Anyone reading this might think that we’ve gone back to square one with this post, but not everyone starts at the same point in their journey to ISO 9001 certification. Hence, there’s a reason for the discussion that follows.
“Why” should be established first
The first question to consider before “how” do we get ISO certified, is to make sure that everyone involved has a good understanding of “why” - Why do we need or want ISO certification? This question is important - it’s going to take work, its going to take resources and it’s going to take commitment.
One of the responsibilities of Top Management is communication. An understanding of “why” goes a long way towards clarifying the importance and the urgency for the organization to achieve ISO certification. A clear sense of purpose will unify and will align the organization towards achieving this goal; ambiguous platitudes about the benefits of ISO will do nothing of value, and may create the perception that ISO certification is less important, and has less priority, than other work activities.
“How” should include milestones and dates
Over a decade ago, here on the outskirts of Houston TX, we came up with 4-step approach to getting ISO certified. I know of other consultants that have their own, similar approach. I even know of some cases where our approach has been directly copied. Someone is always trying to create a better mouse-trap with their name on it.
1. Document your system
2. Implement your system
3. Verify your system
4. Get ISO certified!
These four steps are established in the order shown, as this approach is both logical and systematic. In fact, this is the actual process model upon which our own company’s ISO 9001 certification is based. You can’t implement a system until its been documented; you can’t verify a system until it’s been implemented; and finally, a system can’t be certified until everything is complete.
When I’m planning for certification, I’m starting with an end-date in mind, then working backwards, configuring my plans against the deadline that’s been established. Regardless if the timeline is 1 year, 6 months or 3 months, the work is essentially the same, as the requirements don’t change; only the duration does. The dates for any deliverables can then be aligned to correspond with the overall project calendar.
Milestones and dates should be tracked religiously
Over the course of preparing for certification, there’s roughly 300+ requirements that must be met. Depending upon the company, some of these requirements will already be in place, and some of these requirements will be new to the organization. With a set start date, a set end date, and a set number of requirements, getting prepared for certification really is a matter of scheduling.
While very much an oversimplification, here’s the easiest example: If we have 32 weeks (8 months) to get ISO certified, and have 320 requirements (tasks), we’d then we’d need to meet 10 requirements per week (320/32 = 10).
If we accomplish 12 tasks per week, it will put us well ahead of schedule; if we’re only able to complete 7 tasks per week, we’ll miss our target date by almost two months.
It sounds simple doesn’t it?
Simple is a relative term; getting ISO certified is simpler than learning brain surgery. Getting ISO certified is likely simpler than preparing your own taxes. It is probably not going be as simple as ordering a pizza, or pumping a tank of gas. Company size, age, the number of employees, complexity of the business, internal cooperation, internal coordination and institutionalized bad habits all play a factor.
All else being equal, what’s your personal experience and understanding of ISO 9001 Quality Management Systems? Do you have a background in QA / QC? Do you have a degree in Management?
Getting ISO 9001 certified should be considered 1/3 understanding, 1/3 planning and 1/3 execution. We’ve been asked to fix many certification efforts that have failed; most often the cause is a lack of planning and execution, not a lack of technical understanding of ISO 9001.
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Information, thoughts and periodic updates from MAS Solutions' QMS Consulting Group.
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