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Insight

5 unexpected benefits of an ISO based QMS

Some people think quality management systems are all about pre-qualifying for tenders, controlling documents and passing audits. True, these are important benefits of a QMS, but there are many others, especially if you design your QMS with not only Compliance as your goal, but also Governance and Assurance. At QFactorial we help mainly SMEs and start-ups to develop their QMS and gain ISO approvals. Most clients are focused on compliance when we first engage with them. But gradually they understand that the QMS can give them so much more.

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Change Management

Change can be the fuel for chaos or improvement. Usually you have to travel through the chaos before arriving at improvement. Business owners and leaders know this from experience. But they don’t always realise that their QMS is an ideal tool to accelerate the change and minimise the chaos.A good QMS contains all the elements of change management, from recognising the change, reviewing the options and assessing the risks, to planning the actions, assigning the tasks and verifying effectiveness. A good QMS will also enable you to document the changes in a way that embeds and sustains them as ‘business as usual’. What’s not to like?

Business Continuity

Whilst there is (of course) a specific ISO standard for business continuity, you can achieve a good level of, let’s say, ‘continuity assurance’ simply by implementing an ISO 9001 QMS. After all, business continuity is partly about keeping the shop’s systems running in an emergency and partly about maintaining customer confidence and service levels during the recovery period. It stands to reason that having well defined structures, systems and processes in place, is a better starting point for recovery than relying on personal knowledge and enthusiasm. Surprise, surprise - a good QMS is all about structures, systems and processes. In fact, a well documented (and I don’t mean paper) QMS describes the way the business works so anyone can quickly step into the breach, possibly in an unfamiliar role, and get things moving again.

Efficiency

“We can’t afford a QMS” and “we’ve managed without documenting our processes so far” and “the last thing we need right now is another improvement initiative” and “we’re too busy fixing problems to think about preventing them”.  We’ve heard all the excuses. But what if you did find the time to really consider how your business processes work, identify the pain points, reduce errors, remove unnecessary effort, smooth the workflow, automate the transactional tasks, free up time for strategic thinking? All these business efficiencies are also objectives of a QMS. They all contribute to the consistency, reliability, speed and accuracy of your output, and therefore to your quality. The things you would like to do in the name of efficiency are the same things your QMS would promote in the name of customer satisfaction. Now isn’t that oft-delayed QMS project looking more like an investment than a cost?

Culture

Our fellow consultants out there will recognise this scenario. Your new client has only just noticed that their previous consultant lost interest/ found a better job/ retired/died (delete as applicable) about six months ago. They have at the same time realised, perhaps not coincidentally, that they have an ISO audit next week. Someone needs to find the QMS and hand it to a new consultant to front up the audit. Obviously quite a lot has gone wrong, not least the total disengagement of the company from the QMS. The QMS has been shunted into the sidings, hiding all those untested quality tools from view. Worse than that, the company has missed the opportunity to engage its people in the design, development and implementation of the QMS. Had they done so, the QMS would have lived. More importantly, it would have provided a focal point for everyone to discuss, critique, debate, collaborate and generally care about. A QMS which truly reflects the way your team works, captures all the good practice they have evolved over the years, and is accepted as “the way we do things and change things around here” - wouldn’t that be a positive cultural impact? 

Growth

Now for the biggie, and I don’t just mean obtaining more ISO approvals in order to win bigger contracts with bigger customers. I mean establishing your QMS before you start growing, so it can help you control the growth and ensure new people, products, services, projects, etc. are assimilated seamlessly. Once you realise that the QMS is not a static rule book but a toolkit for dynamic change, then you can make sure it develops alongside your business, sometimes leading, sometimes lagging, but always relevant and adding value. If you start early and allow the QMS to evolve with the business, you will avoid the chaos of new joiners bringing their own incompatible systems to fill the voids. Instead they will quickly get used to your system, grateful for the change or even relieved that there is actually a system. They can concentrate on settling into the role that they have been hired for, with no need to spend the first couple of months staking out territory and working out what their role actually is. Smoooth.

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I could argue, and you might disagree, that there are only 7 things you need to manage when you start a business: strategy, people, money, time, suppliers, products/services, customers. Managing quality covers at least 5 of these plus the 5 surprise benefits discussed above. And you can get certified against ISO 9001 and a range of sector-specific standards. So it’s win, win, win and then some.Now look me straight in the eye and say, without blinking, that you’re not ready for a quality management system. I don’t believe you!

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