A big part of ISO 9001:2015 is about how to plan to continually improve your organisation, and one of the areas you’ll have to look at will be an assessment of the context of your organisation.
An organisation may use several different types of plan: business plans that address how it will anticipate, respond to and satisfy the needs of its customers; marketing plans that consider specific products or groups of products; production plans; IT plans; human resource plans.
Your organisation may have all, some or even none of these plans. You may feel that you know what your organisation is trying to achieve, but that this is not written down anywhere.
Most organisations go through some form of planning exercise, whether this culminates in written documents or just in increased understanding among employees. You may have been involved in a planning exercise in your own department, or it may be something you have been aware of but not had direct involvement with so far.
Whatever your situation, it is useful to understand the planning process in its own right.
For example, you may set your own preliminary objectives which could be precursors to the rest of your planning activities. You need to be clear about these two areas before you carry out any further activities, and you will need to keep the corporate objectives and environment in mind while you develop your own plan.
However, you will probably need to revise them as you go through the process in the light of the audit (the review of your organisation and its environment) that you carry out and the SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis.
The results of the audit will help you to develop your SWOT analysis and this will help in the revision of your own objectives.
Imagine that, as the manager of a department organising internal conferences and training days, you initially decide that you need to improve the quality of the materials given to conference delegates.
At the moment the teaching styles of the conference leaders are inconsistent, and you feel that the quality of what is offered is low and does not, reflect the professionalism you wish the department t be known for.
You therefore set as your preliminary objectives:
However, after conducting an audit and a SWOT analysis to find out exactly what is happening at the moment and what the customers want, it becomes clear that a major weakness is the quality of delivery of the materials, rather than the quality of the materials themselves.
You therefore decide to keep your two original objectives, but to add a third priority objective, which is to institute a training programme for all staff who deliver seminars and training days.
A further link is shown between the measurement and review phase of the plan and the audit and review of objectives phases. The implementation of your plan will inevitably change the environment within which you work, hopefully for the better. This will then need to be fed into your next audit, when you will analyse what is happening in your department.
The changes brought about by your plan might have affected the organisation as a whole, so this would also need to be taken into account in your audit. In our example, we would hope that the increased quality of delivery at training sessions and conferences would have a positive impact on the skills and capabilities of those people who attended them.
The plan would be measured against the initial objectives that you set, and this might influence your next set of objectives. If you have achieved the objectives you may want to set even more challenging ones next time, or you may wish to alter your focus to concentrate on other areas of perceived weakness.
Like other planning frameworks, the one presented here could be more detailed and would need adjusting according to the size, sector and character of the department and problem you are addressing. However, its purpose is to stimulate your thinking about what you can do as a manager to enhance customer satisfaction.
ISO 9001 is based on the plan-do-check-act methodology and provides a process-oriented approach to documenting and reviewing the structure, responsibilities, and procedures required to achieve effective quality management in an organisation.
The standard requires that there is a quality management system in place with certain control mechanisms that guarantee quality of provision. These appear under general headings:
Although no longer a requirement in the 2015 version of the standard, in essence it’s a good idea to have a quality manual to set out everyone’s role in relation to quality. This should contain a list of procedures to be followed in the organisation in performing its functions including detailed work instructions for someone to follow when doing any particular task.
Where the organisation is small and procedures are straightforward, the procedure itself can contain the work instructions. It is simply formalising what most businesses do anyway, particularly when they are expanding and new staff come on board.
How do you become accredited?
Once all of the elements of the standard are in place and you have conducted an audit of them to ensure that everything is working satisfactorily, it is then necessary to arrange an external audit of your organisations quality system by an approved accreditation organisation.
There are many organisations in this field. When the external auditors visit if everything is up to standard they can award the quality mark on the spot.
If there are minor faults they can still award the accreditation on the spot together with a requirement for alterations to correct the faults within a specified time limit.
If there are major faults they will point then out in writing and a reassessment will be necessary.
Once the quality mark has been awarded the external auditors will return each year and sample areas of the quality system to ensure that it is still running as required.
In the third year, they will check out the entire system again. If on one of the routine visits the external auditors find flaws have developed in the system or procedures are not being carried out as stated they can allow you to continue using the quality mark subject to repairs to the system within a specified timescale or they can suspend you use of the quality mark until they are satisfied that everything is ok.
Every visit of an external auditor has to be paid for so it pays to shop around for your external auditors.
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