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Volume 7 · Issue 12 · December 2002

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The ISO 9001:2000 PSI IDEAS Q&A: Question 7

The ISO 9001:2000 Product Support Initiative (PSI) was developed in 2001 by the US Technical Advisory Group (TAG) to ISO Technical Committee 176 to assist US organizations in understanding ISO 9001:2000, implementing quality management systems (QMSs) and continually improving those systems. As part of the PSI, the IDEAS (Information, Discussion, Examples, Analysis and Sources) program is designed to provide help to organizations during implementation.

Under the leadership of Jeanne Ketola, CEO of Pathway Consulting, Inc., and an active participant of the US TAG, IDEAS has launched a question and answer process aimed at providing a variety of perspectives on requirements of ISO 9001:2000 and the challenges they present to organizations using the standard. Each question is distributed by THE OUTLOOK’s Senior Editor to experts from the user community, the standards field and the registrar sector who have volunteered to provide their perspectives in answer to a given question. In addition, Jeanne Ketola and Morgan Hall, who is the US representative to the international ISO 9001:2000 interpretations project, have the opportunity to comment on the question and answers given.

The answers are compiled and edited to ensure consistency of language usage but not necessarily of content, are published monthly in THE OUTLOOK and are posted to a page on the US Standards Group web site (http://standardsgroup.asq.org) dedicated to the PSI soon thereafter. It is important to note that these answers do not represent interpretations, sanctioned or otherwise, by ISO/TC 176 or the US TAG, and are only the experts’ perspectives of ISO 9001:2000 based on the question and their experience and understanding.

Below is the seventh question in the series and answers from three experts.


Question 7
The roles and responsibilities of top management are more clearly spelled out in ISO 9001:2000. Indeed, Clause 5.1, Management Commitment, specifies that one of the ways top management "shall provide evidence of its commitment to the development and implementation" of the QMS is by "continually improving its effectiveness by d) conducting management reviews,…." Clause 5.6, Management Review, defines minimum inputs and outputs of these reviews. However, in practical terms, what is meant by demonstrating management commitment? What is involved in conducting an effective Management Review? Besides ensuring that management is conducting Management Review, how will a registrar auditor evaluate the QMS for evidence of management commitment and effective Management Review?


Answer From User Expert…
Joe Green, Vice President and Management Representative,
KVF Quad Corp.

To demonstrate anything indicates "action". To have Top Management "provide evidence of its commitment" is more elusive. After all, no activity in an organization should be done just to "provide evidence", so every action should be done to meet the needs of the organization and the customer—and, it is hoped, will thereby demonstrate that commitment. For this and other reasons, the ability to "provide evidence" will remain somewhat subjective.

In my organization, a 50-person metal finishing company that decided to obtain registration to ISO 9002:1994 in the mid-1990s even though no customer was requiring it, demonstration of management’s commitment to the QMS is much easier to find than documentation. One of the maturing disciplines of voluntary adoption of ISO 9001/2 is the awareness of the need for "providing evidence" (documentation). ISO 9001:2000 has provided significant improvement for our organization, not just the QMS, because our demonstration of management commitment under ISO 9002 had been poorly documented.

Subclause 4.1.1, Management Responsibility—Quality Policy, of ISO 9001:1994 states that "management with executive responsibility shall define and document its policy for quality, including…its commitment to quality", but not necessarily to "provide evidence of its commitment to the development and implementation" of the QMS. The change with ISO 9001:2000 means that lip service in the wording of the Quality Policy is not enough documentation and evidence that Top Management is committed to the QMS.

However, in the early days of our ISO 9002:1994 implementation, our Quality Policy may well have been the only "documented" evidence of Top Management’s commitment. Recognizing the "actions" of a committed company owner, and the generation of visible, auditable evidence, has actually been simplified for our company by the requirements of ISO 9001:2000. At the suggestion of Jeanne Ketola, KVF Quad adopted a rather extensive "template" format for our management reviews, our weekly operation reviews, management’s monthly meetings with the entire KVF work force and our management of quality goals and objectives (Ketola made her suggestion at the ASQ ISO 9000 Conference in March 1999).

Through the use of templates, "planning" and "documenting" activity have given us the benefits of SPDCA (Standardize, Plan, Do, Check, Act). The very creation of company-specific templates (procedures, documents, agendas, records) provides numerous pieces of visible evidence of top management commitment.

As for assuring that Management Review is conducted in an effective manner, it is easier for me to describe than explain it based on some of the lessons learned concerning how KVF conducted Management Reviews prior to ISO 9001:2000. As the Management Representative since ISO 9002 was first implemented, I can provide my firsthand evaluation of the Management Reviews under the old system:

  1. Four reviews per year were too frequent and added little or no value.
  2. Review content was scattered and inconsistent from review to review.
  3. Formal review meetings were marginally (if at all) effective.
  4. Input to Management Review meetings was not delivered to Senior Managers or Top Management prior to the formal meetings.
  5. Outputs from reviews were poorly documented (my notes were feast or famine).
  6. Outputs from past reviews were not held accountable in subsequent reviews.

It only became apparent to us with our company’s QMS maturity and the clarity of review inputs and outputs as defined in Subclauses 5.6.2 and 5.6.3 of ISO 9001:2000 that the purpose of Management Review is for Top Management to set the direction for future action relating to the QMS while providing accountability for actions taken. Prior to 1998, when we first looked at a draft version of ISO 9001:2000 and began to revise our system, Management Reviews were conducted because they were a requirement of ISO 9001/2:1994.

Four reviews per year required a good quantity of "smoke-filled" inputs just to ensure that both Top Management and our auditors had something to look at. The result might be quoted as, "Yep, they conduct management reviews, periodically, and include results of audits and other stuff. Outputs? Not much to write home about here, Ma." Maturity brought us to realize that two reviews per year using the template approach and the specific requirements of ISO 9001:2000 was sufficient. Indeed, because review meetings were less frequent and thus more focused on real review of the system, management viewed them as less burdensome and more value-added. Providing detailed data to management in written and simple graphic formats, well in advance of requiring a response or having a meeting, also has served to enhance the entire process.

Top Management (my boss), the Plant Manager, the Production Manager and the Sales Manager are all provided with the Management Review "input" (a presentation binder containing 12-18 pages of information and reports) several weeks prior to the planned review "output" date. To give you a sense of the content included in our Management Review "input", the table of contents from the June 2002 Management Review is provided in Figure 1 on the previous page.

Each manager is invited (not required) to comment in writing to our President prior to the actual review date. If managers were required to respond in writing, the potential for useless input (just for the sake of input) would be counterproductive. Although the Production and Sales Managers have not commented in written form since this method was first deployed, there is confidential dialog between the President and his management team. None of the managers have questioned, challenged or altered any of the data or recommendations found in the Management Review document.

This option informs in all directions, improves input accuracy and enhances awareness of the input among the managers.

Top Management reads and digests the input and sometimes requests additional information prior to responding to the review document. On or before the Management Review meeting date, the President drafts a paragraph format letter (dated, signed and typically 2 pages) that provides his written comments, concurrence, requests, changes, authorizations and approval of needed resources. That draft forms the basis for the review and the "working draft" of review outputs. It is also evidence of the review process and the outcomes.

Although KVF is not registered to ISO 14001 or any other environmental management system standard, integration of environmental concerns, goals and objectives—as well as safety and health data—into the template-driven review process becomes a matter of choice, with incredible ease and subsequent effectiveness. After all, we have management focused on our organization’s overall processes and programs and thus have the opportunity to take advantage of planned actions.

I could list every implemented aspect of our QMS as evidence of Top Management’s commitment, and they are in truth what the registrar auditors will look at in seeking evidence of management commitment. However, I would like to step out of that box and suggest another view that satisfies my need for evidence of the required commitment and might just exceed our customer’s expectations.

Actions speak louder than words—or documents—and the fact is that the President of KVF is a:

  • Member of his church council and the Sunday School Superintendent
  • Elected "Alderman" for the City of Moline
  • Member of the board of directors for a community benevolent group
  • Member of the board of directors for our manufacturing association
  • Member and Past President of our niche industry association, the Mass Finishing Job Shops Association (MFJSA)
  • Active on the fund-raising committee for the YMCA (a board member, also)
  • Active in Rotary
  • Encourages KVF rank and file to do likewise.

If you asked me how the list above demonstrates his commitment to KVF and our QMS, I would simply repeat his own words:

If it were not for the people, the system and the organizational devotion to my policy, there would be little time to do what I choose to do outside the fence line of KVF Quad Corporation.
—Mike Crotty, President

How’s that for out of the box! ISO 9001:2000 does not require this level of commitment, but it benefits the organization, the customer, the employee and the surrounding community.


Answer From Registrar Expert…
Joseph Heinz, Business Development Manager,
German American Registrar for Management Systems, Inc. (DQS)

When it comes to demonstrating management commitment to the QMS and its continual improvement, this is usually a more difficult area to audit than appears on the surface. When it comes to making a practical judgment call and collecting objective evidence that proves a nonconformity exists, what is required by Clause 5.1 is not as clearly defined as by Subclause 5.6.1, Management Review—General, where records of Management Reviews will be maintained and form an auditable record of activities.

Clause 5.1, Management Responsibility—General Guidance, in ISO 9004:2000, Quality management systems—Guidelines for performance improvements, gives some excellent examples of what your organization could do to demonstrate management commitment to the QMS and its continual improvement. Although ISO 9004 is a set of guidelines for implementing a QMS that goes beyond the baseline requirements of ISO 9001, an auditor may expect to find evidence of some of these examples. For example, auditors might look for evidence that Top Management might be doing one or more of the following:

  • Be the leader in establishing a vision for the organization
  • Communicate the organizational direction regarding quality and the QMS (through memos, charts, newsletters, etc.)
  • Take on improvement projects (at the top management level)
  • Create an environment that encourages employee involvement and development.

These are just a few actions of Top Management that would demonstrate that commitment and they may appear to be nebulous and vague to audit. In truth, to audit for conformity with the requirements of Clause 5.1 by seeking evidence of these types of actions, an auditor will need to use all of her/his senses, in particular "gut" instincts about what she/he observes and how well what is observed provides evidence of effective management commitment. Based on my experience so far, many companies will provide the auditors with evidence of their conformity with this requirement just by conducting the walkthrough at the beginning of the audit.

For example, Clause 5.1 requires Top Management to provide evidence of its commitment by "(a) communicating to the organization the importance of meeting customer as well as statutory and regulatory requirements,…." An auditor will observe what is posted in the lunch room (are there notices about health and safety requirements for food handling?), what financial measurements are being collected and reviewed (is the organization able to purchase supplies and hire competent personnel to meet customer specifications?), what critical process parameters/metrics are driving improvements and who/what the drivers are. All these are examples of communication by Top Management and also objective evidence that Top Management is allowing resources to perform these QMS-related processes and to take suitable measurements relative to the quality objectives established.

As an auditor, it always concerns me when data in various areas of an organization I am auditing is, for instance, old or posted only in front of the Quality Control Department. Another example where an auditor may find objective evidence that management is not committed is when, in discussing the quality objectives with personnel, the auditor sees that there is a lack of direction based on how personnel discuss the QMS or objectives or the personnel do not understand why measurements are being collected and how they relate to the Quality Policy or mission.

With ISO 9001:2000, conducting an effective audit of Management Review is rather simple. When examining the review minutes, does the auditor find that there are action items generated from the Management Review, with responsibility and authority delegated so as to change, enhance and/or meet necessary system goals? This is a central question an auditor will seek to answer when it comes to Management Review and what Clause 5.6 requires. Subclause 5.6.1 of ISO 9004:2000 encourages Top Management to develop management reviews so that they go "beyond verification of the effectiveness and efficiency of the quality management system into a process that extends to the whole organization," although this is well beyond what the auditor will be seeking evidence of.

For Top Management, this may appear daunting at first, but performance measures can start with the basics of supplier evaluations, process/product nonconformities and customer satisfaction (quality objectives). Over time, these can of themselves lead the organization to set objectives and take measurements of cycle-time reductions, inventory turns and even EBITs, ROIs (returns on investment), ROAs and/or other financial data analysis. These are management-driven steps that can add value to your company and can be audited by your registrar’s auditors. In turn, by having such measurements included in the scope of Management Review and subject to auditing for objective evidence of conformity with ISO 9001:2000, the auditor will be encouraging your organization to use these metrics by recording in the audit reports that these opportunities for improvement are deemed suitable and effective.

A common mistake made by auditors is in being too focused on reporting on the QMS in "Cost of Quality" issues and language rather than speaking in terms and using nomenclature that is recognizable to the financial heads of a business, who are a part of Top Management. The core purpose of the Management Review (and the source of evidence sought by auditors) is to ensure that there is a process for identifying improvement opportunities and for applying muscle to areas that are weak (either through breakthrough realizations or by meeting and exceeding quality goals and objectives). Auditors need to answer the question: How is the Quality Policy reflected in the decisions and action plans derived from the Management Review agenda items?

Every organization comes to the table with certain skills and various levels of management commitment. Working for a registrar, a discussion we have is what to do about an organization where the President is never at a Management Review, but he/she has directed for all the proper amounts of resources and training to be provided to have the operations run profitably and successfully and to have the business function as a smooth operation. This can become a subjective take on the matter, but auditors sometimes have to work to find the positives and to identify nonconformities, which may represent opportunities for the QMS to add value where an organization may be struggling.


Answer From Standards Expert…
Kathy Roberts, President of Sunrise Consulting, Inc.,
an active member of the US TAG to ISO/TC 176 and
Vice Chair of the ANSI Z1 Executive Committee

In order to have an effective QMS, an organization’s Top Management must demonstrate commitment. The key word is "demonstrate". Not just talk the talk, but actually walk the talk. In other words, the organization’s employees need to hear and see this commitment from the top management team in the form of actions. Many organizations have management teams that establish mission and vision statements, quality policies and quality objectives, but they fail to actually execute these statements. When this happens, personnel are often left frustrated and have little understanding of the organization’s focus or values. They see the written words that are typically posted all over the organization but don’t see them effectively implemented.

Top Management can demonstrate its commitment in a variety of ways. First, the management team can hold periodic "all employee" meetings to put them face-to-face with the workforce. During these meetings, a member of Top Management can communicate current information about the business in terms of customers and their requirements, products, financials, etc. The main intent is to have an exchange of information between employees and management. By doing this, the organization also meets the intent of Subclause 5.5.3, Internal Communication. Secondly, by documenting and communicating the Quality Policy and ensuring that measurable objectives have been established, Top Management is demonstrating its commitment.

Finally, another way Top Management can demonstrate its commitment to the QMS’s effectiveness is by conducting "action-oriented" Management Reviews. That is, Top Management reviews information (i.e., data collected as review inputs per Subclause 5.6.2), analyzes it and subsequently makes decisions and takes action based on the analysis of this data. Management Review meetings should be an "information sharing" event, not just an "information presenting" exercise. When the management team simply presents information from each area of the business, without any lively discussion, a valuable opportunity to identify areas for improvement is missed. Consequently, the organization’s personnel are left to wonder what goes on behind those closed doors, because little to no action is taken on the problems they are seeing every day.

When ISO 9001:2000 was being drafted, the intent was that there will be a review of the QMS "at planned intervals", but it was never intended that this review must take place in a separate meeting or without consideration of other business objectives. To make the Management Review even more effective, I suggest that you merge the QMS Management Review meeting with other business meetings that take place. In other words, conduct a comprehensive "business review" that includes the key performance metrics of the organization, which typically include sales and financial data. By handling the reviews in this way, the top management team is actively participating in the review of the QMS in conjunction with the other areas of the business. This approach enables the QMS to be seen as the business management system, rather than the "Quality Department’s" responsibility, as is the case in some organizations.

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