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Volume 8 · Issue 8 · August 2003


The ISO 9000:2000 PSI IDEAS Q&A: Question 14

The ISO 9000:2000 Product Support Initiative (PSI) was developed in 2001 by the US Technical Advisory Group (TAG) to ISO Technical Committee (TC) 176 to gather feedback about the use of ISO 9001:2000 and ISO 9004:2000 and 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 created this question and answer process to provide 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 ISO/TC 176 Interpretations pilot project, have the opportunity to comment on the question and answers given.

The answers are compiled, edited to ensure consistency of language usage (but not necessarily of content), published monthly in THE OUTLOOK and posted soon thereafter to a page on the US Standards Group web site ( dedicated to the PSI. 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 fourteenth question in the series and the answers received from 4 experts, with commentary by Ketola.

Question 14:
What are some ways in which Top Management ensures that quality objectives are established at relevant functions and levels in the organization in conformity with the requirements of Subclause 5.4.1? How does Top Management assure that the objectives at the function levels align with the big picture (corporate) objectives so that personnel are aware of how they contribute to the overall achievement of the quality objectives, as required by Subclause 6.2.2, Competence, Awareness and Training? What effective methods are organizations using to communicate to personnel to ensure that personnel understand and can work to fulfill the objectives? What do registrar auditors look for when they interview Top Management in regards to the objectives? What do the auditors look for in regards to employee awareness of the objectives?

Answer From a User Expert…

Lloyd D. Brumfield, Quality Assurance Engineering Specialist, Ford Customer Service Division/MSX International North American Quality Office

Top Management should always consider the eight Quality Management Principles when establishing, enforcing and measuring the quality objectives, quality policy and quality planning of an organization. Those Principles, which were taken into consideration when ISO 9001:2000 was being written, are contained in ISO 9004:2000, Quality management systems—Guidelines for performance improvements, which is a good resource for organizations implementing ISO 9001:2000. Top Management must always make sure the quality objectives are quantitative, since all the organization’s associated functions or departments will need to be able to measure if and how well the organization is achieving those objectives effectively.

However, since quality objectives are to be established at all relevant functions and levels, the requirements in Subclause 5.4.1 might best be met by establishing for every function or department a localized Quality Operating System (QOS) or Business Operating System (BOS). This localized system needs to provide a systematic, disciplined approach that uses standardized tools and practices to manage business processes and to achieve ever increasing levels of customer satisfaction.

Based on our experience in the Ford Customer Service Division, Top Management in any organization should consider the following areas for the development of measurable quality objectives for which quantifiable measurements can be made:

  • Customer Satisfaction
  • Cost of Quality
  • Repair and Rework Costs
  • Continual Improvement of a Function/Departmental Process
  • Internal Audit Results (i.e., are the reports identifying valid nonconformities and opportunities for preventive actions and best practice sharing?)
  • Management Review Results
  • Product and Process Performance
  • Benchmarking Results
  • Training Effectiveness and Employee Awareness
  • Customer Communication
  • Analysis of the Data (e.g., the analysis being undertaken provides data to permit evaluation of continual improvement opportunities).

It is important for Top Management to select quality objectives that, when measured, will provide clear indicators of success or failure. If an objective cannot be measured so as to provide a clear indicator, you may need to rework the objective or select different measurements for it. Top Management must also select quality objectives that reflect the quality policy, since the purpose of the objectives is to maintain adherence to the policy and/or to move closer to its fulfillment. The policy is your long-term approach to quality management while an objective is a step toward achieving that policy.

For Top Management to ensure that the organization’s personnel are aware of their relevance to and importance in achieving the quality objectives, the localized QOS or BOS I mentioned above would be a perfect way of doing this. Note that these localized systems are not independent of the QMS but will provide for the procedures specific for that function or department and will include relevant quality objectives, so that any objectives for a function or department will be pursued through the localized system, which feeds into the overall system. Such operating systems can be designed to provide monthly reports of success in achieving functional/departmental objectives that, when combined with the reports for all relevant functions and departments, will provide Top Management with a report card for the entire organization.

As for effective methods of communicating to personnel, Top Management must provide the resources for awareness training for all employees that explains the new process approach and the Quality Management Principles and how these relate to the organization’s quality policy, quality objectives and quality planning. An organization can use placards, memos, news releases, bulletin boards, 4-panel charts, e-mails, newsletters, reports of quality objective results and team meetings to communicate to all employees all the quality objectives and the measurements for those objectives.

Having all employees aware of the quality objectives of the organization and the results being achieved, even when the objectives and results are for other functions and departments, is an effective way to reinforce the importance of the objectives to each employee, because they see what is taking place elsewhere in the organization. Note that a good auditor, internal or external, should be evaluating employee competence and the meeting of the objectives throughout the organization during the audit by talking with employees and Top Management to make sure everyone understands the objectives and what is expected of them.

My experience is that registrar auditors look first at the quality objectives that are to be understood and communicated to everyone in the organization. Then, they seek to verify if the quality objectives are in sync with the quality policy. At this point, the registrar auditors will interview members of Top Management to see if they know and understand the quality objectives and to ask how the objectives are communicated to the relevant functions and departments and what is done with the measurements taken.

The registrar auditors evaluate employee awareness by interviewing people at different levels of the organization to make sure they all have a good understanding of and comfort level with what is expected of them in doing their daily tasks and to measure the awareness these individuals have concerning how their jobs contribute to the achievement of the organization’s quality objectives.

Answer From User Experts…

John R. Broomfield of Quality Management International, Inc., Member of US TAG to ISO/TC 176, PSI Mid-Atlantic Regional Coordinator

You will note that the above header states "User Experts" in the plural. In support of the PSI IDEAS Q&A, I discussed Question 14 with a number of my organization’s clients so as to find a suitable User Expert to participate on this question. However, the discussions I had with seven of those clients were so relevant and pertinent that I decided to sum up these discussions into a single User Experts response, as follows.

ISO 9001:2000 requires measurable quality objectives assigned to relevant functions and levels. However, functional or departmental objectives can easily distract and distort processes to deliver whatever a "factional functional boss" may want or require. This detracts from the ability of the processes in that function or level to be fully aligned with customer needs and driven to fulfill those needs (per the requirements of Clause 7.1a, Planning of Product Realization, and Subclause 7.2.1b, Determination of Requirements Related to the Product). An organization can assign the quality objectives for the system and its processes to someone having the responsibility to monitor progress and having the authority to invoke any necessary preventive actions (per Subclause 8.5.3, Improvement—Preventive Action).

"Our ‘big picture’ corporate mission is ‘client success’," responded Peter Pavlakis, Vice President of PAV-LAK Construction, which serves as a contractor for institutional buildings (e.g., school buildings and rail and bus stations), when I asked him about quality objectives. "We have even analyzed our specific process for fulfilling this mission. Running through our management system is our customer-driven core process that converts the needs of customers into cash in the bank." Pavlakis added that all of PAV-LAK’s "project managers and all our other processes support this customer-driven core process."

"We use the quality objectives we already have in place or involve our employees in setting new objectives that are chosen because the investment in their measurement is likely to repay several times over," replied Mike Sessler, who is the Quality Management System Manager for the Metso Paper Service Center in Beloit, WI. Metso is a Finnish company that designs, installs and maintains papermaking equipment all over the world. And Sessler should be familiar to many of you, since he participated on Question 11 in April 2003.

These companies have connected the requirements of Subclause 5.4.1 with those of Clause 4.1, Quality Management System—General Requirements, that relate to the development of the QMS. Both analyzed their existing processes. This relates to Clause 4.1d, which requires the organization to "ensure the availability of resources and information necessary to support the monitoring and operation of these processes", and their interactivity—per 4.1a) "identify the processes needed for the [QMS] and their application throughout the organization" and b) "determine the sequence and interaction of these processes"—sufficient to fulfill the process objectives—per 4.1c), "determine criteria and methods needed to ensure that both the operation and monitoring of these processes"—to develop their process-based management system.

System managers like Keith Monnier of Sidney Tool & Die, Inc., an aerospace precision machine shop in Ohio, encourage managers to specify the information they need from the management system in order to make better decisions. As a team, they select certain process objectives that are to become the QMS’s measurable quality objectives, based on the data contained in the reports from the management system on the following key indices:

  • Customer satisfaction
  • Product conformity
  • Process performance
  • Employee involvement
  • Supplier performance.

"For example, when asked, customers may express less than full satisfaction with lead times," offered Monnier. "So the processes that delay delivery are given measurable objectives—to achieve shorter, more predictable lead times—and are redesigned to remove the causes of delays, variation and unnecessary work-in-progress attributable to the processes."

Notice how the above list of system performance indicators correlates closely with Clause 8.4, Analysis of Data. This correlation leverages the cost of measurement, data collection, analysis and reporting. Research conducted by The Gallup Organization on its clients shows that some clients add measurement of employee involvement to their performance indicators to avoid the potential for a lack of employee engagement with the objectives of their employers.

An example of this was provided to me by Norm Smith, Chief Operating Officer of Foam Rubber Products in Indiana, which makes foam rubber cushions used in office seating and school buses. Smith and his team measure employee involvement by calculating the flow of employee-suggested improvements to the management system according to the following ratio, which is calculated monthly:

Number of Suggestions/Number of Employees

Some companies have ISO 14001 as well as ISO 9001 registration for their business management system and use this system to run their business to add value while preventing pollution. Ken Johnson, Vice President of SMT Industries in Ohio, and his team use and continually improve SMT’s fully integrated management system (IMS) to run the machine tool business. They prefer to use the environmental program specified in Clause 4.3.4, Planning—Environmental Management Programme(s), of ISO 14001:1996 to set and assign objectives and targets for reducing adverse impacts and increasing beneficial impacts on the environment.

SMT’s targets are time-based steps up a ladder to fulfill objectives. Another useful approach to fulfilling quality objectives is for an organization to set objectives and targets and assign each to a specific process team. The environmental management program at SMT has evolved into a continual improvement program and is a focal point for the users of the management system.

Jazz Semiconductor in California also operates an IMS that conforms with both ISO 9001 and ISO 14001. William Teare is the JAMS (Jazz Management System) Management Representative, and he and the process team have designed and validated a new process for JAMS planning (per the requirements in Subclause 5.4.2, Quality Management System Planning) to synthesize the business objectives with the quality and environmental objectives and targets. In recent years, the business objectives at Jazz Semiconductor have changed faster than the core process objectives because the changes in its industry and market were rapid.

Unfortunately, the JAMS was underrepresented during the many strategic and business planning sessions during that time period. Now the JAMS is fully represented and the necessary changes to JAMS are planned and implemented to protect the integrity of the IMS as JAMS is made suitable for ongoing use and improvement in fulfilling the business objectives of the company.

Leaders demonstrate their commitment to fulfilling the requirements of customers and regulators and the objectives of the management system when business planning is part of an organization’s system and the leaders explain the quality policy and the process team objectives to the employees. Top Management must demand information from the organization’s system in order to make better decisions and to report to the employees on how well the management system is helping the organization fulfill requirements.

Visibly committed and consistent leaders earn the trust of employees, who thereby believe that the management system is important and worthy of their collective effort to make it work even more effectively.

Answer From a Standards Expert…

John E. ("Jack") West, Chair of the US TAG to ISO/TC 176

Rather than consider each question bundled in Question 14 individually and with specific reference to requirements in ISO 9001:2000, I would like to try to address what I consider the heart of the matter: alignment of the overall organizational objectives with the measurable quality objectives. An organization needs to go back to the very basics and answer the question: "How do we make money in this business?" Recognizing the things that drive profitability can be a big aid in understanding how to align objectives.

If the quality objectives are developed in a way that supports the overall business direction, there is very likely to be alignment. So their development needs to start with the business planning process. Often, an organization develops its quality objectives and their measures separately from its overall business planning. In the best of organizations that I have seen, the two are fully integrated. Development of the objectives and their measurables in this integrated way can avoid suboptimization, where some functions select their own objectives to optimize their own performance but not that of the overall organization.

People are generally the key to meeting objectives, while information and data are power. It is quite common for managers to hold "the numbers" quite close to the vest and share only that information that employees need to do specific tasks. Unfortunately, this means that the employees have a hard time relating their own performance to the overall results of the organization. It is important to learn which information is helpful to the workforce and to carefully share it. To the extent that a piece of information or a data set would improve an employee’s ability to make correct decisions, solve problems and improve performance, it should be shared.

Some information, such as current financial results, overall customer satisfaction and other high-level data, is often important as background. It may explain why certain of the objectives have been established. Other information should enable employees to understand how they contribute to overall performance. Each employee or work team should clearly understand the objectives as they apply in their area and should know how they can contribute to meeting those objectives.

Remember that what gets measured gets done. This is an important concept for Top Management to keep in mind in setting quality and business objectives and is consistent with what ISO 9001:2000 requires. Having measurements that accurately reflect employee and organizational performance is important, but it is more important to avoid selecting measures that drive performance in the wrong direction. For example, if the key measure of performance is the speed with which work is done and if speed causes mistakes, it does little good to tell employees to produce no defects. They will do what is measured: work fast!

Answer From an Auditor Expert…

Norman G. Siefert, ANSI-RAB National Accreditation Program Auditor

Top Management must ensure that quality objectives are established at relevant levels of the organization. The first point that needs to be understood is that, if value is to be gained by ISO 9001:2000 implementation, Top Management needs to be ensuring that everyone in the organization understands that the requirements in Subclause 5.4.1 do not exist in isolation.

One way for Top Management to help assure quality objectives are established and disbursed—and that all employees are aware of them and understand that they are linked to the quality policy and tie in with all processes of the QMS—is to have Top Management initially participate in the QMS planning process, requirements for which are defined in Subclause 5.4.2. In fact, 5.4.2 requires that Top Management ensure that QMS planning is carried out so as to meet the quality objectives. Direct participation in QMS planning will also make Top Management very involved in and aware of the quality objectives (and whether the functional level ones align with the corporate ones) and what it will take in terms of resources to achieve those objectives. In addition, such active participation will send a message to all employees that the objectives and the QMS are important to Top Management and therefore to the organization.

To assure ongoing functioning of the QMS and pursuit of the quality objectives, Top Management must subsequently participate aggressively in the periodic Management Reviews. "Aggressive participation" means that Top Management will be looking carefully at the measurements data for the organizational and functional/departmental objectives and seeking to set new objectives that push the organization further in terms of performance improvement and system effectiveness.

Another way for Top Management to ensure quality objectives are established where needed and that employees are satisfying the requirements of Subclause 6.2.2 in the process is to recognize that the QMS must be results-oriented and is truly designed to produce results. ISO 9001:2000 mentions the need for effectiveness of the QMS in 19 paragraphs. By extension, Top Management must also recognize how to maintain and increase "effectiveness", which is defined in 3.2.14 of ISO 9000:2000, Quality management systems—Fundamentals and vocabulary, as the "extent to which planned activities are realized and planned results achieved". This means that activities must be chosen that can be measured and where the results of those activities can be monitored. This ongoing monitoring is a method that may be used by Top Management to determine when and what type of new quality objectives are needed or desirable.

Communication to personnel about the quality objectives and Top Management’s interest and involvement in the QMS will occur by having Top Management participate in the QMS planning process, including the setting of objectives, and in the active, ongoing monitoring of QMS effectiveness. In this respect, the effective implementation of Subclause 8.2.3, Monitoring and Measurement of Processes, and Clause 8.4 is relevant.

Under these circumstances, the auditors will not need to look far in verifying that Top Management has done what is required relative to the quality objectives and that all employees are aware of the objectives and are pursuing them. Since the auditors will be conducting an audit of a process approach-based QMS with ISO 9001:2000, there will be many instances in the auditing of the QMS where the evidence of conformity with the requirements of 5.4.1 and 6.2.2 will be demonstrated.


Jeanne Ketola, CEO of Pathway Consulting, Inc., and Member of US TAG to ISO/TC 176

I encourage organizations to think "business objectives" when looking at the requirements for the quality objectives in Subclause 5.4.1. Most top managers understand the concept of setting goals and objectives for the organization. It is the word "quality" that seems to confuse members of management and causes them to think too narrowly. By thinking about business objectives or goals, management is able to easily align the management system with the actual work management is doing rather than thinking of "the requirements of ISO 9001" as an ad hoc activity.

One of the most effective ways that I have seen an organization use to demonstrate how its objectives are set was to create a simple diagram showing the top-level objectives and how these objectives applied to the various departments. Management created the tactical plans, including the measurements for the objectives, and the plans became a part of each manager’s performance review.

The diagram provided a clear map and communication tool for managers to use within their various departments to show how the objectives applied to each area. Another effective method a different organization used was to list its key objectives on poster-sized paper, along with a short explanation of the objectives, the measure(s) involved and the departments that the objectives applied to.

These posters were found in all departments and there was no question about which of the objectives related to each of the various areas. In both of these cases, employees at all levels were clear in their understanding of the objectives that applied to them.

When I perform third-party audits, I am looking for Top Management’s explanation of the organization’s objectives and the measures that let Top Management know whether or not the organization is meeting those objectives. I also interview other levels of management for their understanding of which objectives relate to their areas as well as their employees.

When conducting these interviews, I am looking for consistency in approach and consistency in the understanding that management and employees have of their objectives. I also compare the quality policy and the objectives to ensure that the objectives are supporting the claims made within the policy.

When the objectives have been rolled out effectively and communicated, employees have no problem understanding and talking about which goals apply to them.