If you are here you have probably come across the term ‘Quality Policy’ and may be wondering what exactly this is.
So, what is a Quality Policy?
One of the first documents that an organization formulates when starting to implement a Quality Management System, it essentially communicates the goal of the Quality Management System.
In short, the Quality Policy is a strategic document established by management to give the organization direction in regard to the Quality Management System.
The Quality Policy should align with an organization’s purpose and strategic direction, it needs to be customer-oriented and communicate a commitment to meet applicable requirements, and to continually improve.
Why is a Quality Policy important
1. Provides strategic direction
A Quality Policy should not be written solely because the standard requires it but for the reason why the standard requires it. One of the reasons is that the Quality policy shows management commitment to the Quality Management System. A strategic document, top management formulates the Quality Policy and a representative e.g the Executive Director signs and dates it.
2. Unites the organization in a common goal
In addition to providing strategic direction, the Quality Policy unites all the stakeholders in a common goal.
It is important that all stakeholders have access to this important document. Employees are expected to be well versed with the gist of their organization’s Quality Management System. During the certification/accreditation audit, the auditor will ask employees about the company’s quality policy, while not expected to know the Quality Policy verbatim they should be able to show understanding of the policy and how they contribute to achieving the quality policy in their day-to-day actions and responsibilities.
3. Provides a framework for Quality objectives
Quality objectives are formulated from the Quality Policy. These are measurable steps towards achieving your quality policy. ISO 9001:2015 does not specify how the objectives should be documented; they could be documented in business plans, management review outputs or within the quality manual. ISO/IEC 15189:2012 requires that Quality Objectives be documented in the Quality Policy.
4. Meets Certification and Accreditation Requirements
The most obvious reason why organizations write a quality policy is that the standard that they seek certification or accreditation requires a Quality Policy. The ISO 9001:2015 standard requires a written, well-defined quality policy that is communicated and understood within an organization. ISO/IEC 15189:2012 also requires the intentions and direction of a laboratory to be expressed through a Quality Policy which should align to the Quality Policy of the organization. In situations where the parent organization e.g. Hospital is ISO 9001:2015 certified and the Laboratory sets out to work towards ISO/IEC 15189:2012 accreditation the Quality Policies must be aligned.
Formulating a Quality Policy statement
Creating a Quality Policy is a leadership function because top management has the responsibility of driving the organization to its intended destination. Top management fully understands the fundamental drivers of the business and should ensure that the Quality Policy statement aligns to the Mission, Vision and Values of the organization. If these have not been defined, this is a great opportunity to do so.
There is no problem in getting a consultant to help you draft the Quality Policy but you need to be involved in the process so that your ideas and not those of the consultant make up the final result.
The requirements for a Quality Policy
ISO 9001:2015 requires top management to establish, implement and maintain a quality policy that is in line with the purpose and context of the organization while at the same time supporting its strategic direction. It should provide a framework for the organization’s quality objectives and must include a commitment to satisfy applicable requirements and a commitment to continually improve the quality management system.
Strategic Direction- This is the strategy that management employs to achieve competitive advantage and succeed in the business
Purpose- The reason for the existence of the business, this will be found in the mission statement of the business
Context- The environment in which the business is operating. SWOT analysis for the internal environment and PEST analysis for the external environment will give more insight into this aspect.
There is no specific format that organizations must follow in formulating a Quality Policy as long as they address the requirements stated above
Example 1: Precision Company Ltd
Purpose: manufacture precision products
Context: highly innovation-based industry, competition from cheaper imported products
Strategic Direction: maintain and expand market share and offer new, innovative products
The Quality Policy statement for Precision Company Ltd. can look like this:
“Precision company is committed to manufacturing cutting edge innovative products of extremely high quality and precision. We satisfy the customer and ISO 9001:2015 requirements and continually improve our processes to enhance customer satisfaction and loyalty.”
The elements required by ISO 15189:2012 for the Quality Policy are not very different from those explained above, however, there is little variation.
Formulating the Quality policy statement if the fundamentals of the business are clearly defined is not a difficult process. Where the fundamentals of the business are not clear, the requirement for a Quality Policy ensures that you go back and think about the purpose, context and strategic direction of the organization. It is, therefore, an important document that should not be taken lightly.
Communicating the Quality Policy
The Quality Policy should be communicated and understood within the organization. The Quality Policy should be maintained as documented information and made available to relevant Interested parties. Many organizations document the quality policy within their quality manual, and post printed copies throughout the building. It is not uncommon to see the Quality Policy posted at the reception/waiting room or the noticeboard of an organization. There must be documented evidence that employees have read and understood the implementing a Quality Management System. During the certification audit, the auditor will ask employees about the company’s quality policy, while not expected to know the Quality Policy verbatim they should be able to show understanding of the policy and how they contribute to achieving the quality policy in their day-to-day actions and responsibilities.
Reviewing the Quality Policy
The purpose of the organization any change, the context of the organization is sure to change, that means that the strategic direction of the organization must also change in line with the changes. The regulatory requirements may also change, this includes a change/revision of ISO standards versions. It is expected that management reviews the suitability of the Quality Policy at least once a year. When changes occur, your quality policy and the related objectives will likely need to be changed too. Management needs to show that they are alert and responsive to these changes. This is done during a management review meeting where several components of the QMS are reviewed.
I hope that this post has given you practical information that will help you in formulating the Quality Policy for your organization. If you need help, do not hesitate to contact me, I would love to hear from you.