Google Analystics

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

A common weakness in ISO 9001 training

Disclaimer: I call it a 'common' weakness but, in all honesty, I have no evidence other than anecdotal from my own experience over the years and from talking to other people who have had ISO 9001 training.

The Common Weakness in Training.

So, what is 'the weakness' of which I speak? It is to focus inordinately on the letter of the requirements of the Standard to the detriment of the spirit behind the Standard and its requirements.

Road sign: Blind Spot Ahead (Germany)
Right up front, let me hasten to say that this is not just a fault of trainers. Many, if not most people doing a training course in a standard such as ISO 9001:2015 have a blind spot for anything other than learning the minimum requirements for conformity or compliance. This 'defective vision' usually afflicts senior management who convey to their employees the sense that there will be some kind of new burden of documentation that we will all now need to add to our workload

On the part of trainers there is the temptation to have a quick introduction looking at the "Process Approach", maybe even looking at the 'benefits' of certification, but begin the 'real' training with the first "shall" clause of ISO 9001:2015, 4.1 Understanding the organisation and its context. Even if there is good coverage of what I call 'the spirit' of the Standard in the training's introduction, it usually gets lost thereafter in the weeds of the requirement from clause 4 onwards.

The Spirit of the Standard.

The spirit of the ISO 9001:2015 International Standard is articulated right at the very beginning in Clause 0.1 General
The adoption of a quality management system is a strategic decision for an organization that can help to improve its overall performance and provide a sound basis for sustainable development initiatives.

Culture eats strategy for breakfast
Note that it says nothing about marketing and sales. If marketing and sales are the driving motivation for ISO 9001 certification, and not organizational excellence through improving performance, then the organization is in for a rough ride culturally. That certificate on the wall will not be worth the paper it is printed on; the web site claim to ISO 9001:2015 certification will be another road sign to customer disappointment and employee frustration. Remember the famous saying questionably attributed to Peter Drucker? Culture eats strategy for breakfast.

I was fortunate to have to work with an engineering manager who frustrated me no end by asking me, "What is the value add…?" of this or that new process or document or quality initiative that I would come to him with. Over time I learnt to appreciate his challenges to me. He forced me to make my quality initiatives as minimally bureaucratic as possible while ensuring that there was, indeed, value added for the company. He would ask, "Who are we doing this for? Are we doing this for the business or for the auditors?" Frustrating at the time, but he inadvertently helped me get past the letter to the spirit of the requirement. Interestingly, if you meet the spirit of the requirement as your priority, it becomes easier to find ways through cooperation to meet the letter of the requirement that are practical and feasible.

Who is Your Quality Manual Written For?

continually improving performance
In short, as you write your quality manual and SOP's to implement the "shall" clauses of the ISO 9001:2015 Standard, ask yourselves as a team, How can we implement this in such a way as to achieve organizational excellence through continually improving performance? Remember, your QMS as documented in your Quality Manual is there primarily for the members of the organization, not the auditors. It should be easy to use as a training document. If it is not, then who was it written for?