Quality Blog

Quality Objectives
John Mason - Sunday, October 29, 2017

Quality Objectives (and planning to achieve them)

In the wonderful Aussie vernacular……der! Really? Firstly, I would like to publicly state that I love the standard. I love the process of determining its applicability to companies and I really, really like objectives. Objectives, targets, programs and more. If you cannot measure it, you cannot improve. But to belittle the intent by sticking on the bleeding obvious in the clause’s title, and then to go on and describe what you need to do to plan achievement, just blows my mind. Leave well enough alone. Please. I have never met a business owner, manager, operative that didn’t have objectives and not one of them that didn’t plan to achieve them. Deep breaths, deep breaths and ……… the rant is done.

The requirements; A company establishes the Quality Objectives at relevant functions, levels and processes needed for the Quality Management System. The quality objectives are: consistent with the Quality Policies; measurable; consider applicable requirements; be relevant to conformity of products and services and to enhancement of customer satisfaction; are monitored; communicated; and updated as appropriate.

*****warning***** The company maintains documented information on the Quality Objectives.

When planning how to achieve Quality Objectives, a company determines: what will be done; what resources will be required; who will be responsible; when it will be completed; how the results will be evaluated.

OK. This stuff is self-explanatory, and it is time to structure how quality objectives will be managed. The standard wants maintained documented information and in my definition, they want the process described in a procedure, a register, a standing item in your management review. I do at least two of these within my own system and most clients. It couldn’t hurt to deal with all three and have a procedure describing the framework you are going to use.  

The key components of any objectives framework and happily those of the standard as well are; consistent (to policy), measurable, identify applicable requirements (say regulations), be relevant to product and service expectations, enhanced customer satisfaction, monitored, updated, communicated, resources, responsibilities, timelines and evaluation.

Not a bad list. A simple procedure. A simple register or table. Some dedicated resources and this should be the centre piece of any quality management system that demonstrates to all stakeholders just what has and could be achieved.

So, let’s look at some quality objectives. But before I do, if your end game is to seamlessly integrate your quality management systems with other management systems, business systems, business rules and practices make your ‘register’ flexible enough to manage these other objectives. Having said that, if you head over to quality.com.au, you can download at least one version for free.

The first rule of quality objectives is the applicability to the quality policy. After that you get to hen peck objectives from the list above.

If you are in the design phase of your quality management system, may I start with a walk before you run scenario. That means to the bare minimum first, then expand as you learn how to manage the objectives and the register. So, if you are using this strategy, here are the two quality objectives that must be in all procedures and subsequently be in all objectives registers. Customer satisfaction and continual improvement. The good news is once you have established these two, you may not need any others.

But do not misunderstand me here. Having glib, all-encompassing goals without underpinning frameworks, is like having a vision statement of being a profitable company without a business plan, marketing plan, procurement policy or budget. Get the point? Once you have established your goals, you need to establish the programs, plans, methodologies to achieve them. And normally this means multiple programs for each goal.

If you look at the continuous improvement goal, the programs to underpin this would be; suggestion scheme, design change model, internal audits, client surveys (yes, this could be in both), a risk, improvement and opportunity review process and so on. Each could (should) have a procedure, assigning resources and responsibilities. Each should establish plans, measurements, monitoring and desired metrics. A defined frequency of milestone reviews and of course a closed loop process of feedback to the program and goal to make it all happen.  

Having a visual set of metrics and results will then enable top management to share the good or not so good news through defined communication channels to get buy-in from all stakeholders.

In next month’s addition, I will explore one example of continuous improvement and customer satisfaction goals to demonstrate just what can be achieved and what makes this clause so important.

Quality Objectives

John Mason - Wednesday, September 27, 2017

There’s that elephant. Or a bear juggling swords set on fire while riding a unicycle. Yes, there they are. You can see them. So, don’t ignore them either. Why is it that planning, any type of planning is just plain scary to most business owners and professionals?

But there is a light at the end of the tunnel! No, it’s not a freight train. But a little coaxing from our friendly quality standard. Yep, gentle encouragement without strangling your commercial foresight or secrecy. My own real problem with the following clause is that it is just a little too qual-centric and therefore might be glossed over. But a bit more on that a later.

The requirements; When planning for a Quality Management System, the company considers the internal and external issues and requirements of interested parties to determine the risks and opportunities that need to be addressed. These considerations need to: give assurance that the Quality Management System can achieve its intended result(s); enhance desirable affects; prevent, or reduce, undesired affects; achieve improvement.

It goes on to say that plans should include: actions to address risks and opportunities; how to: integrate and implement the actions into its Quality Management System processes, and how to evaluate the effectiveness of those actions.

And…..actions taken to address risks and opportunities are proportionate to the potential impact on the conformity of products and services. Options to address risks can include avoiding risk, taking risk to pursue an opportunity, eliminating the risk source, changing the likelihood of consequences, sharing the risk, or retaining risk by informed decision. Opportunities can lead to the adoption of new practices, launching new products, opening new markets, addressing new customers, building partnerships, using modern technology and other desirable and viable possibilities to address the company's or its customer's, needs.

The massive thing here is that you plan a QMS and you consider internal and external issues as well as interested parties, risks and opportunities. A little bit of stating the obvious, but it is important to state it. The standard then goes on to give some helpful guidelines on what to consider. The good thing is that there is a focus on prevention, improvement and reduction. The downside is that it only asks us to consider, not do, not record, not anything.

A business plan, a strategic plan, a SWOT analysis, a risk register are all very helpful tools at both the stratospheric level and ground zero. The standard does not mandate any of these tools, but as a business person it will focus your efforts. But wait, isn’t this a quality assurance standard? Yes, it is, so…...  

So, let’s not make it too big picture without forgetting some of the details. Criteria for customer satisfaction, customer focus, customer feedback need to be addressed, as do stakeholders at all levels including shareholders, employees, external providers (aka suppliers), government, regulators and so much more. There are plenty of references throughout the standard to address these, but wouldn’t it be good to have a workflow or a framework to exercise your risk-based thinking towards all facets of the business. Hopefully one that can be oared down to suit the matter or circumstance at hand.

In Australia, we have some great penchants to looking at opportunities and looking at risk and ‘turning a dollar’. These who are truly successful, so it through management risk and opportunity exploration. Do you?