What should ISO mean to you?

by Roger Keranen, Principle Consultant, LeanISO

Why should your growing business be concerned about ISO? For starters, because it can boost business.

The International Standards Organization (ISO) in Geneva has compiled best practices for organizational management and publishes them as International Quality Standards. The most world-wide applicable Standard is ISO-9001:2000. So?

ISO registered companies have a better chance at giving you and yours the job security to make your dreams come true over time.

Companies registered to ISO contract with a Registrar for 3 years to audit and confirm they are focused on meeting customer requirements and they measure themselves for continual improvement, effective internal communications, effective training, effective process control, and especially, effective customer satisfaction!

Buying from ISO registered companies kind of tips the scale that you will receive product or service that is fit for your use and gets better over time. Of course, no company is perfect all the time, but ISO companies have less delivery problems and the ISO Corrective Action and Internal Audit tools effectively attack problems with a bias for prevention. Your customers have buyers who need to look good by investing in you.

Think for a minute what went wrong around your company in the last 90 days. Just like the evening news, it is probably the same kind events happening again and again, just to different people. What happens to control or eliminate recurring problems? ISO registered companies teach employees how to react to unexpected events. Employees are taught to use their experience and judgment to receive well, or reject and document the incident for management intervention, do their job well, and inspect well prior to release to prevent someone from rejecting and documenting. Companies that adopt such a concept find that crisis management quickly drops. Unexpected costs to respond to a crisis never get spent. Target profit margins are now achieved. All in 6 weeks, or less!



Working in an ISO company can be a blessing or a curse. If you are a solid performer needing recognition for steady good work, you will love performing well during internal audits. If you are coasting along and not caring much for the quality of your work, you will hate ISO for bringing the spotlight of nonconformance to you. You see, after every audit finding, management will retrain you on what you should have known AND send another auditor later to confirm the effectiveness of your re-training. ISO is not a hammer, just an effective measuring device seeking folks who are doing well. Everyone gets to manage their work by receiving well, doing well, and releasing well to meet customer requirements on time, every time. Is there anything else?

There is a curse when management responds to ISO with excessive procedures and work instructions and forms. Heck, you may have bulging binders on the shelf before ISO! The curse of such documentation is ineffectiveness over time. Too many procedures cannot be absorbed by new hires. Too many work instructions take forever to audit (oh, if auditing is ever done). Time consuming audits find dozens and dozens of nonconforming incidents that take days and days to resolve. Believe me, there are hundreds of ISO registered companies out there that are cursed with excessive documentation that is mostly ineffective. It does not have to be that way.

Brand new ISO companies need to start with an enterprise approach to documentation. Because the current ISO-9000 Standard requires old users to migrate to it when their certificate expires and the new Standard is modeled as an enterprise approach, renewal companies can lean down for effectiveness. Respond to the Standard’s requirements with procedures that all departments shall follow. Simplify the procedures by using flowcharts. Try to refer to an employee’s “experience and judgment” inside procedures instead of having another work instruction. After all, they have been doing their job for some time. Should an unacceptable release occur, you will have a system to identify a need for re-training. ISO registration does not have to be an administrative nightmare!

What should ISO mean to you? If you are a Sales Rep, you will have a competitive edge with your buyers. If you are the President, you will see under achieving profit margins come back to plan. If you are a Quality Manager, you can now have a life without excessive overtime, worry and customer butt chewing. If you are a Human Resources Manager, you can measure training effectiveness for the first time and relate training to improved company performance. If you are a Worker Bee, you are now the quality manager of your job with power to stop unacceptable incoming work. If you are a slacker, now is the time to move on to a new company and hope they don’t go ISO too. 

 
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