Seven ideas for involving top managers in quality management systems

quality management systems

The new ISO 9001: 2015 standards have arrived with the message that top-level management themselves need to be involved in quality management systems. How do you make this happen in practice? Here are seven ideas that have already been tried and tested.

Several experts consider the new ISO 9001: 2015 standards to be an(other) attempt at making quality management systems a completely integrated part of doing business and something that concerns everyone. This ambition demands that top-level management do less delegating of the task and themselves be more engaged in the process.

Some companies have already received the new ISO 9001: 2015 standards with open arms. Here, we are talking mainly about companies with a high level of maturity in their quality management systems, where the task is integrated fully into the day-to-day work. However, many other companies have to make a concerted effort in order to get management to take quality management systems more seriously. Here, the quality manager can do a lot. Maybe you’re exhausted just thinking about it? Here are seven concrete ideas to arouse the interest of top-level management in quality management systems.

Ideas to arouse the interest of top-level management in quality management systems

1. Drop internal quality jargon

As far as communication is concerned, the old saying about “old wine in new bottles” actually applies. Do away with internal quality jargon by identifying those words that make the eyes of top-level managers glaze over. For example, you can start by replacing the words “quality system” with “the way we work” and maybe talk less about “quality” and more about “ongoing improvements”. Words that make the eyes of every top-level manager light up. While we’re at it, it may be a good idea to drop the word “quality” or its derivatives, such as QHSE, as names for functions or departments. This alienates the rest of the organization to the term.

2. Find an example of your quality cost savings

One thing that will get the attention of even the most swamped top-level manager is a concrete impact on the bottom line. Here, you can talk to your colleagues to come up with some good examples of how your quality management system has led to completely concrete savings. Then, layout a brief business case over what can be saved if you use the same method in more locations, in more cases, in more product lines, etc.

Remember to pepper the case with a few good quotes from the involved employees and send a well-written case out through the internal communication channels. That’s how you sell solutions – even internally!

3. Talk about improvements instead of documentation

Far too often, the QA department is perceived as the “documentation department”. This perception causes QA management to end up in the same category as things like server operation – a necessary expense that creates no added value, but rather should be as low as possible. One way to get the attention of top-level management is by looking across processes and finding places where there may be a waste. This is because department and function leaders don’t see the entire value chain, so this is where the talented quality manager has a chance to make interdepartmental improvements.

4. Make instructions and systems sexier

We are all people before being employees and top-level managers. As people, we have no desire to look at or use anything that is outdated, ugly or inconvenient. Unfortunately, this description fits most management systems. Heavy, document-based systems in SharePoint that more than anything hearkens back to governmental forms. No wonder, top-level management would rather look at the new company video from the marketing department. An easy way to spruce up your system is by adding visual work instructions. For instance, you could create an instructional video instead of a written procedure. This article shows you how to create visual work instructions easily.

5. Make QA reports part of customer delivery

Why not include a QA report with customer delivery? That way you can tell the customer about the thorough process behind the production. Perhaps with names of some of those who participated. This way, you increase the visibility of the quality work and differentiate yourselves from those who merely have their ISO certificate hanging on the wall. This way, you also fulfil the increased focus of ISO 9001: 2015 of creating value for both the company and its customers.

6. Make the processes behind the good customer experience visible

There are (hopefully) processes behind each of the customer’s points of contact. Do you know what they are? Does your top-level management know? If you don’t, how will you be able to improve the customer experience? This is a good opportunity for a workshop. Invite top-level management, so together you can increase your understanding of the way quality and customer satisfaction go hand in hand.

7. Involve colleagues in quality management systems

It is easier to involve top-level management when the rest of the employees are already involved. When everyone is talking about “the way we work” and referring to that live spot “where we ourselves have described those standards we agreed on”, this will pique the interest of top-level management, so they will get on board.

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