Are you one of those people who think ISO 9001 is only about paper, red tape and box-ticking? Do you fear being tied down by pedantic auditors and interrogated about document control? Do you wish there was a way to bring more structure and process into your organization without submitting to the dreaded ISO standard?
You might be surprised to know that ISO 9001 these days is more focused on business strategy than quality control. Auditors are more concerned with effective processes than comprehensive paperwork. In fact, ISO 9001 has evolved into a framework onto which SMEs can build a business strategy.
A great article by Kevin B, a specialist in ISO management systems and strategic quality programmes, and consultant with Consult 2050.
Implementing ISO 9001
If you are one of the many small and medium enterprises that don’t yet have a strategic plan, but recognise the need for a more structured approach, you could consider using ISO9001 as your springboard. You might, at the same time, seek certification, although this is more of a commercial decision driven by market demand. But you can still benefit from the standard even if you don’t need the certificate. Let me show you how.
QFactorial has developed a strategic approach to implementing ISO9001. We focus less on the bureaucratic details, more on alignment with the client’s operating model. We start by understanding the business and identifying the strategies and controls that are already in place. By mapping these to the standard we can quickly identify any gaps. More importantly, we can see the foundations of a joined-up system. I call this a ‘glass half full’ approach. Most clients are amazed when I show them how much of ISO9001 they are already complying with simply by running their business sensibly and with due diligence.
That’s easy to say, I hear you protest, but what does it mean in practice? First let’s look at what it doesn’t mean. Let’s set aside some common fears and puncture a few myths.
- It’s not all about procedures and forms. In fact, you might not need any.
- You won’t be saying goodbye to agility, flexibility or reality.
- Don’t worry about mapping every process to the nth degree. One page might suffice.
- There is no need for special software – you don’t want it to become an IT project.
- Off-the-shelf solutions only work if you are an off-the-shelf business. Don’t risk it.
- Not all certificates are created equal. Some accreditation is done by smoke and mirrors.
- A good consultant will minimize the amount of work and provide a pragmatic solution.
10 Strategic Qfactors
How can a modern management system support quality and strategy? What are the strategic Qfactors? How can ISO 9001 help your business to grow? Every business starts from a different position, brings its own culture, and sets its own ambitions. So where to begin? Here is my top ten list of strategic actions to implement ISO 9001.
- Strategic direction. Your vision, values, mission, strategy, growth plan. Without a road map and destination, you could end up anywhere.
- Business context analysis. A matrix to help you consider the wider business environment and ensure that you end up with a system/strategy that is relevant.
- Stakeholder analysis. Another matrix, this time to understand who your stakeholders are and what they need from you, your system and your strategy.
- Compliance tracking. Tracking changes in legal, contractual and standards requirements, making sure your processes, products and services remain compliant.
- Policy deployment. Translating all the above into leadership statements that demonstrate and communicate your commitments and intentions to stakeholders.
- Performance tracking. Setting SMART objectives and metrics that bring meaningful performance reports to the boardroom and encourage data-driven decision-making.
- Process framework. The simple, one-page diagram that describes how your business works. A strong but flexible spine at the centre of system and strategy.
- Assurance loops. Check points, audits and feedback mechanisms to keep you on track with all the above, generating learning, improvement and growth.
- Action tracking. The engine that keeps everything moving forwards, prevents stagnation, manages change, mitigates risk and embraces opportunity.
- Management reviews. Regular meetings where the leadership directs and steers the system and the strategy based on feedback from all the above.
If you haven’t followed developments in quality management over the last few years, you may not recognise these as quality strategies. Aren’t they just business strategies? Well, that’s my point. The lines have become blurred. And that’s a good thing for all those folks who previously complained that ISO 9001 had no connection with business reality.
One QFactorial client summed it up neatly: “The ISO project has enabled me to realise the strategy that I’ve been carrying around in my head. Without it, the strategy would never have made it to the page and it would not have been approved or implemented.”