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ISO is a proactive (not reactive) way to manage Quality!

The Quality Gurus have defined various ways of looking at Quality. Dr Edward Deming helped to focus the responsibility of Quality on management and popularized the Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA) cycle, which led to it later being referred to as the "Deming Cycle".

Quality is satisfying customer requirements.

Quality management oversees all activities and tasks that must be accomplished to maintain a desired level of excellence. This includes determining a quality policy, creating and implementing quality planning and assurance, quality control, and quality improvement.

..can all that can possibly go wrong be prevented? probably not.....

Let's understand what a reactive approach to Quality Management is; as the name suggests, a reactive approach to managing Quality is acting when things have already gone wrong with Quality. So there is no alternative left other than just fixing what has gone wrong.

On the other hand, a Proactive Approach to managing Quality is forward-thinking, determining what can potentially go wrong, who will be responsible for action, and what impact it can have on the system, among others. So when one thinks with 'profound knowledge’; about all these factors, one can very well prepare by taking preventive actions.

The question here is, can all that can possibly go wrong can be prevented? Probably not, as all the potential quality issues may not be accurately predicted. But it is advantageous to have this front end approach rather than a reactive one!

Is ISO a proactive way of managing Quality?

ISO has developed and published more than 24000 standards as of date.

There is the ISO 9000 series of standards for quality management; there are also some sector-specific quality management system standards that have been published by ISO, notably in the aerospace and car manufacturing sectors, among others.

ISO has developed and published more than 24,000 standards as of date

The history of standards related to quality management goes way back to 1959 when the United State Department of Defense MIL-Q-9858 standard was published, followed up by the revised MIL-Q-9858 into the NATO AQAP series of standards in 1969. In 1974 BSI published the BS 5179 series of guidance standards, followed it by the BS 5750 series of standards and submitted to ISO.

ISO published the ISO 9000 standard for 1987 first time. Followed it up in the year 2000, 2008. All these standards supported proactive ways of managing Quality, specifically following Dr Edward Deming's PDCA approach for continual improvement.

The standards were published on the basis of 8 Quality Management Principles- Customer Focus, Leadership, People Involvement, Process Approach, System Approach, Improvement, Factual decision making and Supplier relationship management.

Then came the current version, ISO 9001:2015, which further strengthens the Proactive approach to managing Quality in organisations. The 8 Quality Management Principles were streamlined to 7 by absorbing the System Approach with the Process Approach and renaming ‘Involvement of people’ to ‘Engagement of people’, and ‘Factual approach to decision making’ as ‘Evidenced-based decision making’, and ‘Supplier Relationship’ broadened to ‘Relationship Management’.

..Now, an organisation needs to understand itself first...

The clauses were structured around Annex XL, which is ten clause structure for Management System Standards. The clause ‘Context of Organization’ was not in any of the previous ISO standards leading up to 2015, when two standards, ISO 9001:2015 and ISO 14001:2015, were published. Risk-Based Thinking was incorporated for addressing Risk and Opportunity in the organisation. Both these clauses (context of the organisation and risk-based thinking) supported the 7 Quality Management Principles and gives organizations a structure for an even more proactive approach to Quality. Now, an organization needs to understand itself first, in terms of Internal and External Issues and its Interested Parties. It then needs to identify it’s processes, consider what can go wrong with each process and their interaction in terms of risks and convert them into opportunities (where possible) at the 'planning' stage of the PDCA cycle.

Implement what has been planned in the 'Do' segment of PDCA. 'Performance Evaluation' is done in the ‘Check’ segment of PDCA and finally ', Improvement' in the ‘Act’ segment of PDCA. Most importantly, in the 'Act' segment, if you have a non-conformity, then carry out corrective action. Organization need to take any non-Conformity as a lesson learned and revise the Risk and Opportunity analysis, taking into account what went wrong and how to ensure it does not repeat itself.

Hence, we can confidently say ISO is helping in managing Quality in a Proactive rather than reactive way.

Article Author- Nitin Hiranandani, independent Lead Tutor with Charis The Training Company in UAE

To get a basic awareness of ISO 9001, you might want to check our FREE ISO 9001 Awareness Course .


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