ISO 9001 Made Practical, Simple and Effective
Want clear information about ISO 9001? Get it here.
What is ISO 9001?
The international standard for a quality management system. The purpose is to set out what you need for a system to manage by, to get consistent quality of services or products, and enhance customer satisfaction.
- Starting at the top, you have to think about your business context, your customers and any other relevant interested parties, and then create, operate and maintain a quality management system to suit these factors, based on processes. Top management (ie, the decision-makers) are required to demonstrate leadership and commitment, keep the business focussed on customers, set the policy and measurable objectives and do suitable planning, both for the system itself, and its processes and products / services
- You need to ensure you have all the supporting 'stuff' in place that you need to support operations, from competent people through infrastructure and whatever written information you decide is necessary
- Operations covers the 'doing the business stuff' to design (if that applies), develop and deliver your services and/or products and avoid nonconformity
- Finally, you need ways to assess your performance and to improve, including internal audits and corrective actions.
See my ISO 9001 requirements in a nutshell for a summary.
Really, the requirements of 9001 are just good practice and pretty much common sense. For example, you must establish what your customers want. You must deliver (product/make/design) what you agreed. You need to plan, manage and control your processes and operations. People must be competent for the work they do. . See what I mean about good practice and common sense?
New version of ISO 9001
It's here at last. The new version of the Standard has been released, so the current version is now ISO 9001: 2015. Note, however, certificates to ISO 9001:2008 remain current and you can still get certified to that version for at least the next 2 years. See this article for a summary of the changes in the new version of ISO 9001.
How do you get ISO 9001?
To get ISO 9001 certification, your quality management system has to meet all the requirements. When it does, you arrange a formal audit; the certification audit assesses whether your management system complies with all the requirements of ISO 9001. Note that it's an audit of your system (not your financials) and must be done by an accredited certifier (auditor).
Then you get your certificate (assuming of course you pass, never a problem for our clients). Now you are ISO 9001 certified, have ISO 9001 certification or are registered to ISO 9001. It's often called being 'ISO accredited', although that term is incorrect.
Most common mistakes
See my short (3 minutes) video for some of them - read the report for the rest.
Some myths around 9001
Myth: It's only for large businesses.
Reality: Small businesses can get great benefit from applying the 9001 Standard, whether or not they choose certification.
Myth: It's only for manufacturing.
Reality: No, definitely not. It is used successfully by service businesses, including consultancies, importers, distributors and retailers. Almost 40% of certifications are now issued for services.
Myth: It's only for commercial businesses.
Reality: again, wrong . It is used successfully by many non-commercial organisations, including schools and colleges, statutory authorities including government departments and police forces, charities, churches and missions.
Myth: It dictates exactly what you have to do and how.
Reality: No. While ISO9001 does say what you have to do or have, it does not specify the how. An example: the Standard requires you to plan what you want to achieve, organise your processes to achieve your goals, and operate, maintain, improve and control your processes to get there.
But it doesn't prescribe any specific methods or ways to do anything. That's up to you. Which is good news. You see, the vast majority of standards are very specific and highly prescriptive, but 9001 isn't. It's what's called a generic standard, meaning it can be used by any kind of business or organisation, small or large and in any field. You can use it to improve regardless of whether or not you decide to become certified.
Myth: You have to document everything you do. 'Say what you do and do what you say'.
Reality: again wrong. Now, yes, you do have to have some documentation (write some things down), but probably much less than you think. Many people who still promote this myth are way, way behind the times -stuck back in the 1990s! And the Standard has changed a lot since then, and all for the better.
What's the catch?
One of the biggest: someone creates a difficult and bureaucratic system, because they don't know any better and think it 'must be like this' to get the certificate for ISO 9001. That's just not true. You can do it with an intelligent quality management system, one that's simple, practical and effective. I've been helping people do it this way for close to 20 years. (I'm Jane Bennett - principal consultant - in the picture above.)
Doesn't everyone do that? Unfortunately, no. Some suffer under complex and bureaucratic systems, weighed down by practices and documents that are hard to understand, let alone use. Expensive to create - far worse to try and use.
How does this happen? Most often it's a lack of understanding and experience. Because you really do need knowledge and experience: pitfalls for the ignorant or unwary are many. To recognise the most common, and find out how to avoid them, why not get my free report on the most common mistakes with ISO 9001?.
Why settle for less than a simple, practical and effective quality management system? So you can do what you do now, but even better, and use the power of ISO 9001 to get tangible improvements?
Author: Jane Bennett