Down the ISO9001 Rabbit Hole

January 24, 2018

The journey into ISO accreditation is a slightly daunting one. I have deliberated over ISO clauses and then deferred to google to ‘translate’, and then, just when it all makes a bit of sense, you start to wonder about the bigger picture, and bewilderment returns as the task seems so gargantuan! The initial problem is that the language used doesn’t render the requirements accessible or straightforward; but then I suppose we need to keep consultants in work as they act as interpreters! I am sure for larger organisations there are compliance experts that eat ISO clauses for breakfast - and enjoy it……. Erm, not so much here!

We have many procedures, policies and controls in place, but pulling all these activities together to report, analyse, review, improve, and then analyse and review again, is more of a challenge than expected. These activities are not only disparate, but also conducted on a variety of different systems, some with reporting mechanisms and others without. In some cases, where we have existing procedures, the reality is that the actual process follows its own path. We are, however, making progress - sometimes it’s a step-forward and two -steps-back sort of progress, but it’s progress none the less.

Procedures have been devised, policies have been created and, my goodness, risks have been considered (mostly those to my health!). There is the temptation to put in place policies and procedures that as a business you simply do not need, but that would fulfil an ISO clause rather nicely. However, the main aim of working towards ISO9001 is that it brings benefits to the organisation: the policies, processes and procedures that are ISO requirements should be there to make us better at what we do. We want to be able to continually improve our quality, and we want to do this by having procedures and processes that mean we are more efficient and effective.

The Quality Management System is now coming together (inside I am doing the Snoopy dance). Structure has been given to processes that enable and encourage analysis and continual improvement. Areas such as change management have been tightened up and slick, more robust procedures are in place (the written procedure and actual processes now match!). You realise quite early on that this is a live system and, as such, the work will never be complete. Although, now, rather than a rabbit hole, it appears it’s just a long narrow tunnel, and there is light at the end - and on some days, it seems quite bright!

Once we have ISO9001 accreditation, I am going to have a well-deserved glass of wine. Obviously, only after having considered the associated risks, the relevant parties and context - not to mention having fully read and reviewed the The Beverage Consumption Procedure. Then, once implemented, there will of course be an extensive review of the quality (which may not be written down), and areas of continuous improvement will be identified (there may be subsequent glasses required to conduct a thorough analysis). Finally, a full review will take place - probably without an agenda!

Victoria Minshall - Senior Project Manager

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