Last month we presented the first article in a series
about developing and enhancing ISO 9001:2000’s revised
requirements. We started by examining some lesser-known
measures of customer satisfaction. This month we look at
the process most important to achieving customer satisfaction:
management review. This article considers the review process
as a dynamic series of activities that are constantly changing
in response to performance indicators and customer expectations.
--Denise E. Robitaille
Transforming the management
review process from a passive reporting function to a strategic
planning opportunity is arguably the most powerful contribution
the new revision of ISO 9001 has made to the business community.
These requirements in the standard’s 1994 version
were encapsulated in one sentence, with a second line stipulating
the need for a record of the review. Each organization was
left to determine what was implied by the broad, nonspecific
text. It was assumed that organizations’ review processes
would naturally manifest the intent of the requirements.
In this way, managers would have the facts they needed to
justify tough decisions.
Unfortunately, the previously scant verbiage didn’t
help managers comprehend the link between the standard’s
“management review” and analyzing pertinent
performance indicators. Instead, managers perceived the
review as a mandated paper exercise consuming valuable time
that could be better used interpreting the significance
of data relating to real business issues. The review simply
didn’t cover what mattered to executives. Consequently,
any potential value from the process was lost.
Two types of meetings emerged from the confusion. The first
was the ISO 9001 management review, characterized by a boring
rehash of the results of quality processes such as internal
audits, corrective actions, disposition of nonconforming
materials, an occasional summary of key indicators, and
a list of revised documents and procedures. During this
meeting, everyone would nod gravely, make a few comments
and then return to the real work. The minutes of management
review were duly typed up and filed in accordance with the
record-retention procedure and were available for immediate
retrieval when the registrar showed up for the semiannual
surveillance audit. Everyone rested easier knowing that
the standard’s requirement for management review had
Meanwhile, a separate and completely unrelated series of
meetings was convened to discuss how the company was going
to address issues such as the delayed release of a new product,
training for contract employees, appeasing customers who
had repeat complaints about missed deliveries, finding a
new supplier for a group of critical components and how
to eke out another 12 months from an aging piece of production
machinery. These, after all, were the issues that warranted
top management’s attention. The ISO 9001 review was
relegated to the back burner--where it really belonged;
much more pressing matters were at hand.
The tendency to maintain a complete division between these
two reviews pervaded most businesses registered to the standard.
Regardless of the organization’s nature or size, complexity
of its product offerings or any number of other variables,
the dual-meeting trend prevailed.
In short, top management didn’t recognize the relationship
between quality management system indicators and the bottom
Within the framework of the process approach, the management
review process is a major artery in which data and decisions
flow consistently and effortlessly up and down the organizational
ISO 9001:2000 and its companion, ISO 9004:2000, are replete
with requirements and suggestions that provide substantially
more guidance in implementing a productive management review
process. Very simply, they do a better job than the preceding
revision of describing the process so as to increase management’s
understanding of its intent and benefits.
The first step in making the management review process
meaningful is to shatter the perception that it’s
a passive activity--an obituary for actions already achieved.
Management review is a dynamic, ever-evolving set of activities
that can transform policy into action. It does this by distilling
the facts that provide the inputs into the processes used
to fulfill customers’ requirements.
Management review begins long before the meeting. It begins,
in fact, with the previous review. (For consistency throughout
this article, I’ll refer to the review in a meeting
context. However, the review format doesn’t require
an actual meeting; formatting options are numerous and varied.)
At this juncture, you can begin to develop practices that
will sustain and improve your management review process.
Your registrar has determined that you’ve implemented
this process in compliance with ISO 9001:2000. Now, as you
begin your second or third cycle of reviews, you can begin
to reap the benefits of this enhanced requirement. With
each successive review, you should refine your skills in
data gathering, analysis, assessment, decision making and
ISO 9001:2000 provides a more detailed list of organizational
features to include in the review than the 1994 version
did. However, it’s still generic enough to ensure
that an organization selects the indicators that most truly
reflect its status as well as its quality management systems.
The quality policy and objectives established by top management
serve as primary indicators of what must be reviewed. These,
in turn, should determine what you select to monitor and
measure. Therefore, executive management--not the ISO 9001
management representative or quality manager--is ultimately
responsible for input to the review process.
If, for example, you have an organizational objective to
achieve 100 percent on-time delivery, then you must know
what your current on-time delivery record is. Once this
is known, questions arise as to what activities create the
greatest detriment to delivery and what metrics will most
efficiently and consistently provide data about achieving
the goal. Conversely, they may also help you discover what
obstacles and challenges must be addressed if you haven’t
made any progress toward the goal.
Appropriate metrics must be established and their significance
interpreted. Using the on-time delivery example, a database
might indicate the day an order was entered, the agreed-upon
shipping date, any revised shipping dates and the actual
day the material went out. The company must then ascertain
what measure it will use for delivery performance. Will
it be the originally promised date or the renegotiated concession
it received from the customer?
In some volatile markets, wherein customers have frequent
production fluctuations resulting in scheduling changes,
the way in which you measure your capacity to meet on-time
requirements is often an elusive and daunting undertaking.
The conversation at the management meeting quickly digresses
into a series of protests about how the numbers don’t
really reflect the instances when XYZ Co. calls and shortens
its delivery date by two weeks. Thus, regardless of the
indicator being measured, it’s important to establish
what the numbers truly reflect.
Once you’ve established reliable metrics for on-time
delivery, you can look at the processes that affect the
metric and decide what you’ll monitor and measure.
Section 8 of ISO 9001:2000 provides useful information for
this part of your process. Built into the clauses are requirements
for analyzing the precise information you need to make sound
Clause 8.4 requires you to monitor and analyze the following:
Conformity to product requirements
Characteristics and trends of processes and products, including
opportunities for preventive action
You’ve already measured one aspect of customer satisfaction
by analyzing your on-time delivery records. Analyzing data
in the other three categories will give you information
about which processes and organizational features negatively
affect delivery. Do records show that you’re rejecting
a lot of material at final inspection, resulting in time-consuming
rework of nonconforming products? Do you have aging equipment
that’s frequently down for repair? Has the spike in
the use of temporary employees in a particular department
outpaced your ability to train them adequately? Have there
been repetitive occurrences of substandard material delivered
by a key supplier? You can’t ascertain the magnitude
of the effect any of these processes have on the stated
objective if you’re not monitoring and measuring them.
The features you measure should provide you with the information
you need to make decisions about where, and to what extent,
you’ll allocate your limited resources. The various
process owners are responsible for gathering the raw data
and presenting them to you in a format that’s helpful
in making those decisions.
In many organizations, committing to fact-based decision
making has led to a proliferation of data gathering. Unfortunately,
without considering what you measure and how you do so,
you end up with a lot of numbers that don’t really
mean anything. Spend some time selecting the best indicators,
and then ensure consistency in the monitoring, measurement
and analysis of the data that’s produced. Apply the
Pareto principle to your decision. If a particular feature
or attribute has minimal influence on the stated objective,
why waste precious time measuring it? Concentrate on the
significant few. If you don’t know what’s significant,
then you must do an assessment and find out.
Clause 5.6.2 defines the inputs into management review.
Most have already been mentioned. There are also requirements
to review the results of internal audits--another valuable
tool for regularly assessing the status of your organization.
Additionally, one of the most underutilized tools contributing
to this process’s effectiveness is the requirement
to review and follow up on action items from previous reviews.
This ensures the continuity and relevance of performance
measures as indicators of achieving organizational objectives.
It also spawns the next iteration of the cycle, allowing
for adjustments to measurable goals and redeployment of
personnel and resources.
Planning and preparation are as critical to management
review as they are to any other process in the organization.
Along with the need to gather data is the requirement to
ensure that individuals have the resources to produce the
requisite analysis. Resources might include:
Training on tools such as SPC, spreadsheets and databases
Time to analyze data
Familiarity with the requisite format for presenting data
Providing these resources offers the added benefit of communicating
the value management places on the contribution these process
owners can make. Let them know that what they do matters.
Once all the process owners understand what they must provide,
it’s possible to begin planning the review.
Frequency should be determined early on. A semiannual review
schedule doesn’t tie up managers with many extra meetings.
But frequency also contributes to the review’s reputation
as an important function. Unfortunately, infrequent meetings
minimize the opportunity for the interactions that form
the cornerstone of the review. If you meet only once or
twice a year, then you lose the chance to adjust measurable
objectives and allocate resources in a timely manner. You’re
also deprived of the ability to use the data analysis tool
to respond in real time to changes in the company. Therefore,
the review’s frequency should be decided not as a
matter of convenience but in light of its potential effectiveness.
The setting is also important. The worth that you assign
to the review is reflected in your selection of meeting
place. If you meet in an area that’s cramped, poorly
lit, lacking appropriate audio/visual equipment or otherwise
unsuitable, participants will perceive the review in the
same tawdry light.
The person responsible for organizing the review, usually
the ISO 9001:2000 management representative, should be given
adequate time to plan and prepare. There should be an agenda
that includes reports on all significant processes, opportunities
for preventive actions, follow-up from the last review,
re-assessment of the policy and objectives, and newly assigned
action items. The agenda should reflect the understanding
that the review plays a significant part in the company’s
strategic planning process. It should be conducted with
the same conscious intent and commitment.
Top managers must approach this process with their sleeves
rolled up, ready to do their part in fulfilling customer
requirements. This is their most important contribution
to customer satisfaction.
Denise E. Robitaille is a consultant, writer and trainer.
She’s also a lead assessor and certified quality auditor.
Much of her work involves assisting companies with implementing
and maintaining ISO 9001-compliant quality management systems.
She’s the author of The Corrective Action Handbook,
The Preventive Action Handbook,The Management Review Handbook
and The (Almost) Painless ISO 9001:2000 Transition,
all available from Paton Press (www.patonpress.com).