Quality Blog

Quality Policy
John Mason - Tuesday, June 20, 2017

So, the new standard is shaking things up a bit. First of there is now some prescription on establishment and then some around communication. The biggest change is that customer satisfaction is no longer explicitly referenced. Sure, there is plenty of inference, but nothing specific. The requirements are therefore; The company's top management will establish, implement and maintain a Quality Policy that: is appropriate to the purpose and context of the company and supports its strategic directions; provides a framework for setting Quality Objectives; includes a commitment to satisfy applicable requirements and; includes a commitment to continual improvement of the Quality Management System. Simple. This is a standard folks. A set of requirements. So, to make a quality policy compliant, include each of the above in the policy. Do not leave anything out. The good news, is you get to determine the detail to suit. So, make it appropriate, make fit your context enable it to support your strategic directions whether through explicit detail or reference to. The linkage to strategic directions is so important here as it screams legitimacy and demonstrates the importance of quality. Whilst it wants a provision for quality objectives, it doesn’t mean you must describe the framework within the policy (unless of course you want to). More on that a little later. State you are committed to satisfy applicable requirements and if desired, state some of these (not recommended) and always include the final commitment of continual improvement, which is the essence of quality assurance.  

But let’s look at the actual structure and intent of a quality policy or in fact, any policy document. Here are the Mason rules for any policy…1) signed, yes actually signed by the MD, CEO and as desired, signed by the functional head as well. 2) One page only. If you cannot get you point, rule, intent across in one page, then no one will read it and the point of any policy is to get people to read and understand it at all levels of a company. 3) have structure concerning the what, why, how and commit. But it isn’t just sufficient to have a policy. You must communicate it as well. The new standard has made a positive step in establishing some rules around communication. These being the quality policy is: available and be maintained as documented information; communicated, understood and applied within the company and; available to relevant interested parties, as appropriate.

So, let’s break this down. The first thing you need to be aware of is that the standard has deemed the quality policy as a maintained documented information. This means it must ‘written’ in a format of your choosing and it must be handled in a controlled manner. Next is availability. I really love hard copy, nicely framed policy documents. I like them in the foyer, on a communication board, in the lunchroom, boardroom, intranet, web site, product catalogue, literally anywhere you want to communicate the importance of the document.

Now that you have communicated the document, we need to apply it and make it understood. Application is easy. Walk the talk. With it linked to strategic direction and quality objectives, everyone can see the applicability. And once they see that, the understanding becomes apparent. But don’t just leave all of that to chance. Make sure the quality policy and the qms is embedded in the induction process, the refresher / update training process and that there is some form of revision, test, survey of the intents to demonstrate to themselves of what is trying to be achieved.

Quality Policy

Leadership and commitment
John Mason - Tuesday, May 30, 2017

An interesting new concept from the standard. Get top management involved, get them demonstrating leadership and commitment and set some ground rules around it. It is a two-part clause, with the second focusing on the customer, which I have written about previously. Well at last count, and just in the first two sub clauses, the standard has set ten rules. Yes, ten! Now as part of top management in my own business, I found these ‘commandments’ (ten rules, get it!) a little condescending, but here goes….. The company’s top management demonstrate leadership and commitment with the respect to the quality management of the system by: taking accountability for the effectiveness of the Quality Management System; ensuring that the Quality Policy and Quality Objectives are established for the Quality Management System and are compatible with the context and strategic direction of the company; ensuring the integration of the Quality Management System requirements into the company's business processes; promoting the use of the process approach and risk-based thinking; ensuring that the results measured for Quality Management System are available; communicating the importance of effective quality management and of conforming to the Quality Management System requirements; ensuring the Quality Management System achieves its intended results; engaging, directing and supporting persons to contribute to the effectiveness of the Quality Management System; promoting improvement and; promoting other relevant management roles to demonstrate their leadership as it applies to their areas of responsibility. Wow. Ok, so my thinking is, that if you have a quality management system, no matter how good, how bad, how intricate, how basic, top management knows and is involved. Whether it is just paying the consultant bills, or providing budget for certification, there is involvement. Do we really need 10 criteria spelled out?  

And so, let’s start the ball rolling with some of the adjectives and verbs (mostly these). These are; demonstrate (key), accountability, established, compatible, measured, ensuring, strategic, communicating, intended, contribute, promoting and yawn.

At no point does the standard ask for maintained or retained documented information around any of these requirements. It only asks for top management to demonstrate these requirements. And I would challenge that any company with two or more employees do these things on a daily, weekly, monthly, yearly basis. And if they don’t then perhaps “with the respect to the quality management system” it doesn’t have to be done.

So many of my colleagues and the auditing fraternity have focused way too much on what I think is a very nice wish list type commentary for those wishing to participate at a best practice level. And if so, then it should be left up to top management to deal with the requitements they think are pertinent and the type of ‘demonstrations’ are suitable to them.

My best advice for all of this is to bullet point them / checklist them in your strategic plan or standing business agenda items in your management review and or list them in your cross reference table and leave it at that. But only do the ones you think will help you in your business. Sure, you can break each down. Have a KPI for each. Have data and plans and stats and more for each. And if it works, then keep on doing it. And if it doesn’t stop. Just be aware, it is a pretty good list and if you keep it simple and traceable, then you should do well.

Leadership and commitment