Practical Steps towards an ISO Certified Quality Management System A White Paper Published by AGF Consulting Group
The cornerstone of a quality organization is an effective quality management system and although many businesses may not have large resources available to put into quality management, it can still be done effectively. An effective QMS is meticulous in documentation and following procedures to the last detail but it will ultimately produce a service or product that satisfies the customer’s requirements which in turn ensures customer retention and generation of new business. Specifically, a good quality management system should result in the following –
● Reduces wastage
● Improves process control
● Lowers costs
● Develops employee growth
● Meet customers’ expectations
● Keeps up with the competition
However, implementing an effective QMS is not done overnight.
Based on AGF Consulting Group’s research, most organizations have issues implementing an ISO-Certified quality system as they either do not have a system in place or they have a pre-existing system that is already too embedded in their organization. The latter scenario making it difficult to overhaul and at the same time, is far too different from anything that resembles an ISO QMS. However, one can take steps in implementing a QMS without specifically following the ISO Principles point for point.
Here are some points to follow in implementing a Quality Management System with the 8 Quality Management Principles of ISO in hindsight.
One cannot dive headfirst in establishing an effective QMS without first conducting a ‘gap analysis’. A gap analysis is used to identify the current and desired state of an organization. Specifically, a gap analysis should ask two questions pertaining to your organization –
- Where are we?
- Where do we want to be?
Answering these 2 questions for every department of your organization helps you identify the factors responsible for the difference between your current and desired performance, which are then identified and remedied through the creation of action plans. Here are a few examples of problems that need to be addressed in a gap analysis –
- Service Quality Gap
Indicates the difference between the service expected by customers and the service they actually receive. For example, customers may expect to finish a construction project in 6 months, but in reality, your timeline is 8-12 months.
- Management Understanding Gap
Represents the difference between the quality level expected by customers and the perception of those expectations by management. For example, in a fast food environment, the customers may place a greater emphasis on order accuracy than promptness of service, but management may perceive promptness to be more important.
- Service Design Gap
This is the gap between management’s perception of customer expectations and the development of this perception into delivery standards.
- Service Delivery Gap
Represents the gap between the established delivery standards and actual service delivered.
- Communication Gap
This is the gap between what is communicated to consumers and what is actually delivered.
By performing a gap analysis, one can determine which specific areas need to be improved rather than performing a system overhaul.
Clarify Vision, Mission, and Values
By defining or clarifying an organizational strategy, employees understand where the organization is headed (its vision), what it hopes to accomplish (mission), and the operational principles (values) that will steer its priorities and decision making. In educating new and existing employees, a clear objective is defined, ensuring an organization is moving towards a uniform direction. This is in line with the 2nd Quality Management Principle of ISO 9001 which is the ‘Leadership’ principle and defined by ISO as –
“Leadership is the person or group of people who directs and controls an organization at the highest level. Top management has the power to delegate authority and provide resources within the organization. If the scope of the management system covers only part of an organization, then top management refers to those who direct and control that part of the organization.”
Leadership, the ability to motivate groups of people towards a common goal is crucial in an effective quality management system. In addition to the Mission-Vision, top management should also create and practice a quality policy, a policy that addresses how your organization is dedicated to creating and maintaining a quality product or service. This will eventually become the bedrock of your organization in establishing an effective quality management system.
Identify and Monitor Critical Success Factors
Critical Success Factors or CSFs are performance based metrics that provide a gauge for determining how well the organization is meeting its set objectives. Examples of CSFs that an organization can set are Employee Satisfaction, Process Improvement, Product Quality and most importantly Customer Satisfaction. By placing a metrics and factual based approach on the aforementioned, organizations can adjust and position themselves to address needs for the aforementioned CSFs. Once CSFs are identified, measurements should be put in place to document, monitor and track progress.
By identifying your organization’s CSFs and evolving, you are heading towards an effective QMS that is performance driven and results oriented. A QMS that meets the requirements of the ISO 9001 standard is established to be results oriented. In other words, the system must be able to evaluate and monitor the planned results and to take necessary actions to ensure its achievement.
Solicit Customer Feedback
ISO 9001’s first quality management principle is “Customer Focus”, that being said, any organization’s end product or service is defined by the customer’s requirements. Thus it is of importance that an organization must solicit feedback from its customer group. If a customer is not taken care of, there is a potential business opportunity lost. Customer feedback is an invaluable tool for measuring the effectiveness of your quality management system. ISO 9001 has made the customer the primary focus of the quality management system, as it is a recurring theme throughout the standard, thus, the standard recognizes the value in using customer feedback to gauge success, and as a tool for continuous quality improvement.
Customer feedback provides you with insight into what your customers think about your product. This insight can help you create a product that customers want to buy and create an experience that exceeds expectations and keeps customers coming back for more.
Remember, there’s never too much feedback – the more the better!
Develop Improvement Plan
On receiving feedback from customers, any negative or potentially negative feedback must require action. This aligns with the ‘Continual Improvement’ principle. By listening to your customer’s feedback, your organization will constantly evolve and shift to suit your customer’s needs. After all, quality is defined by the customer’s requirement. When in doubt, take the following steps on the basics of developing an improvement plan.
- Define the performance issue
Document the problem. Be objective and specific. Provide facts and examples to further clarify the severity or pattern of performance concerns.
- Develop an action plan that includes goals and objectives
Assign specific tasks to the persons responsible for the prevention and resolution of the issue. Ensure the tasks are fair and reasonable. Ensure availability of resources, tools and staff.
- Establish expectations and timelines
Set a time for your action plan to be implemented as well as a period for evaluation.
- Define a method of evaluation
Address plans on how the performance improvement will be reviewed, and how frequently evaluations will occur.
- Review the Performance Improvement Plan
Was the performance improvement plan successful? Will it prevent a reoccurrence of the issue if the same scenario occurs in the future? Are protocols in place to prevent a reoccurrence?
Develop a Supplier Relationship
Your organization’s supplier is equally important as your customers. Your supplier is your constant provider of material, and without them, will face difficulty in producing your product/service. However, your supplier must be reliable and consistent with the products being delivered to you. You may seek accreditation credentials from suppliers and provide feedback to them so that they in turn, will improve their business accordingly. In turn, once a supplier has been accredited, and since their performance has met your organization’s standards, it would be mutually beneficial if your business relationship was maintained.
Working with a reduced, reliable number of suppliers is a common strategy that saves a lot of time and money versus choosing and testing new suppliers. However some would say that suppliers may have a tendency to be complacent if they know they have a long-term agreement with a client, and that not entering a long-term arrangement keep external partners on their toes. This can be avoided by regular monitoring and constant feedback which reinforces the partnership, loyalty and respect as well as the economic gains.
Good Documentation Practice
Any good quality management system should contain the following philosophy –
“Write what you Do.
Do What You Write.
Prove what you Write and Do.”
The first and foremost reason for documenting any process is the fact that it reduces operational ambiguity. The next time there is a confusion regarding who is supposed to do what or what are the best practices following which a task needs to be performed, one can look at the detailed documentation and the dispute can be resolved. These documents act as the store of collective organizational knowledge regarding the processes and can be accessed by anyone in times of need. The documentation also acts as training material to help new resources move up the learning curve faster. The documentation acts as the training manual and covers the syllabus as well as provides notes to educate the resources. This can be supplemented with on the job hands on floor visits for better and faster creation of efficient resources.
Ultimately, documentation should help reproduce the high quality product/service output of an organization. Just take into account that documentation proves the following equation –
Repeatability + Reproducibility = Consistency
Are you taking these steps leading to implementing a process of quality management? If so, your organization is on its way to developing a Quality Management System resembling ISO standards, and when your time comes when you choose to apply for an ISO Certification, the basics will already be in place and your accreditation will be a smooth journey.
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