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Insight

A Quality Strategy to Beat the Brexit Blues  

Wow - we used the words ‘Quality’, ‘Strategy’ and ‘Brexit’ in the title, yet you are still with us! Brave people indeed. Or did you just resonate with the ‘Brexit Blues’? Now that you are here, let’s start thinking about the link between these three business-critical concepts. 

How often do you think about Quality in your business? Do you think of it in the long-term or the short-term? Proactively or reactively? Driven by opportunity or risk? Now ask yourself the same questions about Strategy. Are you a retrospective strategist, claiming credit for the inevitable by updating your plans afterwards? Or a forward-thinker looking for ways to control the future and roll with the changes rather than being trampled underfoot? 

But what’s quality got to do with strategy and why should you be thinking about it now, when Brexit is still a valid excuse for putting that sort of thing on hold? Even if you’ve never had a written-down business strategy, you are probably going to need one for Brexit, once the details start to clarify. There will be changes in the movement of goods and people, laws and regulations, approvals and administration, processes and paperwork. These are all easier to change if they are already documented in your quality system. The quality system provides a way of communicating and controlling such changes. 

At QFactorial we work with businesses of all shapes and sizes, helping leaders to deliver their business strategy using quality principles and tools. Whatever your business strategy, be it growth, consolidation, diversification, innovation or profiting from Brexit, you need a way of delivering it systematically and consistently. That’s how any quality system justifies and repays the investment you make in it. 

Quality is not just about procedures, inspections and audits. Before any of that, it’s about business and leadership. This includes optimising processes, managing change, mitigating risk, reducing waste and seizing opportunities for innovation and growth. If it happens to include ISO certification, well that’s a bonus for your sales and compliance people. 

Amongst our SME clients, we’ve seen various responses to the uncertainty of Brexit. Some have lost out by over-stocking materials, others have used their trading skills to make a profit from each deadline. Some have set up operations in the EU, others have frozen recruitment. Some have put a hold on strategic decisions, others have built Brexit contingency into their decisions. 

For those who were already thinking about a quality strategy or ISO certification, there has been a similar schism of opinion and action. The optimists have accelerated their ISO programmes to ensure cross-border recognition of their capabilities and credentials. After all, ISO standards will still be recognised internationally regardless of European politics. 

For most UK SMEs, ISO certification is no more difficult because of Brexit, and may be an extra door-opener afterwards. As UK plc starts to trade independently of the EU under new rules and regulations, being certified to international standards will give your business a foundation for continuity, confidence and due diligence when dealing with new customers and markets. 

The thing is, the subjects dealt with by ISO standards are global. None more so than ISO 14001 for environmental governance and ISO 27001 for cyber security. The global risks that these two standards aim to mitigate are going to be business-critical long after Brexit has passed, and you only have to absorb the daily news to feel the groundswell of concern and activity in these areas. 

ISO 14001 and ISO 27001 are both underpinned by the ubiquitous ISO 9001, the much maligned but still fundamental stepping stone for SMEs who are serious about structure, process and strategy. So if you are thinking strategically about positioning your business post-Brexit, you might consider an integrated quality strategy with environmental and cyber-security aspects embedded in the system. This is where we think your customers will be asking the questions in the 2020’s. Wouldn’t it be great to have all the answers at your fingertips?

At QFactorial we have been working in all these areas for many years, and our consultants are focused on simple solutions for SMEs. We can help you get started with a short diagnostic exercise to identify gaps and synergies, followed by a clear action plan and further support if needed. At least you will know where you are starting from, where you are heading, and how to get there. Then you just need to get there before the other guys…

 

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