What Does Your Quality Policy Say About You?

shutterstock_223009246(Excerpt from Mastering ISO 9001:2015 – A Step-By-Step Guide To The World’s Most Popular Management Standard)

Organizations are required to develop, implement and maintain a clear quality policy that conveys internally and externally that the organization promotes a quality culture and aims to achieve customer satisfaction.

The quality policy is the top-tier document for the quality management system, and provides a high-level description of the organization’s commitment to quality.

To ensure that everyone has a clear comprehension of its purpose, and be on the same page with the organization’s strategic direction, the policy should be written in clear, easy-to-understand language.

Top management may delegate the development of the quality policy, but it is ultimately the responsibility of top management to provide input and vision to the contents of the policy.

This is the organization’s mission statement in terms of quality, and its commitment to improvement and customer satisfaction.

  • Section 5.2.1 of the ISO 9001:2015 standard requires that the quality policy be appropriate to the context of the organization, and reinforce its purpose and strategic direction. This is a short, high-level glimpse at what the organization is all about, what they do well, and where they strive to be in the future. This goes back to clause 4.1 (understanding the organization and its context) but is obviously just a short glimpse into the information deriving from that process.
  • The quality policy must also provide a framework for developing and implementing the organization’s quality objectives. This is not the place to list or document the organization’s objectives, however, it should reference that the organization shall establish such objectives, and strive to meet and continuously improve them. Of course the quality objectives are going to relate to the organizational context and strategic direction reflected in the quality policy.
  • The policy must reflect the organization’s commitment to satisfy applicable requirements. This is pretty self-explanatory and should not be over-complicated when it comes to the quality policy. A simple statement showing the organization’s commitment to meeting all applicable requirements is sufficient. It is not the place to explain what those requirements are, or how the organization plans to meet them – just that they are committed to do so.
  • The organization’s policy should also reflect a commitment to continually improve the established quality management system. Again this does not need to be over-complicated. No need to explain the methods used for continuous improvement efforts, simply that the organization will strive to improve its quality management system, wherever and whenever possible.

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(Video) Whats new in ISO 9001:2015


What’s New In ISO 9001:2015

On September 23, 2015 ISO released the latest revision to the ISO 9001 Standard. So now that the world’s most popular and widely utilized quality management standard has been formally released to the public, I thought it would be a good time to give you a brief explanation of the changes and what effect those changes will have on organizations and the people who have the responsibility of implementing, managing and auditing the new standard.

Let me give you a little history…

ISO 9001 has been around since the early eighties and has evolved as business needs and requirements change over time. The most recent version of the standard, ISO 9001:2008 has been in effect for the past seven years and was due for a makeover.

ISO 9001:2015 builds on the foundation of the previous versions of the standard to better guide businesses and organizations in achieving quality products and services, by streamlining processes, focusing on continuous improvement efforts and placing a greater emphasis on management responsibility and risk identification.

ISO 9001 has long been a valuable tool for businesses and organizations to adopt a process approach and create effective quality management systems and processes that improve efficiency and provide confidence to potential clients that a standardized level of quality will be met. ISO 9001:2015 maintains this emphasis on a process approach while also stressing the importance of proactive and strategic planning.

So what are some of the changes included in the new 2015 revision of the standard?


While many of the concepts from the 2008 version of the standard remain, there are some significant changes and additions to the 2015 version which we will take a closer look at right now:

  • One of the more obvious changes to the 2015 revision will be in the look and structure of the standard itself. In an effort to maintain consistency across multiple ISO management systems, the latest revision takes on the new Annex SL format that is shared by other standards such as ISO 14001 Environmental Management Systems (both the IS0 14001 and new ISO 9001:2015 share the same clause structure) to allow organizations the ability to implement and integrate multiple management systems more easily and effectively.
  • Another major addition to the ISO 9001:2015 revision is the incorporation of risk based thinking within the management structure of the organization. This is not to be confused with a standalone risk management procedure, but the incorporation of risk awareness and identification throughout the system as a whole. Top management are now required to develop processes that allow foresight and planning for possible risk factors that may have a negative impact on process and performance as well as identify and take advantage of possible opportunity. With the addition of risk based thinking, the section addressing preventive action (Sub-clause 8.5.3 in ISO 9001:2008) has been deemed redundant and therefore removed from the 2015 revision.
  • Greater Emphasis on Leadership and Management Commitment – The new standard is intended to promote integration and alignment with business processes and strategies. With this integration, top management now have more responsibility in taking on a proactive role in the health and promotion of the quality management system. The requirement for a single point of contact or management representative regarding the QMS has been removed and a new section on leadership has been added to better emphasis a greater involvement from the leadership team.

Along with the major structure and concept changes that are prominent in the new ISO 9001:2015 revision, there are some additional changes that many people familiar with the ISO 9001:2008 version will notice almost immediately.

  • No Mention of a Quality Manual – One of the biggest omissions to the new standard is the requirement for an organization to maintain a documented Quality Manual. Organizations that wish to continue this practice and maintain a quality manual outlining its QMS are welcome to do so, however it is no longer required by the standard.
  • “Product and Service” – Another notable change is the replacement of the term “product” with “product and services” which is intended to better address service based organizations.
  • “Documented Information” – Along with the change in the term “product” the 2015 revision also replaces the common terms “documents” and “records” with “documented information”. The new standard is less prescriptive on when and where this documented information is required and how and organizations should manage this.

This is not an exhaustive list of amendments to the new version of the standard, but a high level look at the new content and structure of the newly released standard.

So what does this mean for the ISO 9001:2008 version of the standard and the organizations that are currently certified to or following this standard?

The new ISO 9001:2015 standard has been formally released for public consumption and implementation. However, organizations are not expected to be compliant to the new changes immediately. Starting the day the new standard was released, organizations have been granted a 3 year transition period before compliance to the new standard is required for those that maintain certification to ISO 9001:2008. So don’t throw out your copy of the existing 2008 standard just yet!

Organizations and quality professionals are urged to become familiar with the new requirements and perform gap analysis of their current system to determine the steps required for eventual implementation of the new 2015 revision by September 2018.

While quality personnel and auditors are still required to be proficient in the 2008 standard it is important to be proactive in learning the requirements of the 2015 revision in order to understand the concepts and requirements and better assist their clients and organizations with the transition process.

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Learning From Disaster – Germanwings Flight 9525

airbus-a320-germanwings-d-aipx-crashedAs someone who has a lengthy professional background, as well as a personal interest and curiosity, in aviation – I, like millions of others who are watching the continuous coverage of the Germanwings disaster on every major news outlet, have a professional and natural human interest in this horrifying situation that took place Tuesday 24 March 2015.

But, as is the case in most, if not all, disastrous incidents there are valuable lessons to be learned.

I feel it is important that we highlight and discuss these lessons so as to arm ourselves against repeating past mistakes, or to close gaps that may not have been as apparent before. Not doing so, in my opinion, would be an added disaster of incredible magnitude, knowing we had the knowledge and experience to prevent such a recurrence.

Can we predict the future?

It’s human nature that we are not gifted with the ability to see the future – regardless of the claims some might make to the contrary – and that we cannot foresee all events or deficiencies that may lead to an eventual unfavorable situation, but in many cases we have the ability to assess situations and with proper attention and analysis we can make educated assumptions and mitigate risks to prevent undesirable outcomes from occurring in the first place.

Whether you are connected to the aviation industry or not – I’m certain you will be able to relate to the concepts I discuss in this article – I felt it important to highlight some of the issues that are believed to have been factors in the untimely death of 150 souls on board this ill-fated flight. By doing so we can bring these lessons forward in our own careers and improve the processes that we encounter on a routine bases.

How can quality management help us?

For most people, when they think of quality management, have the misconception that it only applies to technical functions such as reducing defects in manufacturing or quality control inspections after we perform a technical activity, but the more I hear of the factors leading up to the Germanwings crash, it reinforces and compels me to share my view that quality management philosophy, process, and procedure are not only important, but vital in every part of an organization, and all professionals should be encouraged to incorporate its philosophies and concepts, whether it be technical, corporate, regulatory, or social.

It will not only show in your contribution to your organization but will have a positive effect on your career as well.

Evaluating the gaps

So what does this little “ra-ra” quality rant have to do with the Germanwings crash you may ask? Well lets take a look at the main factors believed to have been the cause of flight 9525 crashing into the French Alps on Tuesday. Taking into consideration that it is still early and there is much more investigation to be done before confirmation of the facts, but it is fairly certain that the flight was intentionally brought down by the co-pilot once the Captain left the cockpit.

This raises the obvious question as to what would provoke a trained pilot to intentionally maneuver a commercial jet into terrain, killing himself and the passengers whose safety was his primary responsibility.

Contributing Factor #1: Medical disclosure

Well one would assume, and this is becoming more and more apparent as additional details come to light, that there was some sort of mental unbalance or illness at play here. In fact, it was discovered during a search of the co-pilots residence, that he had in fact been issued a medical note from the doctor stating that he was “Unfit to work”.

In addition to this discovery, it is being reported that he may also have been treated for depression in the recent past yet none of this information was reported to the airline, or to his superiors, as it is deemed the responsibility of the individual to be forthcoming and report any and all medical, mental, or social issues that may have an effect on their ability to fly.

Now, it may be that I possess a superior ability, through my years of quality management experience and training, to spot the possible “chink in the armor” with this process, or, the more likely explanation, is that there is a glaring deficiency in this otherwise efficient system.

I am an optimist at heart and I realize most pilots recognize the responsibility they hold, respect that responsibility, and are willing to do the right thing in these situations to divulge any issues that may affect their ability to perform their jobs safely and effectively, but the implications of such full disclosure could find them shut out from doing the very thing they love and are trained to do – flying airplanes.

Not to mention the financial impact that this could have should they suddenly find themselves out of a job that they have spent thousands of hours and dollars to obtain. They have families and responsibilities to consider as we all do.

Contributing Factor #2: Cockpit door lock system

The second contributing factor in this tragedy was the ability of the co-pilot to effectively lock out the Captain once he left the cockpit to use the restroom. Leaving himself in complete control of the aircraft in order to carry out this unspeakable deed, while the Captain was left helpless with the rest of the passengers on the other side of a reinforced door.

The security system installed on all transport category aircraft carrying passengers implemented after 9/11 provides an automatic locking system on the flightdeck door with a secret code allowing flight crew (Captain and Co-pilot) access should they find themselves locked on the cabin side of the door. This system also provides the ability for the flight crew to “Deny” or override this code function from a control panel located in the cockpit, leaving the door in the secured and locked position.

Although this is a simple yet effective system in performing the function and it was designed for – which is keeping people with malicious intentions out of the cockpit – the situation in the case of Flight 9525 was not an obvious consideration to its designers and policy makers.

Contributing Factor #3: Minimum 2 crew in cockpit at all times

The third factor which also relates to cockpit access, is the requirement, or lack of such requirement, of having a second person in the cockpit at all times and never leaving a single individual alone in control of the aircraft.

This has many advantages, such as providing assistance should the remaining pilot become incapacitated unexpectedly due to a sudden medical issue, or to provide assistance of any kind until the other pilot was able to return. The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) has already issued a temporary recommendation that this action be implemented by all airlines.

What can we learn?

Now, I think it obvious in hindsight, that by mitigating any one of these factors discussed above would have given the crew a chance to change the fate of this flight and its passengers and crew, or even prevent the opportunity for this to happen in the first place.

If the psychological issues and treatment would have been brought to the attention of the airline beforehand, and not left to the discretion of the individual who, as we have discussed, had a lot to lose in making such a disclosure and was suffering from a mental disorder and not to be relied on to make such a decision for himself.

If the cockpit door locking system had some failsafe worked into it to prevent a single individual to barricade himself, leaving the captain helpless on the other side of the door, or having a policy or process in place that ensures that the flightdeck is occupied by two crew members at all times.

In order to help us to make such policy and procedure, we must have the tools to analyze and interpret situations both technical and operational to develop sound processes before negative or costly consequences can arise. Now there is no guarantee, or method available to foresee every scenario, or gap before it happens, but it is clear to me that there is no area of business, service, or regulation where the concepts of quality management and process development are not useful and beneficial.

The concepts and philosophies of quality management can provide individuals with new ways of looking at their own positions and the contributions they can ultimately offer and not just leave it up to the “quality departments” or policy makers.

The fate of Flight 9525 is truly a tragedy and an unspeakable heartbreak for the families of the 150 passengers and crew, and almost an unbelievable event for those of us following the details unfolding in the news, but it is vital that we learn from the lessons provided to us.

What do you think? Leave a comment and share your views on this topic.


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Little Room For Error In NASA’s Dawn Mission

pia18921-DawnStill1_700x394On March 6, 2015 the Dawn spacecraft, equipped with its payload of highly sophisticated and sensitive surface mapping and scientific instruments, slipped into orbit around the protoplanet Ceres and began its mission to explore and map the surface as well as perform scientific tests to determine the composition and evolution of this very distant and icy orphan castoff from the very beginning of our solar system.

The second stop of an approximate 7.5 year journey which saw its first celestial check stop at the asteroid Vesta, in which it has already achieved great accomplishments spending well over a year circling and surveying the first of two extraterrestrial bodies, Dawn utilized its 3 innovative ion engines, one of the most sophisticated propulsion systems ever conceived, to thrust its way, without fail, through the vast asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.

trajec_03_15_13_thmbNow in orbit, Dawn will carry out its mission of surface mapping and scientific data acquisition, with it’s gamma-ray and neutron detectors, and transmit this precious data from its new permanent residence as a perpetual satellite of Ceres.

It is a technological marvel that we are able to conceive of such a mission in the first place, let alone plan, design, construct and then launch such a vehicle, equipped with a full scientific laboratory, into the harsh environment of space to investigate an unknown part of the solar system and get a glimpse of what it was like at the early beginnings of formation.

So with so much time, money, and science riding on the success of this mission, just how much thought and focus is put into developing and maintaining quality during the engineering, construction and operation of such a highly sophisticated piece of technology and ensuring that it performs as designed throughout the lifecycle of the mission?

Well I am no rocket scientist, but I think I can say, without much doubt, that quality management was and remains to be a huge factor in this impressive but high risk process.

Learning from the past

challenger-disaster-myths-explosion_31734_600x450NASA and the world are all too aware of the risk and consequences associated with poor communication and ignoring the warning signs while deviating from established standards and procedure. With the high profile losses due to predictable and forseen catastrophic failure events leading to the complete destruction of space shuttles Challenger in January of 1986 and again Columbia in February of 2003 and the combined loss of 14 astronauts.

Yes, Dawn is an unmanned mission, but the loss of priceless exploratory and scientific data, along with years of planning and development, not to mention the 7 plus years of mission operation just to reach its destination, would be a heartbreaking and costly pill to swallow, more so if the failure was due to poor adherence to quality standards and practices.

What can we learn from Dawn?

Now of course, we are not all employed by NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, or likely not even one of the many vendors or contractors utilized on the project, but does that mean we should not place the same emphasis on the development, implementation and adherence to the same quality processes and standards in our own professional duties to ensure we produce the highest quality product or service we can?

Failure is not an option

We all have our missions to the outer reaches of our professional solar systems. It is our responsibility to adhere to established standards and continually improve those standards in the performance of our own individual duties and make certain that our part is not the piece that will bring the overall mission to a grinding halt!

There are countless possibilities for failure in the planning, development and operational phases of the Dawn mission and a multitude of Countries, organizations and individuals, all with a hand in its success (or failure). Each with their own methods of ensuring quality relating to their individual piece of the puzzle.

Behind the scenes

g-120805-cvr-mars-11p_grid-6x2You can be certain that behind the scenes, hidden from the news coverage and YouTube videos of mysterious bright patches in Ceres craters, there are teams of quality management professionals performing checks, inspections and audits. There are formal written procedures and strict operating instructions, checklists and design standards that have been meticulously developed through years of lessons learned on past missions and technologies.

You will not see them high-fiving in the mission control room on an episode of Nova, during a successful launch, or when the first images of a new dwarf planet are beamed back to earth. But without them there would be no launch, or grainy, yet beautiful, photograph of a rocky and cratered alien surface to cheer about in the first place.


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Turn Your Experience Into Career Success – How Quality Management Can Accelerate Professional Growth

untitledIt is a bit of a mystery to me that more is not made of the personal career advantages and knowledge gained from performing audits and other quality management related functions.

For me personally, this type of activity has been one of the key factors in my career progression and advancement. Procedural and functional assessments of supplier, manufacturing, repair/overhaul facilities, corporate head offices, or internal departments and satellite operations are a knowledge gold mine for acquiring priceless insights on the mechanics of business and management processes.

What are the career benefits of quality management?

Lets take a look at this from an academic viewpoint for a moment. While enrolled in a university or college business program or studying towards an MBA, you were provided the opportunity to perform a detailed evaluation on an established organization from within, have one on one interaction with and ask predetermined, pointed questions of people in key positions regarding process development, implementation and monitoring.

Do you feel this would be a valuable learning experience? Of course! Anyone who is keen to gaining real world insight in this area would jump at the chance! This is exactly the kind of access and learning potential that is available when performing quality audits and assessments. I am by no means trained, or experienced in the discipline of business finance and accounting or human resources, for example, but through the performance of corporate QMS (Quality Management System) procedural audits, I now have a general, yet firm, understanding of these vital corporate functions, and how they are managed, both on a project, and corporate level.

How industry is evolving and the advantages it offers

I realize that not every Auditor, or person involved in quality related activities, has the opportunity to assess all functions of a corporation, and the scope of involvement depends highly on the level of integration a company chooses to include in its QMS. But there are extensive learning opportunities in every assessment, regardless of the scope, whether you are performing an assessment of a product assembly line or breaking down the procedures that make up a corporate risk management process.

Many industries and organizations are now realizing the advantages of seamless integration of all related components of a business into one coherent system. Integrated Management Systems are combining such functions as quality, safety, risk management, finance, human resources, etc. Placing the same emphasis on process development and assessment throughout the organization and corporate disciplines. This allows greater access to varied corporate functions for auditors and quality personnel, increasing the personal career development value.

Important ethics and legalities to consider

Now, of course, it goes without saying that there are ethical and legal responsibilities to consider here, and also the integrity of the audit process. The trust, and respect of the organization being assessed must be maintained at all times. All specifics regarding corporate and tactical business processes and proprietary information are to be kept in strict confidence and not to be duplicated, or shared in any way, shape, or form. That being said, one cannot help but grow professionally from the exposure to this type of environment, and the general knowledge and experience it provides.

Who can benefit from Quality management?

You do not have to be a full time quality management professional or certified Lead Auditor to reap such benefits. By adding quality to your existing skill set with initial internal audit training, or volunteering to participate in the company audit process as an observer, would not only allow you to take advantage of a valuable learning opportunity, but also increase your professional resume and marketability.

There is added benefit to the company as well, if management were to encourage participation of personnel in quality activities. It can go a long way to promoting a quality culture within the organization both with management and personnel. Informed and involved employees are much better equipped to perform at higher levels.

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