 9001 can be used as a real business management tool and how it’s so much more than just a quality management system standard. If your organization is only interested in ISO 9001 in hopes to achieve certification, I’m here to let you know that that is the wrong purpose. Organizations should know that they can implement ISO 9001 and gain all the benefits of it, without incurring the additional costs of pursuing ISO 9001 certification. Operating in accordance to ISO 9001 and ISO 9001 certification are two different things. Many organizations will do business with ISO 9001 compliant companies that are not ISO 9001 certified.
Once ISO 9001 is implemented as a strategic decision of the organization and is part of the overall business plan, certification may be pursued if the company thinks it will add market value. Focusing on implementing a process approach will lead to a systematic method of identifying and controlling processes to ensure requirements are understood and met in an effort to add real value to the organization and other parties. Once the processes are monitored through objective measurements, the organization can systematically drive continual improvement and growth by focusing on the right cause(s) of process performance issues, which will lead to business success and the ISO 9001 standard being used as the business management tool, as it is intended for. Remember business is quality and quality is business.