We are thrilled to be able to share with you the below article written by Edward Grissom, General Manager at DQS Lebanon. In the article Grissmon shares a conversation he had with one of their customers about transitioning to ISO 9001:2015 and shows the evolving opinion the customers can have about it when they are more informed about how it effects them.
“What happened to ‘Say what you do, and do what you say’? I have a million things to juggle, and I don’t have time to re-work our manual”. This was Jamil’s response to our conversation regarding the new ISO standard 9001:2015. His response is typical among our customers. Jamil is the owner and general manager of a successful family owned SME and aspires to greater growth. He appreciates the benefits that come with ISO certification; however, at times he feels the requirements go
beyond what he really needs. He was not convinced that he would actually benefit from having to update his QMS in order to comply with the new standard.
He listened as I explained the process ISO goes through in order to review and update one of its standards. We discussed market changes worldwide, changes in customer expectations, technological advances, changes in sector specific requirements and new organizational knowledge. Jamil said it was interesting. We further the discussed the process of the review, modification and approval of the new standard—including the amount of time and money invested, the type of experts that participate and the sources of input which comes from varying markets around the world. Jamil was impressed. However, he still was not convinced. His mood did change, however, as we began to discuss some of the details in the actual standard. The real value for him and his company began to become clearer: The new standard provides understanding, tools and vocabulary that moves his decision making process and his company’s control of its work from the intuitive to the analytical.
Jamil did not really understand my explanation of “Understanding the Context of the Organization”, until he realized that he had considered external and internal issues when he took over as General Manager from his father. Office and factory space are found only at a premium in our area. Inevitably, the most practical location for his business is the one that he inherited from his dad. He would have preferred to have rented a new space and built a factory from scratch, but given the company’s history, that was not possible. He said that the company name goes back a long time, and customers feel comfortable knowing that his products and service have a long history. He added
that had he moved to a new space, he also would have faced unwanted issues with his top managers’ commitment to the company. We expanded this discussion to incorporate other internal issues that Jamil had thought relevant, but had never considered such as updating equipment, the role of tradition regarding his brand and the challenge of increasing his work force with younger, more open-minded employees. Suddenly, understanding the context of his understanding by realizing internal issues he had already considered wasn’t so foreign. We experienced the same pattern regarding external issues. Immediately, he began to complain about the political deadlock in our country—there has been no trash service for 3 months. Although, trash is being picked up in his area, the government hasn’t resolved the issue. The government hasn’t appointed a president in
the past year. As a result, government contracts are held up and sometimes payment is slow. His list continued.
As he mentioned his problems with municipalities, we naturally began talking about interested parties. When he has looked over the standard himself, he admitted that he didn’t see any value in making his intertied parties. “I already know them.” Of course, the municipalities would be one, and I know what they want”, he said. However, after considering external issues, a light went on in his thinking. “But, that does make me think about a big problem we have. Invoices.–and not just from the municipalities. Sometimes we have outstanding invoices for months now. Folks are slower to pay, because it is taking time for them to get paid. They pay, but we need to nudge them a little.
Truthfully, sometimes we do the same thing. We have to put payment off for a week or two. Then we kind of forget. We will pay, but other things come up”. He barely finished the sentence when he looked at the QMR in his office, “We really do need a new procedure for tracking and assuring timely payment of invoices. We really didn’t need a strong procedure before. But, honestly, now we do”.
Jamil was beginning to lead part of the conversation now and even laughed when I moved on to Risk Based Thinking. Due to the unsteady security situation, he told me that he had bought an additional phone, and hired a driver to take his kids to school instead of the bus. He just felt safer having more direct contact with his kids on their to and from school. He said and it didn’t really cost that much more, because the bus wasn’t cheap as it is. A result, he started using “Whats App” texting and sending pictures to/from his kids. It was fun. He laughed because he realized he had employed “Risk Based Thinking” in his home. He wondered if there maybe some possible applications regarding the security and invoice situation in his business.
Rather than stop, I did continue on concerning the requirement of employing a process approach, and in particular, the requirement to measure whether these processes are achieving his desired results. Of course, Jamil was familiar with the process approach and did a good job of clarifying for his employees the steps needed for production and contact with customers. So, rather than explain that KPIs were needed for each process, I simply asked him what were the 3 most challenging decisions he had to make last year. Without thinking, he said, “Whether I bring on more drivers for delivery, expand our sales location into a partial production site as well, and whether I should replace one of my site managers. I’m still thinking about them, actually.” As he told me the information he was considering in order to take action of these decisions, it was clear some of the needed input would naturally be part of KPIs for certain processes. He began to appreciate that the value of the KPIs was not just making sure everything was going as planned. But, they also could provide helpful information that lead to smarter and quicker decisions.
We wrapped up our forty-minute meeting. Jamil was now looking forward to the new standard. Jamil had always been convinced that he would go forward with certification to 9001:2015, but now he was convinced that it provided specific advantages for him and his company. He no longer saw the transition from the old standard to the new as one more thing that he had to juggle, but a tool—in fact a strategic decision—to help him juggle all the things that inevitably are thrown his way.