What do you want more? The certification or the Quality Management System?

ISO 9001 is great, you get a nice logo you can put on your website and business stationary, customers believe you provide a quality product without question and you get to bid on those nice big tender contracts with less hassle.

Unfortunately, there are still business owners and directors who believe Quality is department, a person or group operating in a silo, only to be trotted out when an auditor calls to arrange a visit.

The changes from ISO 9001:2008 to ISO 9001:2015 have in general simplified and reduced the number of requirements that need to be met for certification. Although ISO would argue that the standard was always relevant and could be implemented by companies of any size and industry, ISO 9001:2015 has definitely become more attractive to smaller companies and start-ups that are more focused on execution and delivery as opposed to unending processes.  

However, in my opinion the real game changer is the in the Leadership clause (clause 5). Never before have “Top management” been so exposed. Who are “Top Management”? Top Management is defined as a person or group who directs and controls an organisation at the highest level. Top Management are now accountable for the effectiveness of the Quality Management System. Previously you could delegate this role to a Management Representative (usually the Quality Manager) and when necessary, trot them out as a sacrificial lamb. Those days are gone.

Now, I have no intention of tarring all top management with the same brush. But some of you folk don’t realise how important your role now is. No more hiding, you have to be the ultimate quality champion.

Which brings me back to my original question: What do you want more? The certification or the Quality management system? As Top Management you usually want certification, maybe your business growth plan relies on it, maybe your biggest customer demands it, maybe your organisations survival depends on it. While a quality champion wants a robust Quality Management System, that is fit for purpose, maintained and continuously improved. They see that things like procedures, processes and lessons learned add value through improved customer satisfaction, staff morale and lower operational costs.

Top management, it’s not easy to wear these 2 hats and fortunately you don’t actually have to do everything yourself. The key is remembering the difference between accountability and responsibility. You can share responsibility, but you can’t share accountability, the buck stops with you.

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