“Whatever you do, do it well.” –Walt Disney (and he did it well!).
When many people think of ISO 9001 Certification, they quickly think of assembling documents and packets of information. Jumping through hoops, meeting deadlines, and passing evaluation. But all of that information and those processes is meant to demonstrate that your organization is adhering to the smartest, highest, best-est levels of excellence. Like Michelin star restaurants, some organizations have achieved that superior level of excellence. Wonder what they have in common? According to ISO, they honor 7 management principles. Let’s take a look at the 7 principles, why they are critical in an organization, and two (2) themes of underlying them.
- Customer Focus. I know, this is a “duh” moment. Of course we should be focused on the customer. But being focused on the customer means deeply listening to what they want and then not just meeting their needs, but exceeding their needs. Customers who are delighted, impressed, and pleased will do two things: 1) they will come back for more and 2) be less likely to look elsewhere.
If we use exceeding customer expectations as our primary goal, you’ve got to ask yourself, how is your organization going to do that? That’s the very question that the remaining 6 principles address. I can tell you this –it does not happen with a disjointed leadership, a demoralized workforce, and a stale, weary process.
- Leadership. Leaders, at every level, matter in terms of having a unity of purpose and direction. They are all working towards achieving the same goal. Doing so increases coherence and forward momentum of the entire organization. When leaders work towards opposing goals and in a disunified way, the rest of the organization does not stand a chance.
Think of it in terms of a family. If mom and dad are working together towards the same goals, the family is likely to move in unison and accomplish those goals. But when they are moving against each other and have competing goals, the family will likely be fractured and stressed as the other family members scramble to try to achieve numerous, disparate objectives.
Imagine if a coach and the quarterback were working at odds with each other –what hope does the rest of the team have for fulfilling the directions and accomplishing the goal –gaining yardage, making a touchdown?
- Engagement of people. When leaders are working in unison for common goals, they can then energize and engage their team. People work best when they contribute to the greater good and their efforts make sense and are meaningful. Engaging workers comes from a foundational attitude of respect and recognition of workers’ competence, accomplishments, and contributions. Be sure that workers are set up for success and that they receive the support they need to fully achieve their own position’s requirements.
- Process approach. Ever been in a situation where you had no idea what was going on or what to do when there’s a problem? Ugh. It’s frustrating at best and maddening at worst. Processes need to a) be clear b) make sense and c) be effective. When they are not effective, there needs to be a predictable and efficient route to change (see the next section on Improvement). Furthermore, the processes that comprise an organization must “speak well” to each other and move the organization as a whole towards its ultimate aim –exceeding customer expectations.
- Improvement. We can always do better. Built into that process of achieving goals is a way to understand where there are deficits and how improvement can occur. That is, build room to check for improvement into the very processes that define the organizational system. For example, after a customer order has been successfully fulfilled, build in time for reflection from all levels involved –what went well and what could we do better? That way, making space for improvement (and maintaining the organizational strengths) becomes part of the process itself.
- Evidence-based decision making. “This is the way we’ve always done it” can kill improvement. Improvement relies on measurable outcomes (AKA evidence) to support an action’s effectiveness or ineffectiveness. The idea of evidence-based decision making can be challenging in organizations for two reasons: 1) people generally don’t like change (but change for change’s sake makes no sense at all) and 2) organizational leaders are susceptible to the latest trend in management and business. Don’t get me wrong –ideas are important, they are the spark for change, innovation, and improvement. But they are only good insofar as they demonstrate their effectiveness. All kinds of predispositions, socialization, and biases can color the decisions we make. But let the evidence, the outcomes themselves, do the talking. We don’t know if something will actually work until we try it and then see if it actually was effective. Use those data to then dictate the decisions you make.
- Relationship management. Nurturing the inter and intra-organizational relationships is essential to a thriving organization. Think of the organization as a human body. Sure, the legs might be strong, but if you don’t cultivate all parts of the body, you’ll end up lopsided and likely injured because parts are weak and ineffective. Thus, you want to ensure the entire system is based on healthy, productive relationships. Don’t take for granted your suppliers, your delivery team, your call center. They all support and feed into your organizational goals. Thus, as much as you need to focus on the individual worker and teams of workers, you also need to pay attention to teams’ and units’ relationships with each other to ensure they are thriving.
Those are the seven (7) quality management principles as set forth by ISO. Your certification will ask you to essentially document these aspects in your own organization. Still, there are two (2) additional points worth mentioning here when it comes to the magnificent 7.
- People focused. If you look back over the previous seven points, you’ll notice that over half of them, four (4) to be exact, focus on people –customers, leadership, workers, and relationships. It’s not how to cut costs, how to speed up production, or where to buy the cheapest supplies. It’s investing in people in the organization. Yep, that’s the highest standard and that’s what thriving, market driving, leading organizations do.
iX. It doesn’t cost much! If you think about it, none of these principles really cost anything. No really, they don’t. The principles are focused on aligning your processes, ensuring that your leaders are on the same page and working in concert, your employees are involved in engaging and meaningful work and treated as such, and that you have your eye on improvement and making decisions based on outcomes. None of those are costly to perform, but are nonetheless incredibly valuable.
Transform your organization into a thriving business with a superior level of excellence. Honor the 7 ISO 9001 principles, including customer focus, leadership, engagement of people, process approach, improvement, and evidence-based decision making. Learn how the AGS ISO registrar is different and our Virtual Certification ASRP Program to get started.