The ISO 9000 family is the family of standards produced by the International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) that is responsible for Quality Management. Depending on the industry or sector a company may adopt one of the various standards in the ISO 9000 family. These standards all address various aspects of quality management and provide guidance and tools for companies and organizations who want to ensure that their products and services consistently meet customer’s requirement. They form a basis for continual improvement and business excellence. There are several documents in the ISO 9000 family of standards and ISO 9001 is the most widely used standard worldwide.
The seven Quality Management Principles (QMPs)
Developed and updated by international experts of ISO/TC 176 the QMPs are the basis of ISO 9001, and can be used as a foundation to guide any organization’s performance improvement. Each QMP is important in sustaining a Quality Management System, however how important each QMP is will vary from organization to organization.
QMP 1 – Customer focus – The primary goal of quality management is to meet, and then exceed, customer requirements and expectations. The organisation needs to understand that its existence and profitability come from satisfying its customers, therefore its objectives should be linked to Customer Satisfaction. The organisation should invest in research to understand who the customers are, their current and future needs and expectations and what they value most int the product/service. Top Management needs to communicate customer needs and expectations throughout the organization. There should be a way to measure customer satisfaction and results should be acted upon to continuously improve.
QMP 2 – Leadership – In my experience working with Medical Laboratories, I came to fully comprehend the importance of leadership attitude. It is especially critical when introducing a new culture into an organisation e.g establishing a Quality Management System. There is bound to be resistance to change but this is often because people do not understand and are afraid of the unknown or are so comfortable in their current practices and are unwilling to change. Leaders provide the vision .for the organization, they should ensure that people are informed,engaged and motivated to work towards achieving the quality objectives of the organization while at the same time conforming to the mission and values of the organization Leaders should model exemplary behavior and create a culture of openness and trust amongst employees, customers and stakeholders.
QMP 3 – Engagement of people– Employees are a vital part of the success of an organization. Engaging people means employees are committed to their organization’s goals and values and are motivated to contribute to organizational success. An engaged employee feels empowered to carry out their duties, they have a sense of responsibility and accountability. Employees have to want to give their best to the organization and not just work to get their pay check at the end of the week. This comes from clear job expectations, regular feedback and dialogue with supervisors, recognition and rewarding of employees for significant contributions to the organization. If you have ever experienced ‘job satisfaction’ you know what this QMP is all about, when you feel like you matter to the organization and are not just making up the numbers you are motivated to put in 100%. It is essential for the organization that all people are competent, empowered and engaged in delivering value.
QMP 4 –Process approach -A system consists of a number of interrelated processes that work together to achieve a desired end. A process can be defined as a structured set of activities that transform a set of
inputs into specified outputs, providing value to customers and stakeholders.Each process should be managed and it should be determined how it best relates to other processes within the system. Process Mapping can be used to identify the activities within a process and how they are organized. It also aides in understanding how processes are interrelated, some processes create inputs for other processes and this should be established for a smooth flow of operations. A Quality Management System ensures that the company’s objectives are achieved more efficiently and effectively through processes that maximise value. Checklists can be used to ensure all activities or tasks are carried out and Standard Operating Procedures are important in standardising the processes.
QMP 5 – Improvement –.The Japanese philosophy of kaizen is one of Toyota’s core values. Kaizen means ‘continuous improvement’ and recognizes that no process is perfect, as there is always room for improvement.
Successful organizations have an ongoing focus on improvement and are consciously looking for ways to improve their systems. Kaizen means that all team members in all parts of the organization are continuously looking for ways to improve operations. Notable tools useful in Kaizen are the Plan Do Check Act (PDCA) cycle and the 5 Why’s. Popularized by W. Deming the PDCA cycle involves continuously planning and making measurable improvements on the processes. The 5 Why’s is used for root cause analysis when a failure has occurred. Done correctly, it eliminates the error and prevents recurrence. The organization should provide people with training in the methods and tools of improvement and make improvement of products, processes, and the system an objective for every individual in the organization.
QMP 6 – Evidence-based decision-making– Organisations are constantly generating data intentionally and unintentionally. Unintentionally e.g. what product sells faster, which color the customers prefer. Intentionally e.g. when the organization sets up ways to obtain information e.g. Suggestion boxes, Customer satisfaction surveys, etc. Unfortunately in most organizations even data obtained intentionally is not utilized effectively. I have seen organisations create elaborate Customer satisfaction survey questionnaires and several months later information is still not analysed, what a waste. Data that is collected accurately and analyzed using the correct tools can give important information for decision-making. Decisions based on the analysis and evaluation of data and information are more likely to produce the desired result. The organization should make a decision and take actions based on analysis of data, balanced with experience and intuition.
QMP 7 – Relationship management – Perhaps the most important relationship is with the customer, however an organisation has other important relations e.g suppliers, owners, partners, employees, unions, bankers, and members of the public. How such relationships are maintained can be important to the success of the organisation. A good relationship with suppliers means an organisation could receive supplies on credit which is great for the organization. Owners and shareholders have to be willing to re-invest in the company. The organization has to work on consciously establishing and maintaining relationships that balance short-term gains with long term considerations with stakeholders becoming like partners. Such relationships are founded on clear and open communication, with clear expectations as well as respect and integrity.
As you can see, the QMPs are really just common business sense, however often one or a number of them are neglected resulting in all sorts of problems for an organization. Having a Quality Management System ensures that all the QMPs are taken into consideration systematically resulting in value for the organisation. It’s important that all the QMPs are given attention, the QMS gives the framework for ensuring that this happens.