If not, then you probably don’t keep your promises as a company. A company’s integrity depends on its ability to keep its Management System up-to-date. This requires quality management tools that people want to use.
Your personal integrity depends on your ability do what you say you will do. It depends on how you keep your intentions and your actions in sync. Most people intuitively know how crucial their integrity is for their abilities to form lasting relationships with others. Strangely enough, this is rarely a topic when it comes to companies. This post is about how your quality management tools (e.g ISO 9001:2008) may be keeping you from connecting your intentions with your actions as a business.
The marketing material promises one thing and the company delivers something else. In the same way as a lack of integrity harms our trustworthiness as individuals it harms our company’s reputation and long-term health. The challenge is that for a management team to improve a company’s integrity it needs to know what it says and what it does. This is collected from what marketing materials say, what sales presentations say and what customer service representatives say. “What it does” is more difficult. Try asking this question to a manager: “How do you work in your organisation?” The answer will depend on who you ask. Some joke that 100 employees will give you 100 different answers. Most companies have no common way of articulating how they work. Not even when it comes to general, high-level work processes. It’s all in the heads of individuals. If you ask them this question again when they have had time to think, then some managers will point to something that most of them don’t really care about: Their Quality Management System.
Why should managers bother about whether or not their company’s QMS is up-to-date? ISO audits are only every two years. It’s all documentation and it doesn’t pay any salaries. This is the unofficial practice of many management teams. They implemented ISO 9001: 2008 perhaps as a way of reaching new customers, or as the result of pressure from existing customers or regulators. They did it because they had to. Not because they wanted to change their companies. Now the quality system, its procedures and work instructions are updated and an as-needed basis so the company can pass the coming audit. Quality management has become a marketing and sales expense, or perhaps a documentation expense that is tolerated in the same way as IT documentation is.
Making Quality Management Tools more relevant for people
This approach to QMS represents a huge missed opportunity. Companies spend a lot of resources and energy on implementing ERP and CRM systems, branding and team development. All of this has little value of the company is merely a collection of individuals that don’t really work together because they have no common language or frame of reference. Their quality management system could become this. However, it would require changes to what the QMS is, how it is updated, presented and how and when everybody uses it.
A typical set of quality management tools is based on a collection of documents based on templates that describe the company’s work practices in excruciating detail. Quality management documents are stored in physical binders or on a shared drive. After the initial introduction, the only people that go there are the ones that have to. They then read through countless pages to find the few lines with the procedure they need. No wonder that this is not part of everyday work practice.
It doesn’t have to be this way. ISO 9001 does not require a certain level of documentation. It also doesn’t require everything to be stored in physical documents that resemble government legislation. Quality management systems could have the interface of LinkedIn. They could connect people with procedures relevant to their roles. It could be about a minimum level of documentation in everyday language that was updated de-centrally by the people who owned each procedure or work practice. It could be a pivot of an internal social network with an ongoing dialogue of how people worked. People that reflected on their own work practices and those of their colleagues could replace the external audits as mechanisms for aligning what the company says it does and what it does. That would make an audit a formality.
Call for co-creators
At Gluu we’re working with new approaches to keeping quality management tools up-to-date and relevant for the people that work with them. We’re currently working with companies in prof. services but are looking for experienced Quality professionals from other industries who are interested in exploring new ways of engaging people in a company’s QMS.