(Originally Posted on February 24, 2015)
I am asked this question quite often, with many people still under the impression that ISO dictates specific and onerous terms which many small businesses simply don’t have the resources to meet.
This misunderstanding of ISO seems to come from a variety of sources but remains patently false. Pursuing ISO 9001:2008 or other ISO standard certification will require some effort and may change some aspects of how you document activities, but for most well-run businesses, it is not a huge adjustment.
If you are considering ISO Certification I would ask yourself these questions:
- Do you have processes in place for the areas you want certified?
- Are those processes documented in some way? (Flowchart, text description, etc.)
- Do you have a corporate culture that is always looking for ways to improve?
- Does everyone in the organization participate in the improvement culture, especially senior management?
- Do you have someone capable of taking on the additional role of becoming your ISO Program Manager?
If the answer to those questions is “Yes,” then you are already well on your way to becoming certified.
You are your own worst enemy in terms of defining the scope of your certification, how you write your Quality Management System and all the details of your program. Consider carefully just what you want to include in the scope because those are the items an auditor will review. What are the key processes that allow you to deliver services that meet or exceed customer requirements EVERY time? Those processes and areas are what you want included in your scope.
How you describe those processes is also critical to your success. There is nothing in ISO that requires you to do anything. Nowhere does it say your Quality Manual must be 100 pages long. A few examples exist of a Quality Management System documented in a single page. You may say, “Every Friday at 2:45 p.m., Mary Smith takes deposits to the XYZ Bank branch.” This type of documentation will come back to haunt you the first time Mary leaves at 2:46 p.m., or maybe Mary is not available, or she takes the deposits to a different location. You would be far better off stating, “Deposits are done on a weekly basis.” The end result is the same, but under the second statement, anyone can make the deposit at any time during the week to any branch and you are still in compliance. So your challenge is to write your manual in a way that is detailed enough to achieve consistent, efficient results but not so detailed that it consumes all your resources just to comply with it. Next I will cover what to expect in terms of benefits.