10 Essential Tips for a Great Quality Management System
30 September 2020 | This article is a summary of the eBook '10 Essential Tips for a Great Quality Management System' which is available in Qudos3 - the comprehensive software solution for your Quality or Integrated Management System.
Genuine leadership and commitment by top management for a QMS (Quality Management System) is essential for it to be fully integrated into an organization and deliver the potential benefits.
Thoseat the top have the greatest effect on an organization's culture and attitude. Therefore, QMS is much more likely to be successfully maintained, and consistently achieve the goals set for it if they lead from the front, and demonstrate a real commitment to it.
If you are a CEO or Senior Manager, it’s worth keeping an open mind on how a great management system can help your organization to survive challenging times and go forward to success. The first step to achieving that is by leadership and genuine commitment from the top.
If you are the Quality Manager / Compliance Manager / Quality Champion in your organization, you cannot just expect commitment and leadership from senior management. They will only really provide that when they are convinced of the advantages.
When everyone in an organization is aiming in the same direction, it will naturally have a better chance of getting there.
If everything ‘quality’ is left to just one key individual or even a few people:
- The system will become narrowly focused – with only one set of ideas, one perspective, and one agenda
- The system will collapse in a heap when they move on (leave / retire / transfer / give up in frustration)
- While quality ‘champions’ may put in a super-human effort, the sum total of others NOT contributing will more than offset that
So, people need to be encouraged to be more involved. One useful technique for achieving greater involvement may simply be re-branding. Eyes tend to glaze over at the mention of quality manuals and procedures. Why not re-brand the system as your Business Management System in order to move away from that image and encourage the involvement.
3. Set SMART quality objectives
Most of us respond to a challenge and will perform better when we have a target to aim for. An organization - just like a person - may drift aimlessly without clear objectives.
ISO 9001 requires top management to establish quality objectives throughout their organization. The smart organization can use this ISO requirement as a foundation stone of a great quality management system. How?
- By closely linking them to the organization’s true mission, product / service targets and KPIs. Overall corporate objectives should relate to those for business units or departments. This should be a 2-way process that is often referred to as the cascade effect.
- By making sure that they follow smart principles. Although not explicitly specified by ISO 9001, the concept of SMART objectives is a very useful guideline to follow. SMART is an acronym for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timed.
S - Specific - The objective should be focused on only just one thing
M - Measurable - It should be possible to measure whether or not you achieve the objective
A - Attainable - The objective should be within your capabilities
R - Relevant - The objective should be something of importance
T - Timed - There should be a timescale or deadline for achievement of the objective
4. Get rid of the deadwood documents
There is a common misconception that quality management is all about documentation. It most certainly isn’t. Ridding your system of the burden of ‘deadwood’ documents is a critical step towards improvement.
So much deadwood
Many quality management systems simply have far too much documentation.
- There are too many documents
- Some are too long
- Nobody reads some of them
If nobody reads them, what is the point of their existence? They are just deadwood – needing maintenance and waiting to trip you up at audit time – and trip you up they will. For, if an auditor reads a dusty old procedure, they are entitled to ask you to demonstrate how it’s done – which can be tricky if you no longer have the floppy disk, cassette tape or fax machine that it refers to.
The primary reason that systems have too many documents is that people mistakenly think that they are actually required by ISO 9001. However, contrary to widely held beliefs, not that much documentation is actually mandatory.
To prevent another build-up of deadwood documents in the future, you should implement a robust and achievable document review and revision process. Consideration should also be given to the means of storage and distribution, Including issues of confidentiality, availability, accessibility, and integrity of documents.
5. You need to see the whole iceberg
The full extent and cost of quality issues are also mostly invisible – or at least, rarely reported and addressed as well as they might be.
The iceberg / quality analogy illustrates that the full extent and cost of quality issues are often invisible – or at least, rarely reported and addressed as well as they might be.
Quality issue may include currently unrealised opportunities for improvements as well as nonconformances, complaints or performance lapses. Many organizations suffer from more quality issues than they realise, and the first step to addressing them, is to identify them.
Identifying issues, fixing problems, and eliminating the root cause(s) can all be considered to be elements of continuous improvement - a key principle that underscores the concept of quality management.
6. Take prompt action on issues
Taking prompt action on quality issues raised will help to improve commitment to, and participation in the system – as well as maximising the benefits achieved from those actions.
Prompt. Now there’s an interesting word. What does it mean? On the same day? Within one week? One month? With reference to a QMS, we might interpret promptly as being ‘as soon as reasonably practicable’.
How do we ensure that prompt action is taken? Well, the first step is to inform the responsible person. Your system needs a method of helping people to identify who is responsible for various things, and an efficient way of communicating issues to them. Technology can help to ensure that the message gets transmitted quickly. However, to be most effective, the technology also needs to be supplemented by an organizational culture that supports and encourages prompt action.
People need to have an appreciation that quality issues are not some esoteric exercise but an integral part of day-to-day business activities.
7. Give your management system a health check
Systems don’t work perfectly forever. They need regular checks and maintenance to keep them on track.
Staying on track doesn’t just happen, and complex systems don’t work perfectly forever. They need regular checks and maintenance to keep them on track.
- Most people wouldn’t consider buying a new car or motorcycle and then expecting to run it for 10 years without inspection or service.
- Our own bodies can be considered as systems – and most people these days would have periodic eye tests, dental check-ups etc.
Management systems also need checks and maintenance to ensure that they still meet requirements and are being effectively implemented. They may get feedback when a complaint is made, or an incident or nonconformance occurs. However, that is re-active. They also need pro-active verification that planned arrangements are happening in practice and are working to achieve objectives.
Perhaps the best form of such pro-active verification is a programme of internal audits. Not surprisingly, internal audits are a mandatory requirement of ISO 9001.
Technology now offers much greater opportunities to improve the audit process whilst also saving the valuable time of those involved. Management system software applications can eliminate duplication of effort and automate parts of the process.
8. Integrate management review into your business planning
Top management should review the QMS periodically to ensure that it continues to meet requirements.
The performance of a ‘Management review’ is a requirement of the ISO 9001 quality standard. It’s also an area where nonconformances are often raised at certification audits. That really shouldn’t be the case, as it’s quite a simple requirement that can easily be addressed. It’s also an activity that if done well can deliver significant benefits. To start, let’s take a brief look at what the standard expects;
In general, top management is expected to review the system, at ‘planned intervals’ to ensure that it continues to be suitable, adequate and effective to achieve requirements.
Including management review as part of the wider business planning process helps to integrate ‘quality’ activities with the ‘real’ business.
9. Vorsprung durch technik
The smartest organizations are increasingly using technology for a more efficient and effective QMS.
The phrase ‘Vorsprung durch technik’ is, of course, very well-known as an advertising slogan for Audi cars. It is generally translated from the original German into English as “Advancement through technology” – emphasizing German manufacturing industry’s reputation for technical excellence and hinting at the benefits that can bring to the consumer.
Smart organizations are increasingly using technology for a more efficient and effective QMS or IMS – taking less time and effort (and often, less money) to do it better.
So, Tip #9 is to advance your system through the use of technology. Let's step back in time to the 1980's when quality systems first came into mainstream business use. The world was a very different place; Mobile phones were in their infancy and most people just didn’t have one. There was no GPS, and no SMS Texting either. By the end of the decade, Mr. Berners-Lee was only just inventing the world wide web. That meant No Google, No cloud software. In fact, No web sites at all. It’s hard to imagine going back to doing business without some of the technological advances that are actually quite recent.
In actual fact, there is one way in which it’s quite easy to step back in time. Any experienced auditor will tell you that there are a good deal of vintage quality systems still out there. There are still very many instances of hard-copy quality manuals being in circulation, or quality manager’s diligently re-entering data from audit and nonconformance records into spreadsheets like some latter-day Dickensian scribe.
It doesn’t have to be that way. Every year, new IT developments are offering us opportunities to do things faster, better, and smarter.
10. Get your quality management system certified
Getting your system certified will take it to the next level in terms of discipline and realising the full range of commercial and organizational benefits.
The final tip in this series is a simple but important one: Get your quality management system certified. In the previous 9 tips, we have discussed a whole range of steps which - if implemented - we believe will make your quality system great. Getting the system certified may provide further benefits:
- To provide access to markets
- To improve your corporate image
- For affirmation
- For genuine organizational improvement
- To keep you on your toes
Qudos 3 IMS software for a Faster, Better, Smarter Quality Management System.
Qudos 3 IMS software will facilitate ALL of the 10 Essential Tips for a Great Quality Management System.
Contact us now to discuss your needs.