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by John R. Broomfield

All the News That’s Printed to Fit
Quality publications should focus more on systems management.

 

 

Why is there so much reporting about ISO 9001 registration that doesn’t really matter? “ISO certificates aren’t being renewed fast enough to meet the Dec. 15, 2003, deadline.” Who cares? Counting the number of certificates isn’t a reliable, much less informative, measurement. Very little media attention is paid to more relevant nuances of the issue, such as whether companies are consolidating their certificates, putting off the update under the certification rules for other system standards such as AS9100, TL 9000 and ISO/TS 16949, or simply ignoring their management systems altogether.

Quality professionals would be better served if quality organizations and journals helped them understand, appreciate and achieve the benefits of process-based management systems that also happen to conform to ISO 9001 and/or the many derivative system standards.

Yes, quality experts must become system professionals so that their employers can confidently assure the public that requirements will be met even as they reduce the delivery costs of products that “wow” customers. But what help does the quality profession receive from its societies and publications? ISO 9000 is included in indexes among the generic list of standards instead of a more specific category.

International systems standards are meant to help us unify controls up and down global supply chains so they’re easier to manage. Since 1987, organizations have been advised through ISO 9001 to focus on the processes and related functions that interact within their management systems. But instead, the quality media portray ISO 9000 registration as “just another hoop to jump through.”

The resulting mindset engenders thinking that leads even well-meaning professionals and organizations to call their bulky collections of documents “ISO systems.” Ask their executives if they expect their businesses to operate using their system as it’s documented and they’ll respond: “Of course not. The only reason we have that documentation is for ISO registration.” Meanwhile, the management systems actually running these organizations remain neglected and poorly understood.

Business leaders benefit from successful management system development projects. They and their teams understand how quality management system processes interact and add value. They use and improve their process-based management systems in order to remain competitive. But what are the benefits, exactly? How are process-based management systems developed, used and improved? How are the returns on investment measured in real time?

Finding answers to these questions in journals claiming to serve evolving quality professionals is nearly impossible. Instead of process-based management systems, we read about shortcuts to registration and problems associated with conformity assessment. Instead of clarifying issues involved with process-based management systems, articles endorse ready-made documents and lament the problems of conformity assessment under the ISO 9000 banner. Naturally, this leads to yet more misunderstanding and disdain.

Organizations can be transformed and sustained using the information from their process-based management systems. How is this achieved? Quality management systems include processes to gather and analyze system data. Which processes? Where do these data come from? How are they analyzed? How can they be persuasively presented to influence decision-making? Such information would lead to timely decisions that could prevent loss while enabling organizations to add value more effectively.

Instead of filling the pages of quality journals with easy reporting about ISO 9000 registration, we should contribute our insights on developing, using and improving process-based management systems. How about focusing on the paramount importance of business management systems?

Management systems help customer-driven processes convert customer needs into cash more quickly than our competitors. We need articles that address systems thinking, efficiency measurements, and data-driven continual improvement of systems and their processes. How do we use these systems to become more effective and efficient, and to deliver products that enhance customer loyalty? What are the connections among a system, its processes and its products? Helpful articles toward this end would include:

System conformity to ISO 9001 before investing in Six Sigma

Legal implications of ignoring a national systems standard

Removing root causes underlying nonconforming processes

Changing “blame culture” thinking

Data sources for removing root causes of potentially adverse events

Improving national productivity for better quality of life

Improving the rate at which a core process adds value to input

Improving customer loyalty beyond customer satisfaction reports

Developing sustainability beyond simply limiting adverse environmental effects

We deserve better from our quality journals and media. Let’s have the news that matters to system professionals.

About the author

John R. Broomfield heads the consulting firm Quality Management International Inc. He maintains www.aworldofquality.com to guide developers of process-based management systems.