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.

Achieving work life balance needs a system!

You will often hear me talk now about creating harmony in the workplace, true harmony is when all of your processes interact with each other seamlessly to achieve a common goal. Sounds easy enough until you put people, external factors and risks/opportunities into the mix. So how am I helping with work life balance? I will enlighten you. To me ‘systems thinking’ is all about being able to understand the whole or the bigger picture. We need to put this deeper understanding into practice as we manage our day to day activities and changes that are occurring in our businesses. Do you feel that you have adequate time to do your job well and spend Quality time away from work? If the answer is no then Why? Maybe you are so consumed by what you do that the answer will not come without refocusing.

Some of us spend far too much time either fire fighting to survive or having conversations with ourselves over situations. Having precious little time and fighting the internal dialogues of our mind does not lead to us enjoying a healthy relationship with the business and a good work life balance. These are my tips to take you from surviving to thriving.

  • Take time out to relax and refocus, spend time on the business.
  • Look after you – if you are not in good health you won’t be in the right place to move forward.
  • Understand your business process, what is it that you exist to do?
  • Realise why systems are so important to creating sustainable growth.
  • Walk your process and start mapping out your business, design the way you want it to run and look like.
  • Implement systems that work for your business and your staff – involve everyone. (No forced templates)
  • Understand the risks and controls in your business, what is actually affecting your ability to deliver?
  • Prioritise – take things one step at a time – work on the things that are going to make the biggest impact to your customers and bottom line first.
  • Automate when you are able but only after you have defined the process first. For example your CRM system is not your process it is only a tool to help automate part of the Sales process.

If you need a gentle introduction to all of this then reach out and find out when the next seminar or workshop is being delivered.

Have a great day!

Get Better or Get Beat

Get Better or Get Beat!

Quality, remember that word? It has so many definitions and meanings to each and every one of us. Quality has come a long way since the 80’s and the phrase Get better or get beat comes from the US in the late 80’s when they had to do a real push for Quality following the Japanese market success.

So my question is do you think that putting Quality as one of the key elements in the heart of your strategy can give you the competitive advantage you need? Isn’t that one thing we strive in order to survive, market superiority? This lead ahead has to be sustainable and affordable, we need to be efficient and consistent in what we deliver. S. C. Wheelwright identified six characteristics of a strong competitive advantage, so how do these fair with ISO9001:2015?

  1. Driven by customers wants and needs – You need to give your customers value that your competitors are not. The 2015 standard clause 5 is LEADERSHIP and under this category we look at customer focus. It is your responsibility to demonstrate leadership and commitment to ensure customer focus so that all requirements are determined, understood and met. This needs to be related to all interested parties which is why you need to ensure fully understand the context of your organisation. Know the risks and opportunities that can affect your product or service to make sure that you can maintain the focus on enhancing the customer experience.

  2. Makes a significant contribution to the success of the business – I think this is self explanatory but reports have shown that companies who truly embrace the principles of the ISO9001 standard reap the benefits. For a relatively low fee the standard provides a PROVEN METHODOLOGY, techniques and ideas that in turn increase customer confidence, help them operate more efficiently and meet your customer needs consistently.

  3. Matches the organisation’s unique resources with opportunities in the environment – No two companies are exactly alike they have different people, vision and culture. Cause 4 of the new standard covers understanding the CONTEXT of the organisation, so you will need to determine all external & internal issues that are relevant to your purpose and strategy. Purpose is a great word and under ISO9001:2015 you need to be more RISK BASED in your thinking, so what is it that affects your ability to achieve results & fulfill your purpose? Think about your SWOT & PEST analysis opportunities as well as threats, this is what defines your strategy, policies and objectives. With this clear line sight and visibility throughout the organisation your actions and resources will be directly in line with your strategies.

  4. Durable & Lasting, difficult for competitors to copy – Nothing stays unique for long you need to be able to develop and embrace innovation to stay ahead of the game. Clause 10 of the new standard is now IMPROVEMENT stating that you need to select opportunities for improvement, then implement any that meet and enhance existing customer satisfaction and future needs / expectations. Add to this the expanded section on DESIGN & DEVELOPMENT in Clause 8.3 and Clause 6 PLANNING the actions to address threats and opportunities; then you have a formula to capture and develop improvement ideas. Of course customers don’t always know their future needs until they are created, which is why we must innovate!

  5. Provides a basis for further improvement – quite often ideas act as a catalyst and can provide a stream of improvements which can be rolled out step by step. It is important to remember this for changes to your Quality management system. Clause 6.3 PLANNING OF CHANGES reminds us of the emphasis we need to place on ensuring we know the impact of these changes, and carrying things out in a controlled manner.

  6. Provides direction and motivation to the entire organisation – I love this last one as I believe it reflects the new requirements regarding fully understanding the context of your company, then demonstrating LEADERSHIP & COMMITMENT in your strategy. When you embrace ISO9001 and involve everyone it is a team effort. It’s about defining your expectations and boundaries but giving your employees responsibility, trust them to do the job you brought them in to do. This is a favourite of mine and why so many business owners need systems, to have the confidence to let go of the day to day in the business and start working on their business. Employees will do amazing things if given the opportunity and encouragement, so use systems to define your expectations and help them understand where they fit into the bigger picture.

My feelings regarding the ISO9001:2015 standard I hope are clear – I am a convert, but my advice is to ensure you consider three things in order to give you that sought after competitive advantage:

  1. Put it into the right environment – CULTURE IS CRITICAL

  2. Share and involve people on your journey- UNDERSTAND CONTEXT AND LINK IT TO YOUR WHY, YOUR STRATEGY RIGHT DOWN TO HOW YOUR EMPLOYEES CONTRIBUTE TO IT.

  3. Be disciplined and think process – EMBRACE THE PROCESS APPROACH, PAY ATTENTION TO DETAIL AND ADDRESS RISK SO YOU FULLY UNDERSTAND THE IMPACT OF CHANGES.

Ok so that is a lot put into three points but people like to look at a small number of things as a summary! I hope this has encouraged you to look into Quality Management Systems as a route to giving your company a competitive advantage to your business. I am happy to discuss any of these points or explore stages of improvement that can be rolled out.

LEAVE A COMMENT, MESSAGE ME OR EMAIL afumpson@white-tiger.co.uk

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CQI September event

Another lively event at the Avon Branch

A big thank you to all who came and supported this month’s CQI event, an excellent presentation by Jeff Monk on the new auditing expectations of ISO9001:2015 changes. We have ordered a bigger room in anticipation for the next event on the 22nd October and looking forward to this group going from strength to strength.

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