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The following are excerpts from Quality Digest's web portal InsideQuality ( Be sure to visit InsideQuality and participate in one of our many forums.

Demonstrating management commitment

The revised ISO 9001 standard demands that top management be intimately involved in the organization's quality processes, requiring them to "actively demonstrate this commitment in measurable ways." How do we accomplish this? What kind of data do we need to show commitment in measurable ways?
--Helpless in Harrisburg

There are a number of ways top management can show their active participation and commitment to the quality management system, according to Kathy Roberts, co-author of ISO 9000:

2000 In a Nutshell (Paton Press, 2001). One is showing evidence of participation in the management review process, which is shown in the management review records. "Auditors will likely look for a list of attendees, documentation of issues discussed and actions for improvement documented," she explains. "The intent is to get away from top management having a 'hands off' philosophy. Auditors will interview management more to understand how they are actively participating."

 Another way auditors check management commitment is to look at the organization's quality management system planning. "What type of activities have been planned as a direct result of top management discussing the quality policy and quality objectives?" asks Roberts. "Auditors will be looking for the links between the policy, objectives and planning. This demonstrates that top management is playing a vital role in ensuring that the effectiveness of the quality management system is continually improved."


Surveillance audit frequency

Are ISO 9000 surveillance audits required by the RAB, or can you just have a complete audit done during the contract renewal period (every three years, in our case)?
 --Baffled in Baltimore

According to a source at the Registrar Accreditation Board, the RAB, as administrator of the U.S. National Accreditation Program, adheres to ISO Guide 62:1996, as do most accreditation bodies worldwide. Guide 62, Clause 3.6, Surveillance and Reassessment Procedures, states: "The certification/registration body shall carry out periodic surveillance and reassessment at sufficiently close intervals to verify that its suppliers whose quality systems are certified/registered continue to comply with the certification/registration requirements. Note 5: In most cases, it is unlikely that a period greater than one year for periodic surveillance would satisfy the requirements of this clause."

 Many accredited registrars conduct surveillance audits every six months, explains Jim Mroz, editor of "The Informed Outlook" newsletter. "I have heard of cases where registrars have reduced the frequency to once a year when the ISO 9001/2/3-registered quality system has been in place and free from nonconformances for a significant period of time," he says. "However, if your organization has just obtained --or is pursuing --registration, you can expect any good registrar to require twice-yearly surveillance audits until the system is in perfect shape. While these audits do interrupt the workings of an organization and cost money, they should benefit your organization by making employees adhere to the system and having an outside auditor assess the state of the system over time.

 The real question is: Is your organization getting its money's worth from its registrar? The fact that you are asking whether surveillance audits are required leads me to believe either that your organization doesn't expect much of such audits or that your registrar is not providing added-value service during these audits. It's up to you as the customer to seek the most bang for your buck out of something you must undergo and to complain to your registrar if the quality of service being provided by the auditors doesn't justify the expense and interruption. Value the ability of these auditors to assist your organization through objective insights into the workings of your system, but insist on such insights if you aren't already getting them."


How to launch a Six Sigma effort

I work for a PC manufacturer in Asia that wants to launch a Six Sigma effort. We've already completed an introduction course for top management. What's my next step? Should I just follow the DMAIC cycle? How do I create a roadmap for the whole project?
 --Sleepless in Singapore

Obviously, there is much to do. Begin with what your senior leaders were taught during their training, advises Tom Pyzdek, president of the International Quality Federation. "They were (we hope) presented with the basic principles and the need to lead the program from the top," he says. "This is a very complex path, which begins with preparing a deployment plan and manual. Although the focus needs to be on the customer, you need to begin with your top management. There's a lot more, but this may provide you with a starting point."


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