And the reason is simple. ISO 9001 allows an organization to set any system it wants, as long as they make sense and they respect a set of minimum requirements.
The problem is, many factories think “we would get more customers if we had that certificate”, so they go out and find templates and make it all look like it is alive in their company… while of course, it is just for the auditors.
Another problem is the way procedures can be written. They can become a straitjacket that prevents improvements. It does happen.
Recently, someone voiced her concern as follows:
Applying ISO 9001 strictly will lead to no thinking, no creativity, and fewer improvements. In all organizations, adding more process hinders innovative thinking.
Well, yes and no. It all depends on the way the quality management system (QMS) is implemented.
Setting standards, and guiding people into the details
One basic principle is, “We must write what we do and do what we write”. And having detailed guidelines about the way to do regular tasks is a good thing.
However, people often misunderstand that in several ways:
- Should everyone do the same tasks in exactly the same way? No. It is often fine to let different people have different routines if that’s important to them and if it has no impact on quality.
- Should everyone just comply blindly? If depends on the way it is written. I always suggest adding “if deemed appropriate”, “as applicable”, “if needed”, “unless director directs otherwise, etc. in the SOPs and WIs, if there is a change a deviation might be needed.
More process = less innovation?
Bad process, yes.
Good process, no. It takes care of the repetitive stuff that takes time and reduces the time for innovation. And it can push people to detect issues and think of improvements.
Let’s take an extreme example: a Toyota plant. They have MANY standards & processes, which often go into small details.
However, many of these processes are adapted every few months. Their training sessions, their improvement method, etc. are also part of their processes. This type of process drives improvement.
Any tips you can share on ways to include improvement work in the day-to-day work of a factory, by structuring a QMS the right way from the start? Let me know in the comments, please.
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