I read with interest John Barr's Q-NewZ article (October 2015 pp7-8) in which he laments the stifling of quality and improvement in New Zealand during the 1990s by the quality movement, ISO 9001 and audits. Like John at Temuka Pottery, I was at PEC at the time and we were also one of the early adopters of the coveted ISO 9001 certificate. It was a great time for quality which was actively encouraged by central government. NZ along with Australia and the United Kingdom were among the highest in world-wide growth of ISO 9001 certifications at the time. So what went wrong?
Two things I believe.
Firstly, we were badly served by the early consultants who gave us a template management system that was written around the ISO 9001 clauses and in no way reflected how we actually ran our business. Yes - it put a certificate on the wall but did not add any other value to the business. Instead of focusing on improving the business we became preoccupied with controlling an increasingly large number of documents. Twenty five years later and the 2015 ISO 9001 standard at long last does NOT require a manual. You still need to meet the requirements. However you do not need a manual to do this anymore. So at long last we can stop our preoccupation .with document management systems and return to putting in place a system to actually run the business.
Secondly, we have dumbed down our systems to the extent that we can 'audit' using a series of simple checklists that an 'auditor' with very little understanding of the overall business can easily follow. This mind-numbing practice has continued for far too long. As a result we still have customers who complain, staff morale remains low, and product non-conformances continue despite our 'clean' internal audits. And our certification bodies have allowed us to get away with this.
The TC176 working group responsible for ISO 9001:2015 has finally said no more - we have 3 years to fix this mess and get our business systems working effectively as they always intended.
Having a compliance mentality around just meeting the minimum requirements leads to mediocrity. It is only through constant attention to improving the effectiveness of systems that we can build successful businesses that are sustainable in the long term.
Business can learn a lot from the recent All Black performance at the 2015 Rugby World Cup - no professional team has sustained the level of excellence that the All Blacks have for the past 100 years - does anyone believe that this could have been achieved with a compliance mindset?
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