QMS Guidance Pt. 2 – ISO 9001 Clause 5

Clause 5 is all about Leadership and with the exception of Policy, is really a very difficult clause to approach from a ‘prepare to be audited’ perspective. My advice, prepare the Policy and forget about being audited, concentrate instead on the Senior Management Team’s (SMT) intentions if you want to use the standard as a model for how to run your organisation to get the most value out of it for all (interested) parties.

Clause 5.1

Clause 5.1 concerns itself with Leadership and Commitment and refers to the ‘Top Management’. In smaller organisations this will probably mean the Directors but in larger or more complex organisations this will mean those in charge, or the SMT. This clause is split into two distinct sections;

5.1.1 – the general direction of travel, and

5.1.2 – customer focus

Clause 5.1.1

Essentially Clause 5.1.1 is a bullet list of what at first blush looks like requirements but in fact would be very difficult to provide evidence for when auditing. So if its just a certificate for the wall you’re after this clause can be largely breezed through but if you’re committed to the standard dare I say, it looks like a great starting point for developing a familiarisation and training program for the SMT.

This clause is all about the SMT being involved in the development stages of the QMS so when questioned by auditors and customers they shouldn’t find themselves wanting for information. As a Quality Manager (or Consultant) don’t be tempted to use this clause to try to make the SMT do things or provide things they feel uncomfortable doing or providing. Its there to help you to help the SMT understand what the QMS delivers.

Clause 5.1.2

Another bullet list, although shorter and this one is concerned with ‘Customer Focus’.

To level with you here, as an Auditor of a number of Documented Management Systems I really don’t think you have to try too hard with this one. I cant see how an organisation isn’t customer focused, but I suppose its possible (the only time I think you might have a struggle with this one is if the organisation is actively deceiving its customers, but in this case I suggest the organisation has a greater problem than getting through an ISO 9001 audit).

Like 5.1.1 the clause could be used as a great agenda for SMT familiarisation and training.

The trick here with this clause is getting the SMT to see the benefit of adopting the concept of the internal customer, not just the paying customer. If you go back to clause 4.4 where the organisation was mapped in terms of linked processes, at each process interface the internal customer is the part of the organisation receiving the outputs from the previous process, et voila, internal customers!

By adopting the internal customer concept the effect is that the product and service is much more likely to be right at the end point, or if you want to put a financial spin on it, when all of the cost of production has been added in. So by adopting the internal customer concept the cost of non-conformance is minimised as a consequence of the process. Or to say in another way, doing something right first time is the quickest and most cost effective way of doing something, and adopting the internal customer concept facilitates this.

Clause 5.2

So now we’re at Policy. The Quality Policy is in simple terms a statement of intent about the product and service that is promised. Its a statement that should encompass the organisational philosophy regarding Quality and should be understood in its most basic form by all who have to deliver on the promise.

The clause requires the Policy to say, and require the organisation to do a few things but leaves the detail up to the organisation. I would always recommend keeping the Quality Policy Statement as simple as possible and to the point. Its not a marketing slogan, neither is it there to make the SMT seem really clever, but it should mean something (otherwise apart from being required by the standard, whats the point?).

The wider benefits of a Quality Policy could be debated, especially when an organisation really ‘lives’ its purpose but the major direct benefit lies in it being a backstop resource for employees and staff when in doubt as to direction and intention. When all else fails go back to the Policy and use it to test what might be being proposed as a course of action.

The standard does require the Quality Policy Statement to be documented and maintained, which is a way of saying review the policy on a regular basis for appropriateness.

Clause 5.3

Yet another bullet list, this time about Organisational Roles, Responsibilities and Authorities. This is the clause where the SMT gets to assign jobs and responsibilities to those in the organisation who are going to make sure the QMS is operated as intended.

The key word here is ‘assigned’ which by implication means that the person or persons who are going to be responsible know they’re responsible, have been provided with adequate resources, have appropriate levels of authority to act and have the required level of competence to do the work. In effect then the SMT must have spent some time and made some effort in deciding the best way of assigning work given their leadership role, commitment to the QMS, customer focus and the documented Quality Policy.

The Key Take-Aways

Take-Away # 1 – if you treat 5.1.1. as a training agenda for the SMT, they should have a greater degree of buy-in and there really should be less surprises down the line

Take-Away # 2 – by implementing customer focus right the way through the organisation via the concept of the internal customer you should wind-up with less non-conformance, speedier delivery of goods and services, right first time and a lower cost base of provision

Take-Away # 3 – a simple but well written Quality Policy can be understood by all and act as a back-stop in times of uncertainty

Take-Away # 4 – assigning work to those who are competent, resourced and given authority to act will ensure the QMS works well for all

Philip Dawson MBA | Strategy Consultant | Trainer | Systems Thinker | Growth & Innovation Enthusiast

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