A New Perspective
How the ISO 10014 working group revised the standard to appeal to top management
by Govind Ramu
The May 2018 Standard Issues column discussed the importance of quality management systems (QMS) and how an effectively implemented QMS provides silent savings to an organization.1 It was followed up with the December 2018 Standard Issues column, which discussed misperceptions about quality functions, how a quality function can be meaningful to an organization and how quality professionals can prove their worth.2
These articles built awareness about and laid the foundation for major revisions to ISO 10014—Quality management—Guidelines for realizing financial and economic benefits. This month’s column is all about the revision process.
Top management’s role
ISO 10014 is directed at an organization’s top management, and ISO 9001 refers to top management’s commitment multiple times throughout the requirements. Without top management’s commitment and support, initiatives can’t thrive. Top management must see value in initiatives to wholeheartedly embrace and support them.
Who is “top management”? According to ISO 9000:2015, it’s a “person or group of people who directs and controls an organization at the highest level.”3 For a large organization, this could be the CEO and his or her direct reports who head each function. For a small business, this could be owners, partners and key investors.
Top management has many responsibilities. Those specific to QMSs are covered in ISO 9001:2015, clause 5, as well as throughout the standard. There also are several responsibilities from a business perspective, including:
- Run an organization that is safe, legal and ethical, and abides by all applicable statutory and legal requirements in every region of its business operations.
- Ensure value to shareholders, stockholders, investors and relevant interested parties.
- Ensure the organization’s strategy aligns with its mission, vision and values.
- Ensure the organization’s financial health and long-term economic sustainability.
With such major responsibilities, top management’s availability and attention span are limited. In a world of dynamically changing customer and stakeholder expectations, challenging market conditions, high competition, major geopolitical shifts, trade tensions, tariffs, union negotiations and unforgiving social media, it’s no wonder top management’s job has become increasingly more important. At the same time, all organizational functions and roles are important—every part of the organization must work effectively to achieve goals, so top management must allocate time to oversee the performance of every function.
The revision process
When the ISO 10014 working group (WG) set out to revise the standard to reflect the changes that resulted from revisions to ISO 9000 and ISO 9001 (for example, quality management principles, and new concepts and terminology), we decided to revise the entire standard, not just the parts that aligned with ISO 9000 and ISO 9001. The standard has 29 pages of content, nine detailed figures and a seven-page self-assessment questionnaire. Our first impression was that it’s a highly technical document developed by quality professionals for quality professionals, but it wasn’t suitable to hand over to top management. If we handed over this standard as such, top management likely would give it to a junior quality manager to read and summarize, instead of top management. The standard also could use more business language given its title: ISO 10014—Quality management—Guidelines for realizing financial and economic benefits.
We realized we had our work cut out for us. Where would we start? Per the ISO standards revision process, we put together a design specification where we detailed all the changes we intended to make. (See the sidebar “ISO 10014 Revision Timetable” for a breakdown of the revision schedule.)
ISO 10014 Revision Timetable
The revision timetable for ISO 10014 is 36 months—it began in March 2018 and will conclude in March 2021. Here is a breakdown of the schedule:1
- March 2018: New work item proposal.
- March 2018: Design specification ballot.
- July 2019: Committee draft standard.
- March 2020: Draft international standard (DIS).
- Final DIS (optional).
- March 2021: Final standard.
- For a detailed description of each step, see “Stages and Resources for Standards Development,” ISO, www.iso.org/stages-and-resources-for-standards-development.html.
We wanted to simplify and lean the document by keeping it at the top-management level, use business language and terminology where applicable, and make it a quick and easy read for top management. At the same time, we wanted to clearly communicate the standard’s intent to explain the financial and economic benefits of a QMS. This was easier said than done—it involved redrafting the entire standard. It was a bit painful to rewrite a highly technical document that had taken significant effort from the past WG about 14 years ago. However, we were on a mission to add value to the key stakeholder—top management.
We conducted a workshop at our international meeting to hear from our fellow quality professionals about the direction of the revision. We posed the following questions to the attendees:
- What are the key expectations of a QMS that are essential to realize (and sustain) financial and economic benefits?
- What key expectations from top management are essential to realize (and sustain) financial and economic benefits?
- What do you (as a delegate) expect to see in the revision of ISO 10014? For example, structure or content.
With 35 professionals in attendance from 18 countries and representation from various industry sectors and business types, sizes and complexities, we received useful feedback. The inputs were summarized into the following categories:
- Top management is the target audience to understand this standard.
- Revisions require a strong link between QMS and business.
- Simplicity and adaptability—irrespective of the organization’s size, type and complexity—are important.
- Revisions require metrics, monitoring and tools.
Our team geared up to revise the standard, incorporating the inputs from the international quality experts. Because a structured approach is key, our WG brainstormed the best way to develop this. Inputs from various experts included following a structure based on the following approaches:
- Quality management principles (keeps the structure the same as the 2006 version).
- Cost of quality categories (prevention, appraisal and failure costs).
- Annex SL (same as management system requirements, such as ISO 9001).
- Process approach (source of input, input, process, output and customer).
- Continual improvement method (such as plan, do, check, act [PDCA]).
We evaluated the pros and cons of using each approach as a structure. The structure had to be simple and easy to follow, include minimal and essential steps, and be management focused. Top management is most concerned about the organization’s financial performance, sustainability and growth, so we decided to start with financial performance as a top-down structure. Top management reviews this performance periodically and if expectations aren’t being met, it identifies the business process owner to investigate and resolve the issue. This is exactly what we did. A business process owner uses a structured PDCA method to improve processes that most affect the organization’s financial results. QMS requirements were linked to the overall structured approach to show how a QMS helps realize financial and economic benefits.
Because the workshop inputs also included metrics, monitoring and tools, we added a brief two-page self-assessment questionnaire (tool) that maps to the top-down structure. This allows the organization to measure its baseline performance with respect to its overall structure and periodically monitor its maturity level on a scale of one to five (see Table 1). A higher maturity score implies the organization is effectively using a QMS to realize financial and economic benefits.
Our WG wanted to bring more value to this document by adding examples of how the top-down structure could be used for different industry sectors. We created a generic example and a manufacturing example, and plan to include a service industry example while keeping the standard lean. The standard’s release is targeted for March 2021. We hope it will be a valuable resource in communicating QMSs to top management.
A committee draft version of the standard has been overwhelmingly approved with 86% of the votes, and scores of constructive comments from participating countries. Public inquiry will follow, and those interested can play a key role in the standard’s development.
- Govind Ramu, “Paddle Like the Dickens,” Quality Progress, May 2018, pp. 62–65.
- Govind Ramu, “Prove Your Worth,” Quality Progress, December 2018, pp. 65–69.
- International Organization for Standardization (ISO), ISO 9000:2015—Quality management systems—Fundamentals and vocabulary, subclause 3.1.1.
International Organization for Standardization (ISO), ISO 9001:2015—Quality management systems—Requirements.
Ramu, Govind, “Paddle Like the Dickens,” Quality Progress, May 2018, pp. 62–65.
Ramu, Govind, “Prove Your Worth,” Quality Progress, December 2018, pp. 65–69.
Govind Ramu is a licensed professional engineer from Ontario, Canada. He is the convener for ISO technical committee 176/subcommittee 3 working group 23 for ISO 10014. Ramu is an ASQ fellow, is recipient of the ASQ Crosby Medal and the ASQ LA Simon Collier Quality Award, and holds six ASQ certifications: manager of quality/organizational excellence, engineer, Six Sigma Black Belt, auditor, software quality engineer and reliability engineer. He is the author of The Certified Six Sigma Yellow Belt Handbook (ASQ Quality Press, 2016) and coauthor of The Certified Six Sigma Green Belt Handbook (ASQ Quality Press, 2015) and the American standard ASQ TR2:2018: Cost of Quality: Guidelines for Development, Implementation and Monitoring to Improve Quality and Performance (ASQ Quality Press, 2018).