Sunday, June 20, 2021
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Hell, there are no rules here, we’re trying to accomplish something. (Edison) – is ISO 9001 a help or a hindrance!

Yesterday I had a meeting with someone who works with SME’s to help them win business from public sector organisations, we chatted at length about the number of businesses they work with that often do not have suitable business frameworks in place to support them through this process and the subsequent growth that would come from winning a tender.

There tends to be a fear among business leaders that their business will become overly bureaucratic if they work to the requirements of the international management standards such as ISO 9001 (quality) & 14001 (environment).  But these standards have become widely viewed as the benchmark for measuring how well a business is run that they have the highest weighting with public sector procurement managers but why is this so?

Last weeks significant meeting was with the head of procurement of a local borough council, accompanying Jill Poet from ORB (The Organisation for Responsible Business), he explained why they rate the ISO management standards so highly when reviewing tenders; as tax payers, we all need to believe that our council is spending our money wisely and management standards provide him with confidence that a business is run soundly and is capable of delivering the promised products or services.  Would you be happy if your council using your money to employ cowboys?

ISO 9001 in particular provides a very broad approach to business management, each clause touches on a specific core business activity such as training, product design or communication but does not dictate how an individual business should go about it.  By taking this approach, it is possible for every business to shape its management system to fit in with its own way of working.

In addition to a manual which contains information such as your statement of intent (policy), objectives and organisation etc.  there are only 6 mandatory documented procedures (which easily can be merged to 3), each of which has a very real place in business management as follows:

Contol of Documents – How do you ensure everyone is singing from the same song sheet?

Control of Records – Ensuring records are kept in good order

Internal Audit – Checking your business is working effectively

Control of Non-conforming Product – How do you make sure a faulty widget doesn’t end up with your customers.

Corrective Action – What do you do when something goes wrong?

Preventive Action – You anticipate something could go wrong, how do you prevent it?

There are likely to be addtional procedures each business needs but, depending on the knowledge, experience and skills of staff, may or may not require documentation in the early stages of a management system's development.

ISO 9001 is a pragmatic business management tool which can help your business run more smoothly and your customers will love you for it because they know they’ll be able to count on you to deliver quality products and services on time, every time.

Having no rules has its place in business, it remains important to be able to tap into your creative side to allow ideas to flow but in the day to day running of your business, using tried and tested business management methods can support a business through the practicalities of day to day operations and growth.