Sunday, June 09, 2013

The dawn of the new revised standard ISO 9001

Just now we are involved with the preparation of the next (the fifth) revision of the standard ISO 9001. Now it also is a good time to focus thinking on the general role of the ISO 9000 standards for the development of quality management approaches in organizations globally.

Definitely ISO 9000 is the most important and widespread professional reference of the organization-wide comprehensive quality management.

However we also have recognized major problems.

The development of the ISO 9000 standards has not kept pace with the development of society and business conditions, particularly with regard to speed, agility, complexity including contributing actors and operational structures, changes in the work concept, intangibility, diversity, changes and variety in business environment, etc. Many business people see them as obsolete.

People don’t understand or use the both main standards ISO 9001 and ISO 9004 as an entirety. Many organizations use only ISO 9001 although that is ONLY for general requirements for the quality management, and they are not aware how to create the organizational quality management approach as a whole. Main reason for this is the commercialized certification business that has caused the stagnation and narrow mindedness, and prevented genuine business initiated quality management development in a lot of organizations. Some organizations even see certification as semi-official and rather cheap consult activity. Certification also distorts the development of quality management in organizations because it only aims to assure that organizations fulfill the requirements of the ISO 9001 standard. However, organizations may not success through beeing similar as the others but they should differentiate from the others by ”stepping out and standing out from the growing crowd of look-likes”.

Relationship and differences between the standards ISO 9001 and ISO 9004 are unclear in many organizations and even among many quality specialists. ISO 9001 is to provide quality assurance among an organization’s customers and to enhance customer satisfaction through  demonstrating organization’s ability to consistently provide product that meet the customers’ requirements and applicable statutory and regulatory requirements. Hence ISO 9001 focus is on customer interests and effectiveness aspects. However, organizations also should seriously take into account other stakeholders’ viewpoints and in addition to the effectiveness strive for efficiency in order to ensure competitiveness and sustained success. These aspects organizations’ business-internal issues and for them the standard ISO 9004 provides guidance.
Quality management system is a very central concept in the standards. However, in practice it is rather problematic. Formally the concept has been defined in the ISO 9000 vocabulary, but its details have not been determined in any standard (ISO 9001 defines only general requirements for it and ISO 9004 some guidance aspects and basic principles for it). Relationships between the quality management system and an organizations business system are very vague, and should be considered individually by each organization. From the practical point of view, it is most suitable to integrate the quality management system seamlessly with the business system and its managing processes. Hence, from the business point of view organizations have no real needs for the quality management system at all.

It really is a big challenge to get into the new ISO 9001 standard something new that is aligned with the real issues of the modern business environment, e.g. taking in business systems and processes into account networking and ecosystems, growdsourcing, ubiquitous information technology, cloud services, and multiple effects (e.g. quality, health, ethical, social, and environmental effects) of the new technologies (e.g. info-, bio-. and nanotechnology).

However, the quality concept as it refers to all organizations’ interested parties, including customers, owners, people in an organization, suppliers, bankers, unions, partners, society, etc. This gives a very wide meaning and coverage to the quality concept. Also the standards ISO 9004 supports the wide understanding of the quality management.

Especially we need new innovations, and we should strive for lean and disruptive solutions for quality management and quality assurance.

We cannot change general standards but we may implement and apply them creatively. For this the opportunities are unlimited without any restrictions. In all cases clever organizations have always possibilities to apply the standards in a meaningful and creative way. A key issue for that is that standards are understood as unlimited opportunities and not as specific targets.

Reference:  ISO 9000 for the creative leader