Your Quality Policy: Rubber stamp or ‘Inspiration’?

Just finished a 4 day QMS audit of an organization and focused the closing meeting around their Quality Policy and Objectives. I held the policy up and pointed to it during the presentation suggesting that they could use their policy to streamline their management system AND get ready for ISO 9001:2015.

Have a look at your own quality policy. Is it ‘inspirational’? Or is it a collection of motherhood statements designed primarily for your Registrar and to meet the ISO 9001 requirement. If it is, you’ve got a liability on your hands – something that takes effort to review and maintain, but brings no value.

By turning your Quality Policy into the guidepost for your management system, you start to see the myriad procedures you’re maintaining that don’t support the Policy. Granted, some of your ‘non-supportive’ procedures are required by law, a regulation or a customer group. Beyond that, the requirements for documented procedures in ISO Standards are generally quite low. I see management systems that balloon into the hundreds of documented procedures as a result of a comment in a meeting: “That’s a great idea, Pat! Let’s add it to our Management System.” Years later, technology has changed, business practices have changed and competencies have changed. Voila – obsolete documents that require maintenance and do not add value! Try to avoid the “What if…?” syndrome, too. This perspective has created masses of unnecessary documentation that can actually get in the way of high performance levels and smooth workflow. They’re also the first procedures to be abandoned then found to be ‘not fully implemented’.

A different approach is to ask yourself, when you discover a document that is ‘out of sync’ with current practice, “Does this procedure support our Quality Policy or Objectives?” If not, consider it for archiving. This will help you fine tune your Policy to become more dynamic and useful and help you shed some documentation liabilities. Ask the same question when a non-conformance occurs related to a particular procedure. If that procedure does not support a Quality Objective, what is the value of that procedure? Of course, you’ll ask the same questions about legal, regulatory and customer requirements. Help stamp out procedural waste! Acknowledge that your employees are competent and build your system accordingly.

Design a Quality Policy that will help an employee make a decision when they come to a fork in the road. Make sure your Policy contains values that will drive your organization forward and provide a framework for sustainable growth. A tall order for a Quality Policy, but the payback is tall, too.