What use are Quality Policy & Quality Objectives?
by RAFAEL M. FERNANDO
We all believe in quality, committed to it when we implement ISO 9001:2008 quality management system. But many managers find it difficult to ascertain to what, specifically, are they committed to leading to all sorts of problem associated with implementing ISO 9001:2008, such as:
• Top management did not define “quality” clearly in relation to
the business (quality policy)
• Top management did not act to clearly ensure that “quality” is
achieved (quality objectives)
What business sense will tell you the reason why you need to define “quality” is this:
“if you don’t know what it is, you will never know whether you’ve achieved it.”
Not knowing where you want to go, what you want to do makes it impossible to communicate to your workforce and managers what is to be achieved and why, let alone motivate them to act and support the ISO 9001:2008 initiative.
With the many definitions of quality, for all practical purposes let us ignore all of them first. The best and only definition of quality that counts is the one on which you and your colleagues agree upon. It is how your company defines quality. The agreed quality definition is technically called quality policy. The agreed quality policy should (then) be the driving force of the system and commits the organization to both meeting requirements and improvements called for by ISO 9001. The quality policy is the key document against which the performance of the quality system is audited.
The company is required to ensure that it continually improves the:
• Degree to which company’s products and services meet customer requirements
• Effectiveness of processes (i.e., improved results)
• Perceptions of customers as to how well their requirements have been met
Continual improvement is not some special form of improvement. The continual improvement principle implies that the company:
• Adopt the attitude that improvement is always possible and that there
is always room for improvement
• Develop the skills (e.g., looking for causes of problems) and the tools
like simple charts and graphs to be able to improve systematically
• Always know what to improve next and how to measure the improvement
Provided you take into account the few important items ISO 9001 asks for, you can define and measure quality any way you choose. And once you have a set of objectives that fits customer needs, you can drop the vague word “quality” and focus your energies and system on achieving the objectives.
The translation of the quality policy into practice is made by defining supporting objectives but ISO 9001 does not specify how quality objectives are documented: they may be documented in business plans, management review output, annual budgets, quality plans, etc.
Quality Objectives are now a clear requirement in their own right as opposed to being just a part of quality policy. Quality objectives must be established, support the quality policy, be measurable and focus on both meeting product requirements and achieving continual improvement ultimately leading to customer satisfaction.
When quality objectives are defined it must reflect the quality policy, be coherent, and align with the overall business objectives, including customer expectations. Logically, ISO 9001 Quality Objectives must deliver a meaningful result and therefore Quality Objectives equal Business Objectives. Of course, the objective of any organization (whether for profit or non-profit) is to use their money wisely?
ISO 9004:2000 Para. 6.8 Financial Resources recommends that:
Management should plan, make available and control the financial resources necessary
to achieve the organization’s objectives and encourage improvement of the organization’s
Improving the efficiency and effectiveness of the quality management system can influence positively the financial results of the company, by: internally--by reducing process and product failures, or waste in material and time, or; externally--by reducing product failures, costs of compensation under guarantees and warranties, and costs of lost customers and markets. It is highly imperative that reporting of such matters to provide a means of determining ineffective or inefficient activities and initiating suitable improvement actions.
Let us always remember that quality objectives are not static, they are always active, things waiting to be done. Quality objectives need to be updated to meet business conditions. Growth does not trickle down, so continuous improvement efforts must address organizational and customer needs directly. There is clearly a link between revising the quality policy and quality objectives and the organization’s commitment to continual improvement, especially when continual improvement is best measured in monetary terms.
Quality is always a choice, a commitment. It is never a dream nor a panacea. Quality is never an accident. It is always the result of high intention, sincere effort, intelligent direction and skillful execution. It represents the wise choice of many alternatives.