ISO 9001 Made Practical, Simple and Effective
What is ISO 9001?
It's the international standard for a quality management system. The purpose of the Standard is to have a systematic approach so that you get consistent quality of your services (or products) and satisfy your customers.
- The management system in general; includes organising and managing its processes, documents and records; these general requirements apply throughout
- Responsibilities of top management
- Services and/or products
See ISO 9001 requirements in a nutshell for a little more detail.
Really, all the requirements of 9001 are just basic good practice. For example, you must establish what customers want (clause 7.2.1) and give it to them. You need to manage your operations. Whoever works on something that has an effect on quality must be competent for the work (6.2). See what I mean about good practice?
This Standard is used as the core of many other standards for management systems, which then add in their specific requirements, such as AS 9100 (aeronautical), ISO 22000 (food safety), ISO/TS 16949 (automotive) or ISO 14001 (environmental).
New version coming in 2015
There's a new version of 9001 due in 2015.
How do you get ISO 9001?
To get ISO 9001 certification, you must make sure that your quality management system meets all its requirements. When it does, you then arrange to be formally audited; the audit assesses whether your management system complies with (meets) all the requirements of ISO 9001. Note that it's an audit of your system (not your financials) and should be done by a duly accredited certifier.
Then you are awarded a 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. Often called being 'ISO accredited' but that isn't the right phrase. (Certifiers are accredited, companies are certified by them).
A few myths around 9001
Myth: It's only for large businesses.
Reality: Small businesses can get many benefits from using the 9001 Standard, whether or not they choose to go for certification.
Myth: It's only for manufacturing.
Reality: No. It is used successfully by service businesses, including consultancies, importers, distributors and retailers. Around 30-40% of certifications are now issued for services.
Myth: It's only for companies and businesses.
Reality: wrong again. 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 those processes. But it doesn't prescribe any specific methods or ways to do anything. That's up to you. Which is good news. The overwhelming majority of standards are 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 write down everything you do.
Reality: again wrong. Yes, you have to write some things down, but probably much less than you think. Many people who still believe this are stuck in what had to be done way back in the 1990s! The Standard has changed a lot since then, all for the better.
What's the catch?
One of the biggest traps is creating a difficult and bureaucratic system, because whoever sets it up doesn't know better or believes it 'must be like that' to get the certificate for ISO 9001: 2008. It's just not true. You can do it with an intelligent quality management system, one that's simple, practical and effective. I know - I've been helping people do this for almost 20 years.
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 - even worse to work with.
How does it happen? Often it's a lack of understanding or experience. Because you really do need knowledge and experience: there are some distinct pitfalls for the ignorant or unwary. See our free report on the most common mistakes with ISO 9001 and how to avoid them.
Why settle for less than a simple, practical and effective quality management system? So that you do what you do, but even better, and use the power of ISO 9001 to get tangible improvements?
Author: Jane Bennett