All you need to know…Leadership – Clause 5 of ISO 9001:2015

BlindfoldedDuring the planning session of my very first ISO 9001 management system in 1992, the president of the company told me that he was very busy and didn’t want to be bothered until the press came to take the picture of his team and the ISO 9001:1987 certificate.

Times have changed! Today, this kind of president would not be able to demonstrate that he or she has met the requirements of Leadership clause 5.1.1 a) to j).

If you are this president, here are some ‘how to…’ ideas that may help you show that you’ve met these new requirements and are, in fact, ‘running the show’ (with a little help from your friends, of course!)

Some ways to show you’re ‘doing it’…

To show that you have ‘…taken accountability for the effectiveness of the management system…’ (5.1.1 a) you may want to consider some of the ideas in this article. Check with your Registrar to make sure you are all on the same page. They can’t prescribe what you have to do to meet 5.1.1 a) to j) but you can be sure that there are some things that they’ll hope to see. They need ‘verifiable evidence’ to make a declaration that your organization has met the requirements of ISO 9001:2015.

Make sure that there are ways to measure the effectiveness of your QMS (5.1.1 a). The measures will be decided by you, based on what you care about. Think about what would show that your organization is functioning well. If you use Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), these are a good signal of what really matters to you and may be just the ticket to meet this and other requirements like 5.1.1 b). They’ll be linked to the Quality Policy (5.2), of course. It’s also possible that some KPIs have outlived their usefulness. It may be time to change them. John Seddon, a Toyota Production Systems expert uses 4 kinds of measures: Customer, Capability, Process and System. If they are carefully implemented, these measures can give you the information you’ll need to demonstrate that you’ve got a handle on how well your organization is running. You can find more about John’s approach to ‘systems thinking’ here:

To show that your Policy supports the strategic direction of your organization (5.1.1 b), take the time to review progress around your objectives (6.2). The Policy and Objectives all link together. Make sure that your management system processes are producing results that support your direction (5.1.1 g). By using this language in meetings, you’ll be able to demonstrate that you are promoting ‘…the use of the process approach…’ (5.1.1 d). Risk based thinking (5.1.1 d) ties right in with this idea, and referring to risks when making plans or responding to a customer request is one way to show that you are meeting this requirement.

This review activity will also demonstrate that you are communicating ‘…the importance of effective quality management…’ (5.1.1 f). By the way, ‘sending an e-mail’ is not communicating, it just ‘sending an e-mail’. The definition of ‘communicate’ includes a step where the sender checks to make sure the receiver interpreted the message the way the sender wanted it to be understood. Telling upper management to send the message down through a number of layers is another recipe for disaster when communication is vital. Connect directly – a ‘town hall’ type of gathering with 2-way conversation capability could be worthwhile. If you have to do this electronically, you could record it as evidence of meeting this requirement.

Use language in your organization that demystifies ISO. In fact, you could very easily refer to this as your ‘Business Management System’ rather than just your ‘Quality Management System’. During management meetings, have an agenda item that gets people around the table talking about what value you’re getting out of your system. You’ve made an investment – are you getting a return on it? If not, how can you improve it (5.1.1 i) to get a better payback, and add value? Is the system helping your people get through their day, or is it handcuffing them, keeping them from delivering superb service to your clients and ‘Interested Parties’?

Sometimes getting the focus off of shareholders and back onto the customer (5.1.2) can achieve many of the things we’ve been talking about – streamlining, measuring the right things, complying to relevant laws and regulations and meeting KPIs. This customer focus can demonstrate attention to risk, too, and even pay financial dividends by avoiding setbacks that can be avoided with just a little foresight. The results of risk management (6.1) could demonstrate ‘continual improvement’ and help you meet another one of the criteria (5.1.1 i)- 2 birds with one stone!

These ideas will also help you meet 5.1.1 h) and j) – supporting other leaders in their roles and engaging people in the improvement of the system – this evidence can be created during Management Review (9.3) and you can ‘walk the talk’ since Leaders lead by example whether they want to or not. As top management you are involved – it isn’t optional.

If you demonstrate Leadership the way the 2015 version lays it out, other priorities may not take over your (Business) Management System. If you lead well, the benefits from using continual improvement to focus on customer needs will pay big dividends.

To find out if your ISO life can be simpler…

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