There are over one million organizations in over 170 countries registered to ISO 9001.
That alone is a pretty impressive statistic claimed by www.iso.org.
But what this stat is missing are the countless other companies worldwide that have adopted the ISO 9001 standard as a blueprint for the development and implementation of their quality management systems without becoming formally certified.
So with so many companies and organizations following this diverse management standard, wouldn’t it seem beneficial to incorporate it into your career development strategy?
Quality management gets a bad rap.
The fundamental concepts of process improvement and ensuring customer satisfaction can, many times, turn into a game of gotcha, with misguided audits turning up endless infractions against procedures that often do not accurately reflect the day-to-day activities of the people performing the work, and is essentially worth no more than the paper on which they are printed.
We begin to see quality as a necessary evil that is forced upon us, but really serves no purpose to the organization’s bottom line.
This is a flawed interpretation of a very powerful business management tool, and in this post I am going to show you how quality management, and the new ISO 9001:2015 standard in particular, can help to improve business performance, make you a smarter more effective professional, and help to elevate your career regardless of the industry in which you work.
What is ISO 9001?
First off, for those who are not so familiar, let me give you a little background on the ISO 9001 standard.
ISO 9001 is a globally recognized quality management standard that sets out the criteria for organizations, large or small, to set up, implement and maintain a quality management system.
This helps streamline business processes and promote improvement throughout all areas of the organization.
Although ISO 9001 has traditionally been viewed as an isolated quality function, I like to think of it as more of a business management standard that focuses on developing processes to improve quality and consistency.
Now, I’m not saying that you should march into the office of the CEO, waiving the latest copy of ISO 9001, and proclaim that you should instantly be promoted to “manager of business awesomeness”! (However, if you do decide to take that route, please set your cell phone to record! I would very much like to hear how that conversation ends!)
So while ISO 9001 is not a complete standalone business management blueprint, it is a valuable tool that does provide some fundamental management principles that will help to improve the way organizations operate at all levels; information that could be very valuable to you, as a professional, in helping the organization to incorporate and manage those principles effectively.
How often is the standard revised?
ISO 9001 has been around since the eighties, and has seen periodic revisions since that time to reflect growing global requirements and modern business activities.
The ISO 9001:2008 edition was introduced back in, you guessed it, 2008 and had been in effect until September 2015, when the latest revision, ISO 9001:2015 was introduced as the latest and greatest. But don’t be so quick to turn your back on the 2008 version so quickly, just because the new 2015 model comes waltzing in, flashing its new features like “risk-based thinking” and “organizational context”. – Such a flirt!
ISO 9001:2008 has not been put out to pasture just yet.
It will be recognized over the next 3 years, as organizations are granted this grace period to perform gap analysis and become compliant to the new 2015 standard.
So as you can see, each major overhaul of the standard, while undergoing various minor revisions throughout it’s lifetime, will remain in effect for a considerable time period.
Also as each subsequent revision builds off of its predecessor, it is never a matter of starting from scratch upon the release of a new edition, for those who become proficient in the ISO 9001 standard and worry that their knowledge will become obsolete.
More about ISO 9001:2015…
As I mentioned above, ISO 9001:2015 brings with it some new and exciting changes, but one notable change to the standard, that I feel is relevant to this article in particular, is that the 2015 edition has become much less prescriptive and allows each organization the discretion of determining just how the intent of the standard relates to the nature and operation of their particular scope of business.
This allows for greater flexibility for both the application of the standard to all types of organizations, as well as making it much more malleable for those organizations in developing processes that provide maximum value to their specific operations.
How can ISO 9001 help you?
So what does all this mean for those of us who are looking to improve performance in our organizations or individual departments, or who would like to add valuable knowledge to our professional tool kit and create career opportunities for your own professional growth?
The increased discretion afforded to each organization in determining exactly what processes will be required, as well as the complexity of those processes, is based on comprehensive review and determination of its internal and external context.
As a result, organizations may find it difficult to accurately interpret the standard, and make such determinations, without the assistance of individuals who have a sound understanding of the concepts and intent of each clause of the ISO 9001 standard, as well as how each new clause applies to the organization.
This will invariably result in increased consultancy, or quality management representation, required by organizations to ensure they make the appropriate provisions for the initial incorporation or transition to the ISO 9001:2015 requirements, and continue to maintain this conformity to the latest revision of the standard.
What if I’m not directly involved in quality management?
The benefits of understanding and becoming proficient in the ISO 9001 standard are not limited to quality management professionals alone.
The concepts and guidelines laid out in the standard are valuable to any organization or individual looking to grow their understanding of managing effective business processes.
Would it not be beneficial to be in a position to offer valuable insights on how to improve on your organization’s processes, even from a departmental level?
You do not have to be developing or implementing a full blown quality management system with the goal of obtaining certification to the ISO 9001 standard, but you could certainly use that knowledge to improve on the processes that relate to your role within the organization, both directly and indirectly.
Business improvement and enhanced customer satisfaction, regardless of whether those customers be internal departments that rely on your particular output, or external customers, are not isolated quality management functions, but the responsibility of all personnel within the organization.
I’m not sure that ISO 9001 relates to my industry.
Learning and becoming proficient in the ISO 9000 family of standards has been one of the most impact-full factors in my career progression to date, and continues to be a driving factor in my success as well as the success of the organizations I work for.
ISO 9001 is designed as a generic standard that is meant to apply to any type of organization regardless of the industry or field of operation.
This diversity has been made even more apparent with the latest ISO 9001:2015 edition of the standard.
I myself have transitioned from multiple industries from aerospace to oil and energy, engineering to field construction, so I can say with experience that the concepts of the ISO 9001 standard are relevant and common place in all situations.
A process is a process in any business sense, and continuous improvement is essential in the success of any organization.
For me personally, learning and becoming proficient in the ISO 9001 standard has been profound on my ability to advance my career and transverse through multiple industries and professional disciplines, while helping organizations improve quality, business and operational performance.
I am certain that the same results can be accomplished by anyone incorporating this valuable (quality) management standard into their professional credentials.
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