by Kevin Smith, President, Leaderstone and The Kevin Shabaar Smith Co.

If there’s one thing I know after delivering performance and quality management consulting for over a decade now, is that most people would rather take a hockey puck to the midsection than to tackle what it takes to create a world-class quality management system (QMS).

#1 The Grammar Makes the Mindset….Really.

Let’s take a look at the term “Quality Management”, and how you’ve likely come to accept it in your organization. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not really a grammar guy. But dropping a bit of grammar perspective here can change everything for you. Many people look at this term Quality Management and think it means “how you manage quality”. But this is really an outdated way to look at things….like calling-a-couch-a-davenport outdated. Instead of looking at it this way, look at the word “quality” as an adjective…not a noun. In other words Quality Management is not how you manage quality, but a management system “of high quality”….yes a (high) quality management system.

ISO 9001 is a management system….dare I say….a business management system. But don’t take my word for it. Take a look inside the short, but admittedly boring, book of requirements. You will soon notice that only about 10 -15% of the requirements have anything to do with the actual part itself. No, most of the standard is about planning, providing resources, making improvements, defining metrics, process control, and a number of other good business practices.
Once we change this perspective, we can see exactly why “dumping” the entire system on the Quality Manager never works out like it should! It takes a village to manage a business! So if it’s really about managing a business, why do people get so down on this little book of requirements? Well that brings me to the second thing you should know.

#2 The Little Book of Baggage.

ISO 9001 has a history…it has baggage. And I’m talking about bad-previous-relationship type baggage! People have heard about the document management nightmares, they have fallen victim to half-baked implementations, and in many cases, just don’t like things with acronyms! But I would argue that it is all mental…and it doesn’t take Dr. Phil to understand exactly why. But again, don’t take my word for it. If you were to ask someone in your organization, “do you think it’s a good idea to make sure your measuring equipment remains accurate?”, 99% of the people you ask would say “yeah, of course”, and the other 1% will probably just stare at you because they think it’s a trick question. But if you tell those same people you’re going to implement a system for equipment calibration “because ISO requires it”….. You will get all sorts of eye-rolls, convulsions, head-shakes, and even an occasional five-year-old-toddler stomp! Why? Mindset.
People don’t like being told what to do by an “anonymous, bureaucratic outside entity”, even when it’s in the best interest of the company!
So instead of doing it because ISO requires it, leaders would be much better off just doing it because it makes sense….and communicating it in the same framework. Ditch the “because ISO said so” crutch, and things will go much smoother!

#3 Shooting Yourself in the Foot.

Way too often, non-conformances found in a quality management system have very little to do with ISO 9001 requirements. Rather, they come as a result of the organization themselves painting themselves into the proverbial corner. See, “back in the day”, the idea was to over-document everything to avoid getting a nonconformance on an audit. It was almost as though the penalty for a nonconformance was 5-10 years in the state penitentiary, or worse yet…
having to fix the nonconformance!

The truth is that QMS documentation is a lot like a good steak. It’s great, but it can be overdone. If you say you’re going put a smiley face in the bottom right-hand corner of every document, then that’s on you. But remember, ISO 9001 doesn’t tell you HOW you have to do anything. They say “what”, and you decide “how”. The takeaway…keep it simple and add carefully as you go along!

Side Note: Kevin Smith is the instructor for the upcoming ISO 9001 Internal Auditor training on May 25. This blended-learning course offers a different twist, with only one day out of your facility. You will complete the ‘Requirements’ class online prior to attending the in-person internal auditing session on May 25 in Erie. See more details here.