ISO 9001? It’s just a box ticking exercise isn’t it?
A lot has changed over the past 35 years since HPA started assisting businesses to implement Quality Management Systems (QMS). However, despite the steady evolution of the ISO 9001 standard since its origins in the British Standard BS5750 in the 80’s, some of the concerns customers express have remained constant.
In true Dr Who style, ISO 9001 has regenerated 4 times. From its first introduction in 1987, new versions were published in 1994, 2000, 2008 and the current iteration in 2015.
Much like the good Doctor, the standard has evolved to meet the changing times and better reflect the modern business environment. Despite this, the legacy of what might be referred to as over-zealous, overcomplicated implementations of the past remains, creating an abiding negative mythology in some people’s minds.
So, what are these myths and more importantly what is the reality?
Myth#1 – ISO 9001 is a box ticking exercise that generates lots of unnecessary paperwork.
ISO 9001, applied properly, is far from a box ticking exercise. A good ISO 9001 implementation will enable your business not only to be as good as it can be, but also will help you to continually improve it. With small businesses the Certification Body Auditor will not expect an overcomplicated system so don’t create one. Provided you have practical, common sense systems for running your business there should be very little extra documentation required.
This is not how your ISO 9001 Quality Management System should work!
Myth#2 – ISO 9001 will make my business less agile and slow down customer service.
Many small firms have built their reputation on rapid response to customer’s enquiries or orders. They are worried that they won’t be able to achieve this when they are ISO 9001 approved. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. It simply means that you need a good system for handling those kinds of orders to avoid making mistakes and to ensure that they are invoiced. It is just plain commercial common sense.
Myth#3 – ISO 9001 is just for big companies.
An ISO 9001 Quality Management System can be beneficial to companies of all sizes. A good ISO 9001 implementation will enable any business to become more efficient and improve your customers’ experience. The trick is to create simple but effective systems and processes that help you to run your business effectively.
Myth#4 – ISO 9001 is expensive and time consuming.
It’s true that you have to invest some time and money in achieving ISO 9001 Certification. How much of each will depend to a degree on the size and nature of your business. However, in comparison to the positive impact on your business – increased efficiency and the ability to bid for work otherwise not available to you – the cost is small. In addition, by using a professional ISO Management Systems consultant to support you, your workload during implementation will be minimised.
Myth#5 – ISO 9001 is manufacturing focussed and won’t work for my organisation.
In its early iterations, there may have been a bias towards companies who make things. However, the latest (2015) version has been deliberately structured to be able to be applied to any kind of organisation including service industries, public and third sector as well as manufacturers and distributors.
ISO 9001 has evolved over time to reflect how businesses large and small and in all sectors work now.
In summary, ISO 9001 has evolved over its 34-year history. While some of the myths discussed in this article – like all good myths – may have had an element of truth in them in the past, each successive evolution has refocussed the standard on enabling organisations to not just control the quality of their goods and service but to increase their efficiency, improve the customer experience and help them to continually improve.
Of course, there can be pitfalls you can make. ISO 9001 is a flexible set of guidelines that you can interpret to meet the needs of your business. This means that you can get it wrong and recreate some of the errors of the past – overcomplication and being over prescriptive being 2 common errors. Get it right however with an implementation tailored to the precise needs of your business and the business benefits can be immense.
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