ISO 9000 and More

Bonus material and deleted scenes

by R. Dan Reid

DVDs have become a very popular form of home entertainment. Movies released on DVD often feature bonus material and deleted scenes. Wouldn't it be nice if readers of print material could have this option from time to time!

This is a quality publication, so to delight rather than simply satisfy readers, I offer some bonus material unpublished in previous columns.

A Problem, Well Defined

First, what is a problem? In clause 2.10, ISO 9000:2000 discusses the use of statistical techniques in solving or preventing problems--thus improving effectiveness and efficiency.

The word "problem" is found in ISO 9004:2000 more often, a fact we will discuss later, but it is not actually defined in the ISO 9000 family of documents. The ISO directives specify dictionaries to be used for definitions of common terms not otherwise defined in ISO 9000 deliverables. One dictionary defines "problem" as "an unwelcome or harmful matter needing to be dealt with and overcome, or a thing that is difficult to achieve."1 Most often problem solving is used in this necessary but negative context, for example, in addressing nonconforming products or processes.

Another somewhat accepted definition of the term "problem" is anything that deviates from what is considered normal. In the context of process management, this definition does not address incapable processes.

For example, if an administrative process is designed so it works right the first time 80% of the time and meets management expectations, there is no perceived problem. Managing the exceptions is viewed as part of the job. Such a view on the part of management was a matter of great concern to W. Edwards Deming.

In Six Sigma terms, the process in the preceding paragraph is operating at between a two and three sigma capability. In reality, this tolerates variation in the process and creates barriers to flow, increases lead time, drives rework and adds to cost of poor quality.

An incapable process should be viewed as a problem or an opportunity for improvement waiting to be identified. In process management it is critical that adequate process capability be designed in and achieved before the emphasis shifts to process control. Processes, including administrative or support ones, should be designed to produce the desired result all the time.

Note the word "problem" is found only two times in ISO 9001:2000--in clauses 7.3.4 on design and development review and 8.5.3 on preventive action. Most organizations place a premium on problem solving ability. This is reflected in employee reward and recognition programs and can be counterproductive to achieving world-class quality because it often creates a fire fighting culture rather than one that focuses on prevention.

In ISO 9001:2000, "problem" is used in the more positive context of preventing its occurrence as opposed to preventing recurrence (corrective action). Problems should be viewed as opportunities for improvement. Thus, problem solving should be integral to improvement--both continual improvement and innovative improvement.

According to ISO 9004:2000, clause 8.5.1, "Management should continually seek to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of the processes of the organization, rather than wait for a problem to reveal opportunities for improvement. Improvements can range from small-step ongoing continual improvement to strategic breakthrough improvements."

Furthermore, ISO 9004:2000, clause includes problem solving among the skills for which training should be considered, and clause 7.4.2 recommends suppliers be evaluated, in part, for their performance in responding to problems.

Most problem solving models have some common elements, such as identifying, containing, analyzing root cause, implementing action(s) and verifying the effectiveness of action(s) taken. However, there is another dimension to problem solving--complexity.

Problem Solving and Complexity

All problems are not created equal, as depicted in Figure 1. An individual can solve some problems alone. For others, he or she will need help from other individuals, teams or experts.

The bottom of the pyramid in Figure 1 represents the simple problems individuals can solve independently using their expertise or available tools. For example, a cut finger can be addressed by cleansing, application of an over-the-counter antibiotic and application of a bandage. A machine shop operator may note a trend in control chart data over time indicating the deterioration of a drill bit and the need for a bit replacement prior to failure.

Opportunities for improvement at this level can result in continual improvement--small incremental improvements anyone can make on a daily basis.

The next level of the pyramid represents problems too complex for an individual to solve alone. A sinus infection may require a prescription antibiotic from your physician. A near depletion of raw material for a machine operator due to nonconforming material in process may require earlier than expected replenishment from a material handling person.

At this problem complexity level an individual needs the help of another--a supervisor, peer or subject matter expert--to solve the problem. Problems in this category can also be opportunities for continual improvement.

The next level of problem complexity includes those that require a cross functional team to solve. These problems can be quickly resolved with appropriate cross functional input leveraging the intellectual capital in the organization.

This is the type of problem solving alluded to by ISO 9004:2000, clause 6.6, which talks about the need to establish two-way communication at appropriate levels within organizations and their suppliers to provide "rapid solution of problems and to avoid costly delays or disputes."

In the late 1980s, General Electric developed and used a rapid cross functional process called Work Out workshops to make decisions and solve problems.2 Kaizen workshops are another example of this level of problem solving.

The top of the pyramid in Figure 1, representing the fewest but most complex problems facing an organization, includes those that are long-term and require cross functional teams with appropriate experts to solve. Tools such as Six Sigma, statistical engineering, design of experiments and benchmarking are appropriate.

In clause 7.3.3, ISO 9004:2000 indicates top management should ensure appropriate people are assigned to manage and conduct systematic reviews to determine whether design and development objectives are met. These top management representatives should include experts. Problem identification and correction are listed among items these reviews should include.

This is also the level in Figure 1 (p. 90) where innovation happens. Organizations typically depend on experts for innovative improvements, which occur sporadically but provide quantum leaps in efficiency and effectiveness. This type of improvement takes time and much work compared to continual improvements that can be made by everyone for problems of less complexity.

RASIC (or RASCI) Charts

A RASIC (responsible, approves, supports, is informed and is consulted), also known as RASCI, chart is a simple tool that can be used to identify roles and responsibilities in a process to make sure ownership, approval, support, consultation and communication responsibilities are assigned. An example of a RASIC is provided in Figure 2. Completing a RASIC requires a detailed understanding of the process. A RASIC can be used effectively with process flowcharts.

The RASIC chart has only a few rules. Steps of a process are listed. One, and only one, person or function is designated as responsible for each step. A person to be consulted for a given step generally has a stronger relationship to the responsible party than a person with a support role. It is not necessary that each step have other roles such as "approves" or "is consulted" designated. Generally, more process definition is better if it is applicable.

Anyone completing a RASIC should carefully consider who needs to be informed at each step of a process. Effective communication, especially in a large organization, is difficult and must be planned and provided for. This is one of the key benefits of a well designed document control process. It will ensure those who need to know do indeed know and those who do not need to know will not.

According to Jack Welch, former chairman of General Electric, the secret to success is to make sure all key decision makers have access to the same facts.3 Using a RASIC chart to define who needs to be informed can lead to process designs capable of driving effective communication all the time.

Problem Solving and Conformity Assessment

What all this means is that there is an opportunity, at least in sector specific areas, for independent certification bodies to drive improvement in concert with accreditation bodies and organizations' customers.

Problem identification is usually the first step in any disciplined problem solving model. In the course of auditing, certification bodies, as part of a cross organizational team (Figure 1, levels 3-4, p. 90), can help identify problems in the context of opportunities for improvement. Organizations have supplier quality and internal quality functions with resources to solve problems but are not always aware of the opportunities that exist in their supply chains.

To address confidentiality issues between the certification bodies and their clients, accreditation bodies could provide a buffer for communication of appropriate information to customer organizations. Corrective action by suppliers could then be prioritized by customers based on the significance of the problems, as recommended by ISO 9004:2000, clause 8.5.2. The result could be improved quality and customer satisfaction with both supplier organizations and the third-party certification process.


1. Concise Oxford Dictionary, 10th Edition, Oxford University Press, 1999.

2. Robert Slater, Jack Welch and the GE Way, McGraw Hill, 1999, p. 149.

3. Ibid.

R. DAN REID, an ASQ Fellow, is a purchasing manager at GM Powertrain. He is co-author of the three editions of QS-9000, ISO Technical Specification 16949; the Chrysler, Ford, GM Advanced Product Quality Planning With Control Plan; the Chrysler, Ford, GM Production Part Approval Process, Third Edition; the Chrysler, Ford, GM Failure Modes and Effects Analysis manuals; and ISO 9001:2000. He was also the first delegation leader of the International Automotive Task Force.

If you would like to comment on this article, please post your remarks on the Quality Progress Discussion Board on www.asqnet.org, or e-mail them to editor@asq.org.

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