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24 September 2018
Quality Management

5 myths about implementing a quality management system

ISO 9001 Quality Management System

All others things being equal, customers are going to choose the item with the highest quality. It makes sense, but there is also plenty of data to back up that statement. In fact, customers everywhere have show a decided preference for paying an extra premium if they can be assured of higher quality products and services. A recent study demonstrated that 73 percent of Australian shoppers would be willing to pay more to access higher quality, but 39 percent also said that companies are failing to meet their expectations more often than not.

One of the main reasons companies don’t strive harder to maximise quality is the misconception that it is hard and expensive to do so. It’s worth reexamining those assumptions based on the reality of continual process improvement. This can help customers gain more satisfaction and help quality-minded companies pull ahead of their peers.

Here are the 5 most common myths related to the ISO 9001 standard for quality management.


Myth #1 - You need to write copious amounts of documentation to comply with ISO 9001.

Senior management has traditionally shied away from seeking out ISO 9001 certification because they say they simply don’t have the time to fill out all the documentation required for compliance. The great news is that as of September 2015, requirements for “documented information” have replaced the term “documentation.” The slight change in wording makes a huge difference for time-strapped professionals. Clause 4.4.2 of ISO 9001:2015 now reads:

“To the extent necessary, the organization shall:

a) maintain documented information to support the operation of its processes;

b) retain documented information to have confidence that the processes are being carried out as planned.”

In other words, compliance can be demonstrated through various means, like audio recordings, meeting notes, videos and generated reports. Documented information for small companies can be much simpler and less extensive than that required for that needed by companies that need documents to meet statutory or regulatory oversight.

Myth #2 - You can just allocate the responsibility for implementing the Quality Management System to a single person in an organisation and you'll be able to "tick the box".

Some companies don’t take quality seriously. They tend to think that signing on to a quality management system is simply a matter of jumping through hoops without fundamentally changing how the business operates. It sometimes surprises company leaders when they find that following the ISO 9001 standards results in actually higher quality goods and services reaching the market. To be sure that quality is a priority for the organisation, not just for a project lead, ISO 9001 allocates responsibility to Senior Management, stating in clause 5.1.1:

“Top management shall demonstrate leadership and commitment with respect to the quality management system by a) taking accountability for the effectiveness of the quality management system;”

This tends to transform “quality” from an empty word to a strategic goal for the entire team.

Myth #3 - You should only implement a Quality Management System that complies with ISO 9001 if you want to achieve third-party certification.

There are many different reasons that companies chose ISO 9001 as the basis of their quest for quality. Top among those reasons is that ISO represents the world’s most well-known and widely implemented International Standards. It’s recognised in at least 183 countries by enterprises of all sizes, in public and private sectors, by manufacturers and service providers, in all sectors of activity.

The ISO 9001 handbook points out that, “Your organisation will still experience benefit from the implementation and maintenance of an effective quality management system, regardless of whether or not it seeks assessment and/or certification by a third party.”

Myth #4 - ISO 9001 requires a one-size fits all approach which is better suited to a large organisation with vast resources.

This is closely related to the first myth in that smaller businesses don’t even look into ISO certification out of a misconception about how much work it entails. In reality, one size does not fit all and there is a great deal of freedom in how you apply the concepts here. Two of the most valuable tools a small business can gain from ISO are the Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA) cycle and a framework for risk-based analysis.

Myth #5 - Your quality management system needs to be separate from other processes in the organisation related to health, safety, environment and information security.

Quality belongs everywhere, throughout every piece of your organization. Getting those separate pieces to line up and integrate has been difficult in the past. Fortunately, the implementation of Annex SL for management system standards was designed to resolved that. Annex SL is the basis for quality, safety, environment and information security to make it easier to integrate management systems that comply with those standards. This streamlines the process to reduce duplication and achieve more value from quality management system initiatives across the board.

Bringing Quality to Life

The decision to seek out a path to higher quality by meeting ISO 9001 standards will have a ripple effect for many parts of the business. Customers expect it and others in the marketplace are already there, so it makes sense to investigate implementing a quality management system. A good place to start would be to get a copy of the standard, which includes answers, examples, guides and worksheets. This opens up a path to much greater company growth over the long term.

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