The formula for change – ISO9001

Mature Businesswoman helping client on laptop

So what’s holding you back? Yes that’s right; there is always some reason for not quite taking the plunge and going for ISO9001 even though we have been thinking about it for a while.

Try thinking about the all the reasons that come up that bring ISO9001 or structured systems to the forefront of your mind time and time again. Like the complaint that keeps reoccurring, or the rework costs that come back to bite you. Maybe it’s the time you don’t have to plan or the customer orders you can’t tender for yet because you haven’t got accreditation. There are so many reasons to decide to find a more disciplined way of working whether you decide to go for accreditation or not. But just how do you tip the balance to make that change?

I read a lot and some of the business books I have been introduced to lately are Brad Sugars from Action coach; his formula for change has stuck in my head.

Desire x Vision + First Steps > Resistance  

Think about it this way to overcome the resistance to changing the way you work you need to have three things:

  1. Clarify your vision – where do you need to be, what do you really want?
  2. Identify all those reasons why – stack them up an don’t wait until you are being pushed.
  3. Define your action plan – get help where you need it and clear the way with a carefully prioritised action plan.

You don’t have to wait until you lose that all important customer or things go down hill to far to force you into change. You have the power to start changing now and when you involve people and nurture the right culture the change your feared will become the norm.

Most importantly TAKE ACTION and if you don’t know how ASK.


The Learning Organisation – Quote for the day

We are always learning and I strongly believe that a company is a living organism, it’s people and their interrelationships shaping every day. Continuous improvement to compete in today’s challenging environment I see as essential as I read I am reminded of a Peter Drucker’s quote that I want to share.

“The innovative organisation requires a learning atmosphere throughout the entire business. It creates and maintains continuous learning. No one is allowed to consider himself “finished” at any time. Learning is a continuing process for all members of the organisation.”

So always challenge a new problem and learn something new every day!


Time for a New Quality Assurance Focus

We all know the saying ‘Quality is Everyone’s business’ and have bought the posters and sold the message but how easy is it to make it your culture? Just like your company strategy quality is an integral part of your way of thinking and needs to start exactly here.

So what is it we mean when we look at the Quality in Strategy? One example of a company goal may be: ‘To harness the exceptional skills of it’s people, resources and materials used; to achieve the most efficient and effective way of meeting the customers and future customers needs’. This may be a bit of a mouthful but I see it as not a bad goal to have! The trick is to ensure that this broad statement can be turned into smart objectives (specific (I say simple), measurable, realistic and timely), micro tasks as some like to call them. Together they will ensure that you stay on the path to your goal, but are also small and manageable enough to ensure that you are flexible for ever changing demands. Business is so fast paced compared to the Quality days of old, so change the approach and it will guide the improvements you make. Once you have captured this all important action plan there are three essential phases TRAIN, MONITOR and COMMUNICATE. Ensure that you educate everyone so they know what is expected of them and how they can make a real difference to the company. Monitor how you are performing. Communicate the ongoing results and celebrate everyone’s achievements.

Use technology – whether you are in the cloud or not, get up to speed with the latest apps and software available. Caution – invest in what works for you not the best standard package – bespoke solutions that meet your needs will solve your issues. You will be surprised at how much is available free and when applied in the background can achieve process solutions where the users themselves do not even realise that the actions are being carried. I am specifically thinking of paperwork issues that are growing in the quality industry and the paper trails. Take time to experiment as you are making an investment into ensuring your system is the best it can be.

Develop your Approach to Quality just like any other business goal.

Develop your Approach to Quality just like any other business goal.

My final tips for this re-focus in your QA approach is address the costs of Non-Quality; know what your current level of Quality is costing you. I don’t just mean the scrapped materials, it is the extra time, effort, skills, lost business and poor customer perception. Prioritise these in terms of risk – the risk of not meeting and exceeding your customers needs. Customer focus is key. Link this to what impact these issues are having on your business and the bottom line – now you have a real action plan and a strategy for  investment in your Quality Assurance.

Building Quality into all designs and processes becomes a lot easier when you make it part of your culture and strategy. You may need further investment of time and money along with careful change management but you will be investing in a prevention based system – no more fire-fighting! Fire-fighting takes up valuable time that could be invested elsewhere more efficiently. There are many tools and techniques to help you , mistake proofing, lean, kaizen – my advice is use what works for you and don’t be afraid to adapt them. In many cases they are not set in stone and are usually common sense systematised!


Using Quality Management systems as focus for improvement

My first question to my clients is ‘Do you have a Quality Management system?’ This does not have to be an accredited system I am talking about the structure of the business. You do not necessarily need to have an accreditation to prove that you are producing a quality product or service; your customers will verify that. In my experience many people have ISO9001 without really understanding the full potential that it can deliver. It then becomes more of a chore with only costs attributed to it rather that cost savings; hence it is not looked upon favourably. I am so pleased that the message between my clients is taking hold which is “Focus on improving your business process and Quality Management System to achieve your goals”. The process improvements will be done being mindful of the ISO9001 standard if this is what you want to achieve but it has to be designed to fit in with your culture and work/process flow.

An effective Quality Management system can provide clear purpose for the business and consistency in the way processes are run / actions are carried out. It can also help when you have specific instructions / specifications for different customers / industry sectors. My advice is to set up an approach to Quality that is suitable for your business; a bespoke system leads to more successful results for you and your customers.

I like to keep things simple, refer to the Tigers Roar diagram!

The Tigers Roar

We make decisions constantly about our business and what we want to do; which then impacts on the employees around us and the culture that grows from that. We take responsibility for the planning of our business and the ethics we follow ensuring we meet both our legal obligations and society expectations. We control our processes and people to deliver our service / product to meet the customer / market needs. I believe we just need to focus on our vision, communicate this well, ensure our wishes are being consistently carried out, measure our performance and review our position regularly. Then always take the appropriate action on what we find in a controlled manner. All I ask is that you invest in and take your QMS seriously, adopt it on a holistic approach and not just a necessary documentation process for accreditation.

Forthcoming topics:  ISO9001:2015 the changesLeadership for the culture you desire; Documenting your business, where to start!



How do you change your goal into an improvement project?

How do you change your goal into an improvement project?

In my last blog I raised a list of key areas that I think gain results in the initial improvement focus, so I’ve picked an example to help clarify one approach to starting the improvement journey.

Firstly be absolutely clear on what you are trying to achieve and why.

For this example let us assume that during the initial review the goal of the company was to improve their customer satisfaction, they seemed to be losing repeat business and receiving complaints. This was having a knock on effect to the profit due to loss of sales, returns and rework costs. These goals need to be translated down into meaningful solutions; brainstorming is one of many good problem solving tools that can be used for this. I find it also helps to use structured questions to start discussions.

  • Do you fully understand the product that you are supplying?
  • Do you and the customer understand what they want / need?
  • What are the main reasons for rejection / concerns?
  • Is the process efficient and up-to-date with technology?
  • How are your competitors doing it?
  • How can you fix the customer issues – Are there design issues?
  • Are employees adequately trained and engaged?
  • Is the process documented /consistent/capable?
  • Are there capacity issues or bottlenecks?
  • Where are your check points / Quality Control?

Asking what may seem like a lot of awkward questions at first will lead the investigation. Prioritise these areas and create your improvement opportunities.

 Secondly be absolutely clear on how you are performing before you change.

A lot of changes need to be based on much analysis of data, so each of these need careful consideration. You cannot quantify how much of an improvement there has been or cost saving until you fully understand what is happening and how much it is costing. Simple systems or spreadsheets can be set up for each of the key focus points building up a base line for improvement.

On a final note I would like to say people, people, people they are the key!

Fire up the enthusiasm and convert it into tangible business improvement. Make the improvements from the base level up if they have initiated the changes they will embrace them.


Next instalment: Using your Quality Management system as focus for improvement.

Process improvement – Where do we start?

Process improvement – Where do we start?

In my experience there is always someone in the organization that has something they want to do differently or knows an improvement that just must be done. When you start on the journey this is something that you will need to manage carefully, selecting the right improvements to create impact that people can see reasonably quickly to spur on the enthusiasm. You may be surprised by the response but be reassured that when people see that there is a method and order to the way of doing it they will be patient, as long as they are getting plenty of communication. The best approach is to keep it simple – jargon and buzz word free. The more normal it feels, by this I mean no huge launch just simple communication, the more it will eventually become second nature. I plan to discuss launches later in the Year so watch out for this one I it should be a good debate.

So we need a starting point. My key advice is to be absolutely clear on what you are trying to achieve and why from the start. Most commonly there will be an area that has been the focus of many a meeting, a recent problem on a project or even a customer complaint. These start to raise the questions about why or how things are done and maybe how other companies are carrying out things differently. In my opinion the following list covers some of the key areas that gain results in the initial focus period. This is not an exhaustive list but from experience brings up key metrics that become a good measurement base when focusing on improvement.

  •  Customer Perception / Feedback
  • Efficiency of the Business Processes
  • Supplier chain relationships (Internal & External)
  • Profit and loss (Financial analysis)
  • Employee satisfaction
  • Competitor Benchmarks

You of course may find that one or more of these are not measured in a way that can be easily translated to judge performance. There is one of your starting points! Try to limit yourself on just a few areas to start off with; you can come back to this review again.

Next installment:  Focusing your goals into an improvement project..

What do you do before starting an improvement Program?

It is great that you have the focus to want to improve, but how do you go about turning this into a workable plan to make it happen? Your goal/solution may not always be clearly visible but will emerge from a desire to improve in a particular area of the business. One of your greatest assets is your people, so harness that knowledge and use their experience of the business processes to improve. When planning any change focus on where the improvements are coming from, who they will effect and how you will communicate this. Managing the change will be crucial to success and minimizing resistance to the change. Take time to focus on the company culture and people before rushing in to improve on what you perceive to be a problem as others may not see things your way!


These are my tips for anyone wishing to make a difference in their organization.


  • Know where the company sees itself through its Mission statement and Vision.
  • Have a clear understanding of the company’s business processes and the relationships between them (internal & external customers, bottleneck experiences, and the supply chain involved).
  • Understand the customer and the target market, what are the current demands and who are the competition?
  • Know the level of commitment being given to the project / process improvement by the executive board.
  • Identify how information is currently given to employees, for example word of mouth, notice boards, weekly meetings.
  • Look at how the company’s mission/vision is translated down through to the shop floor? Do employees understand what they contribute to the company’s success?
  • Make sure you understand the company finances, operating costs and margins.
  • Identify and manage any risk areas.


I believe a company is only as good as its people and culture – make them understand how much they have to offer and what they can do. There will be hurdles but once these are identified then they can be tackled one little step at a time, eventually leading to the big success you seek.


Next installment: Process improvement – where do we start?

Organisational Leadership -my thought of the day

I was intrigued by the article by Steve Tappin today called “End Of Days For White, Male, Stale CEOs?” in linked in, and the comment about a new breed of CEO’s running on an emerging market, powered by dreams, entrepreneurship, innovation and belief drew me in. The possibility that we can change the thoughts of the professional managers working within their boundaries / budgets is something I have been looking at for years through organisational culture analysis. I think its the control and blame culture that needs to be altered to facilitate these profound changes. The organisation is no longer a machine but a living social being and people need to be engaged and excited in order to drive the company vision forward. We need to focus on our people more as well as the leadership, its great to have visions and dreams but these need to be effectively communicated through the organisation. An organisation can be very powerful when everyone is focused on the same goal and the culture is right.