With the changes to ISO9001 imminent, Ruth Mortby from Nuvia Ltd and the Next Generation Network looks at the CQI’s competency framework.
The framework stands as the definition of what it means to be a quality professional in a modern business, and the role we have to play.
The changes to 9001 will re-adjust the world’s perspective of quality and what it means to a business.
It follows that the quality professional of the future will need to be able to understand and deliver against the expectations from this new perspective.
So how well do they line up? How do these two tools help us deliver what is right for our businesses in the modern world?
The sections below come from the CQI guide to ISO9001:2015, particularly around the summary of principal changes.
9001 changes what leadership looks like. There is now a need for top management to actively engage in the operation of their quality management system. However, think for a moment about what a quality management system is – the system of management designed to deliver the business objectives. In other words, the quality of the management of the business.
So really, what we are saying is that the management need to engage with what is happening in their business. This is natural for most businesses – otherwise they would not be operating.
What this means for the quality professional is therefore a new perspective on what quality is and its role in the organisation. Quality has stopped being an isolated entity and has become ‘the way we do things around here’.
The CQI says we need to use our leadership behaviours to maximise influence and develop a culture of evaluation and improvement.
Use this change in 9001 to be a quality advocate – engage with the top management, show them how the skills behind good governance, agile assurance and evaluation and improvement can help their business, and showcase their leadership of their business as what quality is.
This one is all about the stakeholders. A business must understand its stakeholders, their needs and expectations, and their potential impact on its ability to deliver.
This makes good business sense – know what is coming your way whilst you still have time to do something about it.
To know how fundamental this is to the role of the quality professional, just count the number of times the word ‘stakeholder’ appears in the competency framework (its 12). It underlies all 5 elements of the competency framework. This ability to understand different stakeholders and communicate with them is core to the skill set of the modern quality professional.
So, go out there and use your skills as a stakeholder advocate. Your business knows its context and stakeholders. Help them structure and evidence this knowledge and use it as governance to drive assurance and improvement.
With the 2015 revision, we see a stronger focus on the scope of the management system.
We have already identified that the management system is now about the organisation’s approach to management. The scope of the system is therefore the scope of the business (or part business if it’s complicated).
Much of this will already be in place, but this new emphasis gives the quality professional a unique opportunity to look across business functions and hierarchies at the whole of the business.
The holistic view of the organisation is essential when defining scope and understanding the impact it has on the business and its system of management. Use the skills of the systems thinker to see the bigger picture and help your organisation define the boundaries.
This hinges around clause 4.4 of the new standard and the clarification of what a process approach looks like in practice.
In reality, what this does is it re-enforces that the management system has to be appropriate for the business. This brings us full circle to context and scope. Work out what is right for your business and do that, just make sure you justify the decisions you make.
Engage the management team. Help them understand that processes underlie how they do business. Making sure the processes are right will reduce waste and cut costs. Use the CQI leadership competencies of system thinking and motivation to establish a governance structure that really works.
Risk Based Thinking
For me, this concept is the one that makes the 2015 version of 9001 different. It is the attitude change that makes us stand out, and the definition of the profession for the future.
It is no longer acceptable to do something ‘because the standard says so’. As quality professionals, we have to learn to talk the language of risk and opportunity. We have to justify our actions based on potential costs and benefits and be held to account for the decisions we make.
The key word is ‘appropriate’. In this new world, we are expected to plan for quality based on clear risk analysis and the potential for things to go wrong. Everything we do comes down to the application of appropriate assurance – knowing how good is good enough.
This move finally forces quality into balance with cost and time – it doesn’t have to be perfect, it has to be good enough.
Looking to the competency framework, we see these same themes – ‘planning for quality to prevent potential problems’; ‘Evaluates risk’; ‘minimises operational risk’; ‘Identifies risks, failures and non-conformities’; ‘Supports the organisation in evaluating any problems and risks’.
Look at what you do day to day. Can you justify what you do based on understanding risk and applying appropriate assurance?
Can you validate your priorities based on the risks your actions mitigate?
The standard now recognises different types of improvement and potential triggers. This is important as it requires a business to understand the concept of improvement in the business wide context and recognise all the different ways in which it learns and grows.
Within the competency framework, improvement features as one of the five key competency sets and is one of the three elements of the vision for the profession. This is perfectly aligned with the standard where this important topic now stands alone in its own clause.
The skills of the quality professional are perfectly placed to support an organisation in understanding and managing its improvement processes.
Use the gathering insight and evaluating measures to drive fact-based decision making to prioritise improvement and motivate people to implement change.
Don’t forget the business context and stakeholder needs – after all, improvement is about performance and customer satisfaction.
Procurement now becomes ‘externally provided processes, products and services’ and re-focuses on applying risk based thinking.
This re-defines the boundaries of what we think of as supply chain assurance, but brings us back to the application of appropriate assurance. It is up to the business to decide what is appropriate and it falls to the quality professional to advise and support.
What does the management of external provision look like in your business? Is it appropriate and risk based? Use the skills of the quality coach to embed the principles of appropriate supply chain assurance in your approach.
The new revision moves away from documented procedures and quality records. We are now required to control, maintain and retain documented information and we can do this in any way that suits our business.
Again, the competency framework re-enforces this concept. Nowhere will you see the skills of writing procedures or managing records. Instead it talks about the flow down of management intent and the skills needed to ensure it is implemented in the right way for the business and its stakeholders.
You don’t need to do anything with this. A documented management system is still a good way to meet the requirements.
However, as a systems thinker, remember that the management system is the way that the business gets managed – the definition of management intent. Is you documented system right for your business? Does it truly reflect what actually happens? Is it necessary and appropriate? Does it work?
All of the skills described in the competency framework come together to answer this question – does the system of management deliver what the business needs?
I started out to explore the revision to ISO 9001 and the CQI competency framework. At every turn we see the parallels and alignment between the two.
The revision to this core quality standard is a big step towards meeting the quality profession challenge and creating a world with quality at the heart of every organisation.
These two important documents are completely on message with each other, building the professionals we need to deliver the vision of what quality means.
Our challenge now is to leverage the introduction of the new standard to change historical perceptions of the profession and establish effective systems and cultures of good governance, agile assurance and evaluation and improvement.
Welcome to the future.
Written by Ruth Mortby, Project Compliance and Quality Manager Nuvia Ltd and Next Generation Network’s Corporate Membership Officer