Quality management systems (QMSs) come in all shapes and sizes and, whilst the most recognisable framework is the ISO 9001:2015 standard, any QMS needs the same core elements to be truly effective and deliver not just quality assurance and control but tangible business growth.
In this series of blogs, we look at the top five attributes of effective quality management systems and we start with the keystone of any management system – management leadership and commitment.
For us, it’s not a surprise to see that, in the latest updates to the ISO 9001 standard, the clause relating to management has been updated. Managers must now go beyond simply demonstrating commitment; they now need to show leadership. It’s a welcome change.
It’s been all too common for a QMS to be seen as the responsibility of the quality manager rather than a companywide philosophy and mission. Management may put their name to some of the high-level documents and re-sign them every 12 months, but there is little to demonstrate commitment and leadership. As we work through the ISO 9001:2015 transition with companies, this is the most common failing we come across.
You would be hard pushed to find a CEO or MD that tells you they aren’t committed to quality. It’s the foundation on which the business is built, of course: it says so in our quality policy which we hang on the wall in reception. The environment? Absolutely. Health and safety? Goes without saying. Push a little further and you may well find the commitment is thin at best, sufficient to tick the boxes of a standard and little more.
Commitment must go further than some words in the policy and a rushed annual quality-review meeting. The standard may have some prescriptive requirements on content but there is plenty of room for a personal touch that reflects the culture of your organisation. The policy sets the tone for the entire organisation and should show everyone in it that the management are personally committed to the cause. Support those words with strategic objectives, with the resources to deliver on the needs of the QMS, and engage staff with the policy.
Quality management systems don’t come free, the resources needed to deliver your commitments will certainly require some additional financial contribution, but there is good news. There is growing evidence to support the fact that effective quality management systems lead to improved profitability and business growth.
It’s the people at the top of the organisation who have the greatest influence on a company’s culture and attitude towards quality. It therefore makes perfect sense that they must be the ones involved in driving that culture through the organisation, making it part of the company’s DNA. That cannot be done by words alone. Top management must take responsibility for the design and effectiveness of all aspects of the QMS from recruitment and training, through policies and procedures, to communication and customer focus.
Top management shall demonstrate leadership by communicating the importance of quality management
The best will deliver this message personally and passionately, the worst will write it in a policy and pin it to a notice board. Clearly, if top management genuinely demonstrate their leadership, others are more likely to follow, leading to a more inclusive QMS that can deliver on strategic business objectives.
Our top tips
Of all the clauses within the ISO 9001:2015 standard, this is perhaps one of the most difficult to evidence. Don’t fall into the trap of trying to ensure compliance by ticking off each of the ‘management shall’ clauses. Instead, simply develop a quality policy that reflects the culture and attitude you expect from your company, ensure it reflects the image you want your customers to perceive, empower your staff to deliver those commitments, and lead by example. Remember, you cannot delegate your accountability: anyone given the responsibility of managing the QMS is simply an extension of you. The evidence will take care of itself.
Our team of experienced consultants work with companies across a number of industry sectors to not only implement quality management systems but also help ensure they are designed to deliver sustainable continuous improvement and business growth. Call us today to see how we can support you.
Keep an eye out for the second in this series of blogs – #2 Performance evaluation