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 July 1997 Article

Training in a Quality Management System

by Dick Moore

People who hold quality-related positions in any organization are used to making judgments and drawing conclusions based on data rather than opinions, statistics as opposed to gut feel, objectivity vs. subjectivity, and structured problem solving compared with guessing.

But we would not have to randomly sample any such group of quality professionals to know that they all would say that training is absolutely necessary to produce a quality product or deliver a quality service. Would they defend their position by having conducted a designed experiment, used probability theory or relied on mathematical equations that only a few people understand? Of course not. They would support their conclusions by saying that the necessity for training is a given. In fact, few people would disagree that training is an important and necessary component used to support a quality management system.

If evidence were needed, consider the wide variety of training materials and services purchased each year. These include films, seminars, books, videos, CD-ROMs and internal and customized training programs offered by consultants and vendors. Even companies that utilize their own personnel as instructors can select from a number of train-the-trainer workshops, as well as courses designed to polish the presentation skills of experienced trainers or teach instructional techniques for new instructors. These examples could easily continue -- suffice it to say that an enormous amount of relevant information is available to help meet any training need. An American Society for Training and Development chapter publishes a typical list of topics and subject matter experts (see sidebar).


ISO 9000 training requirements

It should come as no surprise that training takes its place among such ISO 9000 requirements as quality system, documentation and data control, process control and control of nonconforming product. Training is element 4.18.

Training is a mandatory element in each of the following models:

 ISO 9001 and ISO 9002. Both standards state: "The supplier shall establish and maintain documented procedures for identifying training needs and provide for the training of all personnel performing activities affecting quality." Such procedures must be written, and followed by documentation that they have been carried out.

Also, companies must choose between a narrow or broad interpretation of this requirement. What kind of analysis is done to identify training needs, or is training automatically required? Should only technical and/or production-related personnel be trained using this standard, or should support personnel also receive training and follow written procedures to maximize their contribution to the quality management system?

ISO 9001 and ISO 9002 further state: "Personnel performing specific assigned tasks shall be qualified on the basis of appropriate education, training and/or experience, as required." Does your company document its criteria to meet this requirement, and is it able to show compliance?

Last, they state: "Appropriate records of training shall be maintained." From an auditor's point of view, unless the training is documented, it never occurred. Record-retention procedures are also a related part of this standard, and automated record keeping provides a relatively inexpensive and efficient way to maintain needed documentation and to indicate who needs additional training.

 ISO 9003. Most often used by equipment distributors and testing laboratories, this standard only requires adherence to final inspection and testing procedures. The training requirement is less comprehensive but still present. It requires appropriate experience and/or training, and maintenance of training records.

 ISO 9004. This standard is not intended for contractual, regulatory or certification purposes. But, as the standard states, "The quality system elements are suitable for use in the development and implementation of a comprehensive and effective in-house quality system, with a view to ensuring customer satisfaction."

It should not be surprising that training is also an important part of ISO 9004. What may be surprising is the amount of additional recommendations provided. Some examples follow:

"Particular attention should be given to the qualifications, selection and training of newly recruited personnel and personnel transferred to new assignments."

"Training should be given which will provide executive management with an understanding of the quality system, together with the tools and techniques needed for full executive management participation in the operation of the system."

"Training should not be restricted to personnel with primary quality assignments, but should include assignments such as marketing, purchasing, process and product engineering."

ASTD Greater Detroit Chapter Talent Bank Topics

Business Development

  • Business start-ups
  • Change management and reengineering
  • Organizational development
  • Strategic planning

    Career Development/ Enrichment/ Human Resources

  • Career development
  • Diversity
  • Employee assistance programs
  • Job skills and outplacement
  • Workplace educational programs


  • Interpersonal communication
  • Presentational and public-speaking skills
  • Written communication

    Personal/Employee Growth

  • Conflict resolution
  • Decision making
  • Leadership and supervision skills
  • Negotiating skills
  • Problem solving
  • Project management
  • Stress management
  • Team building
  • Time and priority management

    Training and Instructional Technology

  • Adult learning
  • Needs assessment
  • Customer service training
  • Instructional design
  • International training
  • Managing the training function
  • Motivational training
  • Sales training
  • Secretarial training
  • Technical skills
  • Computer-based training,
  • multimedia, etc.

  • "The need to assess periodically and/or require demonstrations of skills and/or capabilities should be addressed."

    "The need for quality should be emphasized through an awareness program which can include introduction and elementary programs for new personnel, periodic refresher programs for long-standing personnel, and provision for personnel to initiate preventive and corrective actions."

    QS-9000 training requirements

    QS-9000 includes all of ISO 9001, and element 4.18 asks one additional, significant training question: "Is training effectiveness periodically evaluated?" This emphasis considers training to be a strategic issue, not a one-time event. The extremely difficult task for any organization is to demonstrate a positive relationship between training and however it chooses to define effectiveness. This measure could include a customer satisfaction index, cost of quality evaluation or other appropriate variable.


    Is the situation I want to change a training problem, systems problem or an attitude/motivational problem? Or is it some of each?

    Training alone may not solve the problem

    There is a debate currently underway among some training professionals. Sometimes, time-honored and currently practiced concepts and ideas are recycled, repackaged and presented as insightful, state-of-the art information. Consider the label of performance consultant. This title seems to assume even more significance when it is understood that a performance consultant uses the broad resources of performance technology. This sounds impressive, and probably is. Performance consultants also should develop a number of core competencies, which could include:

     Systems thinking

     Business acumen

     Analytical and diagnostic skills

     Collaborative consulting capabilities

     Questioning skills

    Who would argue that these topics are not important?

    Labels are more useful if their limitations can be appreciated. Why should a performance consultant title imply that trainers only train? Anyone who wants to help an organization solve problems should accurately diagnose the problem. A knowledgeable trainer will be the first to agree that not all company problems or needs can be corrected by training. To use a medical model, the effectiveness of the treatment is related to the accuracy of the diagnosis. Treatment before diagnosis is malpractice.

    Consider a typical training request. Upper management has asked what appears to be a straightforward question: "What training is needed to translate the corporate mission statement from rhetoric on the wall to proactive actions and attitudes on the midnight shift?" To put the problem into a manageable perspective, begin with a basic diagnostic framework: Is the situation I want to change a training problem, systems problem or an attitude/motivational problem? Or is it some of each?

    To help fix the problem or make the desired changes, it should be acknowledged that while lack of training may be a contributing cause, other important possibilities should be considered and evaluated. As the problem-solving process continues, the trainer should ask relevant questions to make an accurate diagnosis and even spend some time on the midnight shift observing and obtaining information firsthand.

    This problem-solving process includes very basic, yet critical steps that should be taken to arrive at valid conclusions. It is not necessary to be called a performance consultant to use these skills (unless this is a preference), but it is necessary to use some type of framework to organize and make sense of raw data, observations and any other information.

    The diagnostic journey continues as the trainer defines the scope of the problem. It is essential to address the causes and not just the symptoms. Continuing with the example of the corporate mission statement, from the perspective of the person asking for the training, what specifically are people doing or not doing to support these goals and objectives? Is this observed in all areas, some departments or only one?

    The medical model can be used to rule out or confirm other possible causes of the problem in addition to training needs. If the person could do the job if his or her life depended on it, a training problem would be ruled out. Further questions might point to systems or situations beyond the person's control that prevent or impede the desired performance. If the person knows the job and what is expected, and there is nothing to interfere with what should be done, this suggests an attitude or motivational problem. And what about the critical and often overlooked role of supervisors? Do they have the basic skills needed to perform their important responsibilities: As leaders, they hold tremendous influence over the attitudes and actions of their employees.

    A rational approach to problem solving, a diagnostic framework to help determine root causes and the core competencies advocated by the proponents of instructional technology have been around long before the title of performance consultant first appeared. There is nothing wrong with this title, just as there is nothing wrong with the title of trainer.

    What a training professional does to solve problems is more important than a particular label. I must admit that the words "performance consultant" do have a certain initial appeal that the word "trainer" (technical, management development, software, etc.) may not enjoy. But after scratching the surface, what's underneath? What overall skills and capabilities do people with training responsibilities possess and practice to help make a competitive difference where they work by improving their quality management system?

    About the author

    Dick Moore is manager of human resources at Plastomer Corp., a QS-9000 registered manufacturing company in Livonia, Michigan. He is a member of Plastomer's QS-9000 Steering Committee, the American Society for Quality and the American Society for Training and Development.


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