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ISO 9001 and Top Management Support: What If You Don’t Have It?

Nicky Jaine

Top management support for your quality system is essential, but getting it is easier said than done. Read some practical tips for making this happen.

By Nicky Jaine

Section 5 of the ISO 9001:2015 standard references Top Management Support for Quality Management Systems (QMS). It states that “top management will demonstrate leadership and commitment with respect to the quality management system” and lists 10 responsibilities and accountabilities to illustrate how that can be done.

These include effectiveness, business compatibility, integration, promotion, communication and support/maintenance of the QMS. In short, executives and senior leaders need to genuinely care about supporting the goals of the QMS.

But what does this actually mean?

Top management support means more than just achieving management consensus that yes, our organization does need ISO 9001 certification. It means more than posting the Quality Policy in your lobby and on your web site. It means more than having top management show up annually for the longest Management Review meeting ever.

Yes, it does mean making sure that there are enough resources dedicated to the quality effort, that there is the budget for training and consultants and certification, and that the quality team gets well-deserved recognition after completing the heavy lift that’s associated with every registration and surveillance audit.

But when it comes right down to it, it means that executives and senior leaders must adopt a “Quality Mindset” -- to embed quality consciousness into their leadership approach. They must understand and value (at the least) the broad strokes of ISO 9001 – what it is, why all of the sections and clauses matter, and the impact that they have on operations. If top management doesn’t really buy into this, it will be difficult - if not impossible - to have an effectively integrated and operating QMS that advances business goals.

What can you do to help leaders adopt a quality mindset? Here are three things to consider:

  1. What are your organization’s strategic objectives? (You should have a list!)
    Which of the processes in the scope of ISO 9001 relate to those objectives? Ask your executive sponsor to make sure that you are involved in related projects (Don’t have an executive sponsor for your quality efforts? Get one!)
  2. How do you deal with nonconformances (NCRs)?
    Are you able to tie the NCRs (and their resolution) back to a dollar amount? If not, can you link them to the deal size for impacted clients? Management will always care about the potential for losing business, and nonconforming products or process can lead to this unfortunate outcome.
  3. How do you tactically engage with risk assessments?
    Risk assessments are nonconformances that haven’t happened yet. Everyone has seen charts that show how to cost of an issue increases the later it’s discovered. Make sure that risk assessments are completed for each department in time to use as input into planning for the upcoming fiscal year. If you don’t have the resources or buy-in to do this for all departments, choose critical ones that you know will be on board and complete a risk assessment with them. Summarize and send the assessments to top management.

Focus on the things that your company cares about and talk to like-minded people who can help get your results seen. When management sees the value that a good QMS and ISO 9001 can bring to the organization, their mindset will start to change!

Additional Reading

Freeman, G. (2018). Integrating Quality and Safety in Organizational Culture: A Cross-Industry LookIntelex Insight Report.  

Freeman, G. (2018). How to Leverage QMS Software to Promote a Culture of QualityIntelex Insight Report.  

Hoyle, D. (2017). ISO 9000 Quality Systems Handbook - Updated for the ISO 9001: 2015 standard: Increasing the Quality of an Organization’s Outputs. Routledge.

Intelex (2014). Reduce the High Cost of Poor Quality: Top 5 Strategies for Managing NCRs and CAPAsIntelex Insight Report.  

About the author: Nicky Jaine is director of quality for Intelex Technologies ULC. Her areas of expertise include: Implementation of processes, best practices and activities required to achieve ISO 9001:2015 compliance; ISO 9001:2015 certification; maintenance of Quality function processes, including quality audits, nonconformances, document control, etc.; and maintenance and scalability of QMS.

September 26, 2019 @ 10:13 AM EDT Manufacturing Quality

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