Lost in transition

Q: Because ISO 9001 was revised last year, organizations that are certified to ISO 9001:2008 have three years to become certified to the 2015 version. In 2014, my organization was recertified to ISO 9001:2008. This means it has until 2017 to transition to ISO 9001:2015, which is less than a year from now. Are there alternatives that I could take advantage of to provide the organization a longer transition period?

A: It’s important to know that the expiration date on an ISO 9001 certificate can’t be extended. As existing ISO 9001:2008 certifications expire—depending on an organization’s current level of compliance with ISO 9001:2015—transitioning may occur at the time of recertification. This, however, will be based on the registrar and its transition plans as approved by its accreditation body.

The registrar’s transition plan may include issuing an ISO 9001:2008 certificate that would be valid until September 2018. While this may provide some relief, your organization would have to be reassessed for compliance with ISO 9001:2015 and issued a new certificate. After September 2018, ISO 9001:2008 certifications will not be valid.

Registrars must comply with requirements as mandated by their accreditation body and the International Accreditation Forum (IAF).

I suggest that you contact your registrar to request information about its scheduled plans to transition existing ISO 9001:2008 certification holders to ISO 9001:2015. The registrar could use future surveillance and recertification audits for transitioning existing certification holders.

Additionally, you should consider having key personnel in your organization attend ISO 9001:2015 transition training to help with the transition. Exemplar Global College offers an excellent web-based ISO 9001:2015 transition training course.1

Your registrar should be your primary contact for obtaining explanations regarding the standard’s requirements. It may be also useful to read the IAF’s informative document "Transition Planning Guidance for ISO 9001:2015," sections 3.0 and 4.0, which provide accreditation and certification bodies with guidance for assisting their clients through the ISO 9001:2008 to ISO 9001:2015 transition process.2

Bill Aston,
Managing director
Aston Technical Consulting Services LLC

Reference and note

  1. For information about Exemplar Global’s "ISO 9001:2015 Transition Course," visit http://tinyurl.com/exemplartransition.
  2. International Accreditation Forum, "Transition Planning Guidance for ISO 9001:2015," Jan. 12, 2015, http://tinyurl.com/iaftransitionplanning.

Pulling for buy-in

Q: I’m an inspector for an organization that’s involved in crushing limestone and handling heavy materials. My department has experienced several failures from inadequate inspections and production’s need to use just one line. I proposed a list of improvement actions that would help maintain equipment reliability, but the organization’s planning and maintenance departments won’t support my ideas despite recurring instances of repairs, rework and huge failures. My suggestions were examined in root cause analysis sessions, and in most cases, it was found that they would eliminate 95% of the performance issues. Because time and resources are not appropriately allocated for inspection and improvement opportunities, the failures continue to occur. How can I gain organizational buy-in for continuous improvement efforts?

Calabar, Nigeria

A: Gaining buy-in is probably the most challenging aspect of any continuous improvement or change management initiative. I like to use an analogy to explain why this is the case:

Imagine a chain lying on the ground at the foot of a hill. If you tried moving the chain up the hill by pushing it from one end, it would be difficult. The chain would bunch up and move sideways. But if you pulled it from the front, the links would fall in line, and the chain would move smoothly up the hill.

Pushing people to move them in a certain direction is always a tough proposition. In my career, I’ve found it far more effective to create a "pull" in an organization.

Pull is a core lean strategy for replenishing the production of products or services based on actual customer demand. This is opposed to "push production," which is based on forecasts of what an organization predicts its customers will want. Pull also can be used in terms of pulling for the right projects at the right time.

It’s easier to motivate staff members around improvement opportunities, tools or techniques—also known as the "know-how." The "know-why," however, is usually more elusive because it involves getting people to understand the context of why a particular project or program is important.

The case for change cannot be fragile. It must be clear and direct with leadership that’s visible. And it must be communicated in an open and consistent manner. It’s human nature for people to become engaged when they feel like they are part of the solution.

As an inspector, your role is a challenging but critical one. I’ve been in that role: You are not part of the frontline operations or a supervisor. You can’t force change. But you can enable it by getting people to see you as someone who can help solve their problems. This requires building trust.

Trust is created by driving out fear—one of W. Edwards Deming’s 14 points for management.1 Create an environment in which people are not penalized for making mistakes, and focus on the process. Stephen R. Covey, author of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, wrote that trust is earned by those who "seek first to understand, then to be understood."2 Provide unbiased guidance, go the extra mile and make good on your commitments.

As an enabler, you must rely on strong facilitation skills and leverage the art of self-discovery to engage people and pull for the creation of projects. During your next group meeting, try having an informal conversation by asking questions such as: "What’s on everyone’s mind?" or "What is standing in the way of our success at the plant?"Then ask these three questions:

  1. "What would make your job easier?"
  2. "What can I do to make your job easier?" This is a more effective way of asking the same question.
  3. "What can we do as a team to solve this problem, become more competitive or make this customer experience out of this world?" This is the most powerful way of articulating that same basic question.

To keep their responses anonymous, have everyone in the meeting submit their answers on Post-It notes. Organize all the responses on a white board, and group them in their natural categories—a technique known as an affinity diagram. After you get to the third question, a distinct pattern of potential projects will emerge that generally falls into three categories:

  1. Just-do-its—These are projects that require no further study or analysis. A just-do-it is usually performed by one person in a few days and is great for generating momentum and building confidence.
  2. Kaizen blitzes—These are three or five-day, concentrated efforts led by a team that’s working on an obvious problem. It requires strong facilitation skills by a team leader, and the project must have a bias toward action.
  3. Projects—These are required for more complex problems and usually take 30 to 90 days to complete. They generally involve a full-time project manager and part-time, cross-functional team. Projects require strong project management leadership and discipline.

Prioritize these project ideas with the group using three voices:

  1. Voice of the customer (VOC)—the effect this process has on meeting the needs and expectations of the customer (internal or external).
  2. Voice of the process (VOP)—the impact this process has on meeting operational performance levels.
  3. Voice of the business (VOB)—the effect that improving this process will have on business goals and objectives.

List the prospective projects in a table with columns for the VOC, VOP, VOB and scores (see Table 1). Everyone will review the projects and independently score them in terms of the three voices. They will write their scores on Post-It notes and use an impact rating system with a five-point scale: A score of one means the impact is negligible, two is low, three is moderate, four is high, and five is extreme.

Table 1

At this stage, the scores merely provide a rough order of magnitude. Collect the scores for each voice and average them. Multiply the three voice scores for each project, and put the results in the score column. The scores are good indicators of how projects should be prioritized. And each voice carries an equal weight, which helps create a balanced evaluation.

Another powerful approach for creating pull is to bring customers into your discussions. Customers can be external or internal, and they help neutralize departments’ silo mentalities. Customers become the great level-setters in any organization: They help everyone focus on the problem instead of pointing fingers.

The common theme in these techniques is that the group drives the process. You are facilitating the discussion, enabling the exchange of ideas, providing direction and encouraging team work. In essence, you are pulling for the creation of the projects.

Before you know it, people in your organization will start knocking on your door with new project ideas, asking for guidance on their projects and requesting you to facilitate improvement initiatives. These are signals that you have successfully created pull in your organization.

Peter J. Sherman
Managing partner


  1. W. Edwards Deming Institute, "The 14 Points for Management," Deming.org, www.deming.org/theman/theories/fourteenpoints.
  2. Stephen R. Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, revised edition, Free Press, Nov. 9, 2004.

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