Quality Management System Planning

ISO 9001 Clause 5.4.1

Clause 5.4.1 of ISO 9001 requires that organisations “establish” quality objectives, and that these objectives “shall be measurable and consistent with the Quality Policy”. Fair enough, you could say, but saying it simply doesn’t make it happen. That’s why there is an additional requirement within clause 5.4.2 (QMS Planning) that states that planning “shall be carried out” in order to meet the requirements of the quality objectives. In other words, we set a target to achieve something, then we put a plan in place for managing the job. What could be simpler? Well, lots apparently. I have lost count of the number of times I’ve been presented with the vaguest of QMS objectives to strive for this and endeavor to achieve that. Virtually meaningless objectives that would make a politician blush, generally unsupported by any kind of rational plan or monitoring. It’s a common problem, and more often than not,  it is ignored or tolerated during a third party audit

OHSAS 18001 Clause 4.3.3

The strange thing is, there is a similar coupling of requirements in OHSAS 18001 with regard to OHS objectives and planning (clause 4.3.3), but the failure to identify meaningful objectives and to support the objectives with a plan is much less of a weakness in that discipline. It is actually relatively uncommon to encounter vague and meaningless OHS objectives, or to find there is no method for working towards them. Why is that? Is it that the penny has dropped better and farther with OHS people? Are they cleverer than “Quality” people? Does the training that OHS people tend to go through (IOSH, NEBOSH or whatever) emphasise this planning discipline more effectively? Or is it down to the fact that the requirement is consolidated within a single cohesive clause, so it is harder to overlook or wriggle out of?

Sharing best practice

From time to time I do get involved in various consultative processes relating to the review of standards, particularly ISO 9001, and I must say I would be lying if I said I enjoyed it. That’s probably more to do with the type of person I am, and the requirement to get a large number of people agreed around (first) general principles, and then around actual words, frankly takes ages. It wears me down quicker than it seems to wear down others. But that is my problem. I also get frustrated by what I would call a general “not invented here” syndrome. In my view, anyone with the slightest degree of objectivity would have to admit that ISO 14001:2004 and OHSAS 18001:2007 do at least a couple of things better than ISO 9001. It has long been my opinion that ISO 9001 could achieve a couple of “quick wins” simply by acknowledging the fact and replicating the structural and content issues that quite obviously work much better. The main things, in my view, are the following;

PDCA Structure

ISO 14001/OHSAS 18001 clauses are structured around a PDCA model. ISO 9001 clauses are not. They could be, but they aren’t. ISO 9001 supports a PDCA approach, so why does it not adopt the obvious sensible approach of structuring its higgledy piggledy clauses more rationally? You tell me. Our environmental and health & safety cousins have shown that it can easily be done

System Planning

For reasons I have stated above, the system planning requirements are included in a more integrated way

Management Processes

These are described in a more grown up, detailed and practical way. They are also NOT grouped together as they are in section 5 of ISO 9001. In my view this is a good thing. Again it represents a more integrated approach where “management processes” are not disaggregated from the system and applied as “bolt ons”

There are other issues that those standards just do better, but in my view these are the ones that jump out at you when you work across all three standards. The irony is indeed thick. A quality management approach supports the idea that continual improvement is supported by processes of organisational learning and the sharing of best practice. The huge caveat appears( to me at leas)t to preclude a requirement to learn from them over there ….

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2 Responses to Quality Management System Planning

  1. rob says:

    Setting objectives in the context of a management system generally means they are viewed as separate to the overall objectives of the business. Why do you need a separate quality policy, why not require that quality is specifically mentioned in the overall business strategy?

  2. Shaun says:

    There are people who don’t consider commercial processes as within the scope of a quality management system. The same people will then turn round and whine about a lack of senior management commitment and/or “buy in” (whatever that means). In the case of “objectives”, the way you look at it will depend on how broad you set your horizon. If you take a very narrow, technical view of the QMS, then your objectives are going to be limited to “quality” processes. This may well be one way of looking at things, but in the event that this approach is taken, I have little sympathy when the unintended consequences start causing problems of isolation and dislocation

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