10 powerhouse steps to ISO 9001:2015 implementation success

A dartboard with three darts, one of them pinning an orange slip of paper saying ISO 9001 to the bullseye

There’s no denying ISO 9001:2015 implementation can be a complex and demanding process. But, over a million organisations across 170 countries think it’s worth the graft. As the International Organisation for Standardisation (the main ISO body) confirms: “The ISO 9000 family is the world’s most best-known quality management standard for companies and organizations of any size.”

After all, ISO 9001 implementation means you’re serious about delivering ultimate customer satisfaction, which entails its own rewards.

This includes increased business opportunities, opening doors that were previously closed. Additionally, ISO 9001 implementation also provides a solid framework and structure of management principles that skyrocket operational efficiently and drive continual improvement in all aspects of your business.

It all adds up to a compelling proposition. And to help you get started, here are 10 powerful ingredients that contribute to efficient ISO 9001 implementation and certification.

1 – Planning to Succeed

This may seem an obvious place to start, but a lack of planning is the downfall of many implementation projects. So, start at the very beginning by drawing up a realistic plan. For example, you’ll want to ensure fundamental elements such as:

  • Achievable timescales
  • Right resources in place
  • Relevant know-how

And if you’re not sure, don’t be shy about asking rather than taking a stab in the dark.

2 – Inspirational Leadership

Engaging with leadership is a non-negotiable requirement of ISO 9001 implementation, and not without good reason. In fact, Clause 5 of the standard focuses on leadership and the many ways your senior team need to lead from the front and demonstrate commitment to the quality management system (QMS).

Not to mention the sheer practicalities. The management team is also accountable for:

  • Providing necessary resources (internal and / or external)
  • Promoting continual improvement
  • Ensuring the Quality Policy and Quality Objectives are in place and consistent with the overall goals of the business

3 – Employee Engagement

The success of any project calls for buy in from top down and bottom up. The more you can get everybody’s buy-in to ISO 9001 implementation the better.

You can achieve this by consulting on key procedures with relevant employees and seeking their opinions. 

In addition, training and education across all levels is a surefire buy-in tool, providing your employees with sound understanding of the requirements of the standard, the Quality Policy and the quality principals they’re expected to work towards. This should ideally be updated on a continuous basis.

4 – Communication is Key

It’s good to talk. Accurate and timely communication is essential and best delivered by senior management for due gravitas. After all, if senior management don’t convey the right impression and messages about ISO 9001 implementation, employees are less likely to take the critical factors seriously.

A man’s hand holding a cartoon graphic of the word COMMUNICATION surrounded by related business symbols such as a lightbulb, cogs, a telephone handset and a briefcase.

5 – Develop a Framework

The importance can’t be underestimated of developing a solid framework on which to hang your guiding principles from. When all’s said and done, a Quality Policy is created with the needs of your clients and customer at heart. Your Quality Objectives are natural interlinking bi-products. It doesn’t get much more significant!

Accordingly, the development of a crystal clear Quality Policy and Quality Objectives provides everybody, from one end of your organisation to the other, with shared objectives, and notably, an understanding of their individual contributions.

6 – Infusion into Operations

A QMS doesn’t exist in isolation, just because it looks good on your company information. On the contrary, it touches every corner of your business. So, the more you involve managers and staff with ISO 9001 implementation, the more they’ll have a sense of ownership. This causes a ripple effect as they apply the requirements of the standard across all aspects of your operations. As a result, you’ll experience a deepened collective commitment to quality, with everyone working to the same operational procedures and goals.

7 – Evaluate performance

Monitoring and measuring progress is part and parcel of the upkeep of robust ISO 9001 implementation. Beyond maintenance, it also helps improve your system. So, start evaluating as soon as it’s practicable.

For example, you might decide to use one or more of the following methods to fully understand whether your system conforms to requirements:

  • Measuring against KPIs
  • Using audits
  • Conducting a gap analysis

Whichever method you choose, be prepared to allocate additional resources if necessary, to avoid delays and / or bottlenecks.

A male arm in a black suit and white shirt, holding a black marker pen, and the word EVALUATION and three horizontal ticked boxes.

8 – Review from the Top

After evaluating performance, get it rubber stamped by conducting a management review. Bear in mind that no auditor wants to assess a QMS that hasn’t yet been approved by senior management. The ultimate say-so from the top is essential to upholding a QMS that meets and exceeds expectations. 

9 – Put Wrongs Right

The findings of your performance evaluations and management reviews provide signposts. How? Because the results inform and dictate how you go about addressing any inconsistencies.

This includes a two-pronged attack consisting of:

  • Corrective actions to address any inconsistencies
  • Preventative actions so any inconsistencies don’t recur

A word of warning on this point! Whatever you do, don’t try to mask any inconsistencies or sweep them under the carpet. No short cuts. Pinpoint the origins and deal with them, regardless of additional time, effort and expense. If you don’t, an auditor won’t be impressed if they unearth inconsistencies you already know about, but haven’t dealt with. 

10 – Continually Improve

A QMS is a living and breathing entity, not a ‘one and done’ solution. ISO 9001 implementation requires permanent careful maintenance and improvement. Why wouldn’t it? It’s your bedrock and change enabling force for benchmarking performance, correcting problems, and continually striving to ensure your business is the best version of itself. Unsurprisingly, your system it will evolve over time alongside your business journey.

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