ISO 9001 Made Practical, Simple and Effective
Want information and simple explanations on ISO 9001? Get them here.
What is ISO 9001?
The international standard for a quality management system. Its purpose is to set out what is needed in a system to ensure consistent quality of your services or products, and aim for customer satisfaction and improvement.
- A set of general requirements for the management system that apply throughout; they include organising and managing your processes, documents and records
Then follow 4 groups of more specific requirements. These are for:
- Responsibilities of management
- Managing resources
- Services and/or products
- Improving the system.
See ISO 9001 requirements in a nutshell for a summary.
Really, the requirements of 9001 are just basic good practice and common sense. For example, you must establish what your customers want (clause 7.2.1) and if you accept their order or business, give it to them. To do this, you need to plan and manage your operations and processes. The people you have must be competent for the work they do (6.2). See what I mean about good practice? And because it is such a basic foundation, the 9001 Standard is used as the core of many other management systems standards, to which are added more specific requirements. Examples: AS 9100 (aeronautical), ISO 22000 (food safety), ISO/TS 16949 (automotive) or ISO 14001 (environmental).
A new version on the horizon
The long awaited draft has progressed to its near final stage. If you have certification already, are you keeping an eye out for the changes due in 2015 (if the schedule holds) with a revised version of ISO 9001?
How do you get ISO 9001?
To get ISO 9001 certification, you must make sure that your quality management system meets all the requirements. When it does, you 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 must be done by an accredited certifier (auditor).
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. It's often called being 'ISO accredited', although that term isn't correct.
Some myths around 9001
Myth: It's only for large businesses.
Reality: Small businesses can get great benefit from using the 9001 Standard, whether or not they choose to go for 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: 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 document everything you do. 'Say what you do and do what you say'.
Reality: again wrong. Now 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 behind the times -stuck back in the 1990s! And the Standard has changed a lot since then, 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: 2008. 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