How to Make ISO Standards Work. An ISO Consultant Shares Some Thoughts

Jul 1, 2014 | general, ISO Consulting, Quality Management System, The Diary of an ISO Consultant |

So, as an ISO Consultant advising businesses on compliance with ISO Standards , I’m often faced with serious minded business people who’ve seen a lot of the world and have a slightly cynical view of the standard they are being told they need to comply with. Is it worth investing their time and cash complying?

Then if you get past the “why” of compliance in a reasonable manner, there is always the question of how, in a busy overworked world, are these new needs and requirements going to be met, especially day in, day out ?

There are often opposite approaches to the issue, both extreme, both unhelpful to the business and largely incorrect.

On the one hand, there can be raging optimism. Of course, this is what the business has been waiting for, we will speed things up/keep customers happy/cut out waste/meet our targets/improve the bottom line. This visionary approach is, of course, refreshing, and it would be easy for me to nod, smile, and take my fee. If I didn’t need to return to the business at some point, prepare them for recertification, and pick up lots of broken pieces.

In contrast, there’s the cynical and curmudgeonly approach of the business-weary die-hard. We are only doing this because of the chance of a big order/ it has no bearing on the day-to-day running of the business/ the staff won’t engage with it/ it’s just expensive bureaucracy/can’t we buy the approval off the internet?, etc.. Some managers can make Eeyore from Winnie The Pooh seem like a motivational speaker. I often wonder how they rose in leadership, or even got out of bed that morning.

Yes, somewhere between the two viewpoints is a middle way, which is just about close to reality. Meanwhile, my work count on this blog is going up, and your interest is going down. So, what five points would I highlight regarding successful “buy in” to ISO compliance from your staff and managers.

1/ Start Where You Are! Employees will sniff immediately the attempt to impose a piece of “one size fits all” theory onto the complexities of their business. But they would love some structured solution to the frustration of doing things badly, doing things twice, fending off customers, etc. What are your main business challenges, and how can compliance to an ISO Standard address them? How do you see your business getting to where it wants to be?

2/ Hire an Experienced, No-Nonsense ISO Consultant (I can recommend one…) who has a foot in both camps, those of the theory of the standard, and it’s practical application. They can give vital help with 1/, because they have probably seen it all before. When you pay a consultancy fee, you are, of course buying not just a document clerk, but a head full of experience which can’t be bought from Amazon.

3/ Make Your Quality Management System Simple! Alas, I come across the “quality versus quantity” error regularly. A highly-paid consultant has created a huge tome via late-night “cut and paste”, which looks impressive, sits proudly on a shelf, and remains there until the internal auditors pluck up the courage to blow the dust of it, or it moves centre-stage in the pre-recertification visit. More is certainly less. Carefully written, a decent QMS proves “less is more”

4/ Sell! You need to convince your people that this is a good idea. However, you need to use the good salesman’s art of stressing “benefits” (what it does for the business), rather than “features” (what it consists of). The skilful salesperson will “scratch where the client itches”. We’re back to point one. Find out what needs fixing, what and how, then tell your folks that it’s going to be done, but we need everyone’s help.

5/ Find Some Champions. This should not all be “top-down”. You will need internal auditors. Correctly-chosen, they will be those who carry the burden of compliance. Again, like a good consultant, they will have a foot in both camps, QMS theory, and it’s application. Give them both freedom and authority, and the system will virtually run itself, as it becomes tuned to the harmonic of the business.

There is much else to tell on this subject, and I’d be happy to talk. My life began on the factory floor in Nottingham, circa 1977, so I’m a “bottom-up” kind of chap, who loves making things work in reality. Please be in touch!

Written by Colin Brown of ISO Consultants

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