ISO Certification and The Realities of Business Life
Why do businesses seek ISO Certification? I see many who do it on a reactive basis, chasing a particular tender, major order or sudden customer demand.
Often, such companies have a lack of structure limiting their growth. Fire fighting and battling to get things done are seen as part of everyday corporate life. However, they are reluctant to obtain ISO Certification as they see this as a potential limit on the freedom of their business. They fear imposition of a structure that will bring awkward, unnatural constraints to their activities.
Now, everyone likes freedom, and as work takes so much of our lives, we need freedom at work. Many of the radical business regeneration models of the 1980s, such as those of Tom Peters and Jan Carlson of Airline SAS majored on “freeing” employees to make customer-driven decisions. But freedom to one person can be chaos to another.
We also have to meet specific customer needs to become successful, we need to know we are using the correct materials in our goods, that our deliveries are going to the right places and arriving on time. So we need discipline. We need to know that things are being done correctly.
However, business needs creativity too. heavy discipline and overly enforced rules stifle risk-taking, and without creativity in our business we go stale and competitors can overtake us quickly. Most businesses approaching ISO Certification fear that agreed procedures will somehow restrict the natural creative life of their business. So, how do we achieve a balance between freedom and order, and how does ISO Certification help?
The ISO standards properly interpreted should set a minimum set of guidelines to give your business the structure it needs to keep it on the road and functioning correctly, while also leaving room for flexibility and creativity. Having worked in the quality and standards industry for over 25 years, I know that the “one size fits all” approach to ISO Certification does not work. Procedures need to be designed around the unique way in which you do business. I’ve written about the many other “Myths and Legends” of ISO Certification here.
For example, ISO 9001, once renowned for demanding reams of paperwork and stacks of forms, now has a mandatory list of only six documented procedures, and whatever else required to control any unique products or processes your business relies on. The experience of putting such systems into over 100 companies has shown me that most business with less than 30 employees rarely need more than 2 additional procedures, and most of those procedures only need a single sheet of A4.
So the whole system should take little more than a dozen sheets of paper, but it will install a business model or template into your company which will both enable and control its growth, delivering repeatable products and services which meet the requirements of your customers. A framework that identifies and enhances the creativity, of your business, (if that isn’t a contradiction in terms…)
And on top of installing agreed, repeatable processes and improved structure into your business, gaining ISO Certification will also get you access to greater tender opportunities and larger markets – Big customers need to select suppliers they can rely on, sooner or later they use certification against an ISO standard as way by which they select their suppliers. For a small investment, and a short project taking around three months, you can hold ISO 9001 Quality Management, ISO 14001 Environmental Management or OHSAS 18001 Health and Safety Management Certification, and own a business qualification which will enhance your position in the market as well as installing order out of chaos, and structure where its needs to be.
So, ISO Certification, far from being an imposition on your business, identifies the unique way that you do business, creates a secure framework around it, and potentially opens up new opportunities. If this sounds like an attractive proposition, please be in touch!.
Written by Colin Brown of ISO Consultants