Selling Quality Management Systems to the CEO

This is an article I wrote that was first published by the Chartered Quality Institute in Quality World, they have kindly said that I can share this with my own followers as well as providing a knowledge piece for their members. Sometimes when we are experts in our field we forget that others do not carry the same passion for the subject nor speak the same language.  One of the many challenges we face today is putting Quality into the heart of the company strategy, back in the board room where it belongs.  Remember the phrase ‘Get better or get beat’; it comes from the US in the late 80’s when they had to do a real push for Quality following the Japanese market success.  The media today still seems to only focus on the quality profession when a disaster happens.  As quality professionals we understand that ISO9001 is a holistic approach, and that it can give a competitive advantage, mitigate risks and support growth.  So how do we convince the CEO to play his or her part?

ISO9001:2015 is very clear now especially through the leadership clause 5 on how the new CEO role is defined with regard to the Quality Management System. It is the role of top management and ultimately the CEO to make sure that the the Quality Policy and objectives are aligned with the business strategy and take full responsibility for these. It must be an integral part of the the business way of life not a bolt on as we see all too often these days which saddens me. Even this week I sat in a Business Excellence Forum and a keynote speaker said ISO is the worst thing invented and it just makes you write down everything you do, now that is being imprinted on 700 delegates in the room. My vision is to turn the tables and be the person up there telling Entrepreneurs the truth about the principles behind ISO9001 and change the bad press. As CEO’s or business owners they must promote the principles behind the standard especially the process approach and risk based thinking; encouraging and supporting everyone to contribute in an effective quality management system. They must also make clear the consequences if the company and team do not conform to the systems they create.

The Management representative role is now not a requirement but that does not mean the role and responsibility has disappeared nor does it mean that the role transfers to the CEO or other top management. In fact most companies that I talk to will keep the Management Rep role going. It is a focus change that we are looking at in encouraging the senior management teams and CEO’s to take ultimate accountability and understand what they need to do relative to the Quality management system. I could briefly define a CEO role as this:-

Provide clarity on the vision and the values
Promote and engage people
Create other leaders within the company
Direct and support individuals in their roles
Take responsibility for performance and effectiveness.
Now place the Quality management system in each of these sentences and the role doesn’t change just an additional focus to pay attention to.

The CEO or business owner understands that they must work on the business not in it, sound familiar?  After all a business is a commercial profitable enterprise that works with or without that owner. We therefore need to put ourselves in the same mindset and language mode as the business owner when talking about ISO9001:2015. Our job as I see it is to focus on the detail and the risks, helping the business owner plan for success; we should be their right hand man (or woman).  Company growth is great news but only when built on a great company will it be long lived.  Every CEO or business owner will have different priorities for their company and the skill is understanding and helping them interpret the standard and how it supports these company goals.  When we think about the likes of Google and Amazon there are key elements that make them world class. Some essential elements relate to the Quality Management systems; the question is how sellable these systems are to the CEO? If the CEO is not passionate about why the company needs a Quality Management System how can he lead with that focus? We support the purpose – the “why” the business or company exists – and ensure that there is a clear line of sight between this and the front line. This allows the right culture to grow, with everyone feeling part of a community; and  knowing that they contribute to something much larger for a greater cause or experience.

Successful companies don’t ignore anything, they innovate and when it works they systemise it. Systems don’t have to restrict they don’t cause these companies to stand still; they just help make every improvement a habit.  There was a quote in Forbes from the Dijwans leaders (this was a company that had a good product related to mapping networks of web content but it epically failed as a start up missing the detail).

“A good product idea and a strong technical team are not a guarantee of a sustainable business. One should not ignore the business process and issues of a company because it is not their job. It can eventually deprive them from any future in that company”.

I could go into why they failed but the purpose of this quote was for you to understand the message we need to convey to top management, and it’s this.

An effective quality management system supports the vision & goals of the business and enables the owners to lead from a position of authority.

In turn, this enables the right culture, which inspires people to achieve more than they thought possible.

They need only to understand the detail well enough to lead, and it’s still our job as experts to interpret that detail into best business practice for them.

In order for us to influence the business owners, we must therefore strive to understand the business vision and goals well enough to connect them to the value of a good quality management system.

What’s your golden ticket for 2016?

What’s your golden ticket for 2016?

Well I hope it’s a Happy New Year for everyone I have certainly been focusing hard on my plans for this year how have you been doing? Just before Christmas I gave you some food for thought and tips on key elements to improve for success. Well after some interesting networking conversations to start off the year I feel I need to ask the question “Do you really know what ISO9001 is and the principles that drive it?”

You may not need to go for ISO9001 accreditation but I feel everyone should at least familiarise themselves with the key principles of this successful management system. The standard has been used over and over and it works for improving businesses, so why ignore this golden ticket to your business improvement? Setting up a robust business process I feel is key to sustainable growth it is not restrictive to innovation; you become consistent, efficient and much more capable of delivering right first time. Without first defining your business system you face growing with out purpose, things grow organically. As you grow and more people become involved in doing similar work they each do it their own way, inconsistencies and duplication creep in. Your customer doesn’t just need that wow factor on one visit from one exceptional staff member; they need it every time in each interaction and all members of staff. Happy loyal customers mean repeat business and referrals which go straight to the bottom line. So what are these principles?

The ISO9001 standard was founded on 8 principles as follows:-

  1. Customer focused organisation – What are you going to do differently in 2016 to listen to your customers? Do you understand why your loyal customers are loyal? Have you asked the customers you lost what happened? Gain a better understanding of who all of your interested parties are and how they perceive you.
  2. Leadership – Do you lead by example and follow your system? If you do not follow the rules how can you expect your staff to. Do you have a story? Knowing the why behind your business enables you to engage people with your story. True followers of a leader want to be inspired and the art is to help them develop their own dreams for their lives both work and at home.
  3. Involvement of people – How are you going to build on your teams this year? Are your staff going to be talking about being part of something bigger and sharing a vision?
  4. Process Approach – Are you going to finally get around to improving the way you do things and questioning the norm? Is your business process clear and run itself?
  5. Systems approach to management –  Is your dream to have more time or to get that work life balance? If so systems allow your business to run without you, how are you at working on your business for 2016? Systems management is about understanding the holistic approach and seeing the interrelationships between the processes that can create harmony.
  6. Continuous Improvement – Do you encourage your people to question the norm, and suggest improvements? Do you ever thank and feedback the results for their effort? When you make changes for 2016 look at whole not individual problems. Use proven tools & techniques to analyse and assess the impact of the change before you role it out. Give yourself a greater chance of success and involve others on the journey.
  7. A factual approach to decision making – The more you measure and test your processes and system the better your decision making gets. Your changes are based on fact taking the guess work out of running the business.
  8. Mutually beneficial Supplier Relationships – How is your supply chain looking for 2016? Look at you communication channels are you giving the right information to allow things to happen smoothly? Take action to de-risk your supply chain where it has a direct impact on the quality of your service/product and your customer.

This may be a bit of a whirlwind tour but I hope that this has given you an insight into the thinking behind the standard. Think about how you can use these principles in 2016 to make a difference in your business world. For those of you that have the new ISO9001:2015 take time out to read the bit everyone skips over, ‘the introduction’, you will be amazed at the little gems of information that are contained here.

My challenge to you for 2016 is why not benchmark your company against ISO9001 and get a bespoke action plan? You can call me direct on 07745 482426.

I would like to take this opportunity to wish you every success with your plans for 2016.

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Documents that ADD VALUE

I would like to share a quote from the book ‘REWORK’ by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson, taken from a section called Illusions of agreement.

“The world is littered with dead documents that do nothing but waste people’s time. Reports no one ever reads, diagrams no one looks at, and specs that never resemble the finished product. These things take forever to make but only seconds to forget.”

They argue that the problem with documents like this is they create illusions of agreement, everyone can read them but it’s like reading characters in a book we all see them differently in our minds. Just like this everyone will interpret the documents in a different way. In my experience everyone also learns and takes information in a different way so we need to also accommodate to this – hence I believe that documents should be interactive not just a file or poster on a wall.

It is the same when planning ISO9001 or putting systems into your business don’t just document the status quo think outside the box, ask your people how they interpret the information you are giving out. Find out if what you are doing is working, after all true communication is the response you get.

My advice to you is to treat every opportunity to revisit a process as an information gathering and value adding exercise before you set a system in place.

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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.