ISO 9001:2015. Be Prepared (But Not Too Much)
I’ve just been told that ISO 9001:2015 is a “hot topic”. Well, maybe. (editor’s note:- this was written in December 2014. But please read on!) There are changes planned which could have some impact on your 2015 budgets. But they are “planned”, not definite. So, is it time to call on a shiny-suited and expensive person to advise what the changes are ? No. The industry has been here before, (and so have I!). It will pay to be aware, but cautious.
Huge Changes ? Probably Not. Certification is now, sadly, a multi-million pound industry. So, if major changes were made to ISO 9001 which required businesses to invest large amounts of time and money, there is quite a strong chance that many industries would simply cease to use and support the standard. The certification bodies have a huge influence over the content of the standard, and commonsense would advise not to make ISO 9001 2015 “a change too far” that alienates their customers.. Turkeys don’t vote for Christmas. They aren’t going to back anything which will seriously threaten their steady income.
Some Lessons From History. The first really significant change to ISO 9001 since its original publication as BS 5750 occurred in the year 2000. As a major change, the 2000 update was widely announced and each draft was widely communicated and discussed until finally the “FDIS” or final draft was published. This version of the standard was supposed to drive the concepts of process management and customer satisfaction, and the certification bodies used their Assessors/Client Managers/Auditors to ready people for the huge changes that were about to hit them. One of these was the measurement of Customer Satisfaction.
So, thousands of companies began to prepare and distribute Customer Satisfaction surveys. These have always been seen as somewhat unreliable – how do you know they get completed by the person making buying decisions ? And even if the person who places the orders completes the survey, do they actually have intimate details of the product or service your business provides ?
The many problems with such surveys were fed back to the standards committees. But then, as a result, “Customer Satisfaction” was significantly amended in the final published standard. Meanwhile, thousands of companies were still annoying their customers with unnecessary surveys, believing it was a key requirement of ISO 9001. A huge waste of time. Hence, I’d recommend caution until ISO 9001:2015 is actually finalised. A premature over-reaction to changes could be costly.
So, what do we know so far ? Well not an awful lot really, and as above, it’s wise not to begin to implement at this stage. However, one probability is that this standard will introduce the concept of “Risk Management” related to the quality of goods and services. The words “Risk Management” haven’t, so far, been widely associated with Quality. But in reality most companies have thought at some point “Will the customer notice ?”, That’s risk management. “Inspection” is risk management, “site surveys” are risk management, “calibrating critical equipment” is risk management. So actually you’ve probably been doing it for years, it’s just a different way of describing it. And now it will be formalised as a part of ISO 9001:2015
And another “probable”;– Certification bodies have now realised that Quality Policy Statements and Corporate Objectives can be miles away from the real strategy and aims of a business, so steps will be made to encourage the convergence of Quality Policy and Business Strategy. But this is unlikely to be an area where certification threatening “Major” non-compliances will be raised. It’s a grey area with lots of “ifs and buts”.
Time fixes most things (so give it time…) Another problem with early implementation of any changes is that you could be moving ahead of the certification bodies developing their own interpretation. On launch of a new standard the auditors usually have to learn a lot of their interpretation and application “on the job”, and they can get it wrong. So, it’s best to wait for ISO 9001:2015 to be thoroughly “bedded in” with the certification body, rather than trying to come up with your own interpretation. After all, it’s the auditor’s interpretation that’s the final word.
Is There A Deadline? The ISO “rules” say you have three years to implement the changes. That’s quite a long time, but if you aim to implement the changes over the first year to eighteen months you are within the rules, and less likely to run into interpretation problems.
So, my counsel on ISO 9001:2015 is “be prepared, but not over-prepared”. And, of course, if you need any further advice, you’re welcome to drop me a line or give me a call.