Saturday, December 29, 2007

Qua Vadis quality management standardization?

International committee ISO/TC 176 is responsible organization for the general standardization in the field of quality management. That committee has defined in 2001 a long term strategic plan for the quality management standardization in document “Horizon 2010”. That consists of vision, goals, and strategic intents and strategies.

The whole international standards family of quality management consists of many different kinds of documents prepared by the ISO/TC 176 committee and some other sector specific standardization committees. Now the fourth generation of the ISO 9000 standards is under preparation consisting of amendment of ISO 9001 and revision of ISO 9004

  • Amending ISO 9001, “Quality management systems – Requirements” includes only very few minor changes in the text.
  • Revising ISO 9004, “Managing for sustainable success – A quality management approach” is a complete rewriting the whole standard in the form of general guidance.

The new ISO 9001 will be published in 2008 and ISO 9004 in 2009. Now draft documents are available.

Although the situation seems to be reasonably good in general and the basic ISO 9000 standardization (ISO 9001 and ISO 9004 standards) have had an enormous impact on the development of quality practices globally, this has not taken place without problems and drawbacks:

  • There is stagnation in the development of the ISO 9001 standard. Factually there has been no essential development during the recent 20 years in the standard and no remarkable change is expected during the next 10 years. However, organizational business environments and communities are changing at increasing pace.
  • Standard ISO 9004 is too general, vague, and customary and therefore hardly can provide practical guidance or support for organizations’ performance development. There are better other literature and reference material available for this purpose. Assessment model in the new draft standard is theoretical and does not reflect the needs of organizations. It cannot compete with the recognized performance excellence models (quality awards criteria).
  • ISO 9000 standardization process is too slow and poorly managed and cannot follow the general development and trends of business environments and society at large.
  • Standardization bodies have weak means to control or support the use of the standards. The use of the standards is directed strongly by commercial consulting / certification business but not by genuine business needs.

When we started the ongoing work with the next generation of the ISO 9000 standards we had a strong enthusiasm – at least with the ISO 9004 standard – to develop something different from earlier but later it proved that that was not possible with the existing standardization practices.

In spite of this harmful development in the standardization, however, organizations have all possibilities to get maximum benefits in their realizing ISO 9000 standards with their own proactive activities by:

  1. Understanding the ultimate purposes of the ISO 9000 standards.
  2. Avoiding the known problems of ISO 9000 applications, and quality realizations in general.
  3. Liberating themselves from the enslaving formalism of the standards documents and consultants / certifiers.
  4. Taking into account the genuine needs, expectations and environments of the business in question.
  5. Applying also all other beneficial references with the ISO 9000 standards. A good way to start to use the ISO 9000 standards is to carry out self-assessment based on some recognized performance excellence model.
  6. Challenging to the future by recognizing the weak signals in the standardization in a multi-faceted way.

Friday, December 28, 2007

There are serious problems in the prevailing quality management approaches

There are plenty of cases where established organizational quality management approaches don’t respond to the real needs of the organizations

  • Business management is not involved / committed – Quality is only a specialist issue.
  • Communication between business managers and quality experts is not effective.
  • Quality initiatives are superficial. – Typical distinct quality (management) systems are not business-centred. There are too much copied solutions without innovations. Diversity in quality realizations is endangered.
  • People don’t understand – not even experts – difference between the basic concepts of quality management (QM = organization-internal quality of management for excellence) and quality assurance (QA = external communication with stakeholders for confidence).
  • There are many different, distinct, and competing quality methodologies on which even quality experts don’t share the same opinions.
  • There are many other specialized managerial initiatives competing with quality development.
  • Quality initiatives in organizations are certification-emphasized, not for enhancing real business performance. Certification is commercialized and lost its credibility.
  • Formal documentation is highlighted instead of a comprehensive management and application of business information and knowledge.
  • Too often quality related actions are only reactive and there are very little proactive innovations in the field of quality.
  • Quality implementations don’t take effectively into account realities of the modern business environments that relate to the aspects of time, speed, agility, networking, complexity, tacit knowledge, and informal learning and innovation.

In very many cases quality development has not redeemed its promises indisputably.

Are there really any new innovations created for organizations' quality development after Deming, Ichikawa, and Juran? Is the quality profession not able to follow the general development of organizations' business development and trends of the society at large (see figure)? Is it only "Plus ca change, plus c'est la même chose “?

One may recognize the needs for change also through some factual signals:

  • There is an expanding critical discussion about the prevalent approaches of quality discipline.
  • There are many cases of coping and feeling satisfactory with certain theories, principles, techniques, methodology, etc. that are being tried / used distinctly (“one-leg approach”) and with risks (trepidation), e.g. related to ISO 9000, EFQM or SixSigma.
  • There are some new (ad hoc) initiatives also in the quality management standardization (ISO TC 176) presenting business integrated development of quality management.

New principles, tools, and infrastructures are necessary for quality management to take into account modern changed business environments. This includes new crystallized understanding of the foundations and aims of quality profession and integrated approach with multifarious means (“multi-leg approach”).

In practice the new way to organizational quality realizations consists of three key aspects:

  1. Integration: Organizations implement effective / efficient and business-relevant quality principles and methodology embedded within their normal business management activities for both strategic management and operational management. Conceptually this means change from quality management (management of quality) to quality of management.
  2. Responsiveness: Organizations enhancing abilities to adjust quickly to suddenly altered external conditions, and to resume stable operation without undue delay that is based on dynamic and flexible business management.
  3. Innovation: All quality realizations are organization-dedicated solutions. There is no single solution to organizations’ challenges. Organizations strive continuously for new organization-dedicated innovative and unique approaches. Multiple different choices for quality management are encouraged in competitive business environments. That especially emphasizes change from standard approach to organization’s own unique approach.