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You really shouldn’t care about being ISO Certified

Editors Note: Expert content needs an expert content writer and Yorkshire Powerhouse is pleased to publish this business advice article on being ISO Certified, kindly written by a real expert in his field – Roger Etchells from Episode Consultants Ltd.

Please Contact Roger for any aspect of ISO Certification, Quality Management, Environmental or Health & Safety systems – click on the advert links above or below – please mention Yorkshire Powerhouse when you make contact.

Yes, that’s right, even if you have to become ISO certified, forget certification.

That’s not to say you shouldn’t care about what the standards need you to think about.

The best management systems are those that are imbedded in the business’ DNA. It’s just how we do things. They make sure things are done the way the business wants them done, and keeps things under control. They are structured with one aim in mind, to achieve the company’s objectives.

ISO knows this and changed how management systems where written in 2012, to align them with modern business practices.

You will see in this article that, done right, establishing ways of working based on ISO frameworks such as ISO 9001 will automatically lead to certification, and make a real difference to the efficiency of your business.

What do the standards want my business to do?

Virtuous circle

“Fail to plan, plan to fail” is a well-worn saying, but true. ISO has imbedded two important management principles into the frameworks for this reason:

  • Risk based thinking
    What risks exist, and how are you going to minimise them?
  • The Plan-Do-Check-Act cycle
    Decide how you are going to so things, do them, check how it works, and change things to make them better.

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All management systems based on ISO standards are, by design, structured the same way. This is because many companies have multiple management systems (typically starting with the 3 listed above). They have been written so they can be combined, or integrated, into one system where the common elements are dealt with once, not separately each time.

ISO Accreditation - Act, Plan, Do, Check cycle

Key requirements for being ISO Certified

In all the points below it is important to stress the standards don’t tell you how to do things, just that you should do them. It is absolutely down to you how you choose to do things, and what you are going to document.

1. Strategic business planning [PLAN]

A simple, but powerful concept, is that everything you do as a business should be geared to achieving your business goals.

Without telling you how to do it, you are expected to think about the following;

  • What’s happening inside and outside the business that shapes what you do? This is typically done by a SWOT analysis (albeit ISO does not mind how you do it, so long as you do)
  • Who are your stakeholders, and what do they need from the business?
  • What are the risks and opportunities facing the business?
  • Based on the above analysis, what business objectives do you have?

This sounds daunting, but it does not need to be. You are not expected to be strategy experts, jut to have thought about it some.

2. Provide leadership [PLAN]

We all know without senior management being really committed to something, it generally does not happen. ISO certification looks for the senior management to lead the way, and to resource the business appropriately.

3. Planning [PLAN(!)]

Simply put what are you going to do to reduce risk, capitalise on the opportunities and how are you going to manage change?

4. Resources [PLAN]

What people, plant and equipment is needed? How do you manage and maintain resources needed? There is a focus on people, – how do you communicate internally and externally, how you maintain and improve staff competence, how do you make them aware of how the business works?

5. Operational control [DO]

This is where the standards differ, depending on which standard is being considered. Let’s focus on quality.

  • How do you communicate with your customers?
  • How do you design your products and services?
  • How do you manage your supply chain (and sub-contractors if you use them)?
  • How do you do what you do, how do you control the quality of your product and service, and how do you make sure you are efficient in what you do?
  • Is there a need for calibration &/or traceability in what you do?
  • What about post sales – guarantees, service management?

6. Evaluating company performance [CHECK]

How do you monitor and measure the business performance, be it quality, H&S, environment, etc., and how do you analise that information?

7. Improvement [ACT]

What changes will you make based on the performance reviews carried out?

So what?

ISO certification takes best practice (arrived at by experts from around the world) and lays it down in a clear and precise way so you can benefit from it.

Whilst we have simplified the standards in the seven steps above, we have only left out some of the detail around how ISO recommends you approach each of the steps. When you take the time to read the standards you will see there is nothing that does not make sense. The standards don’t impose anything that does not in some way make things work better.

Three tips

1. What is it they really want me to do?

The standards can be daunting to read. They are quite formal documents, and have to be as they need to unambiguous . When you are not clear on what is wanted, take a step back and think what the reason for the requirement might be.

2. Keep it simple – less is more

Focus on what works in the business and how to keep it working well. Don’t create documents, systems and processes because you think that is what an auditor wants. One of their roles is to point out where gaps exist, and agree with you how to fill the gaps.

3. Get some help

You are busy running the business. You will set out with the best intentions but the day job will take over, so find a partner that can drive the process, and help you understand what the standard is really asking you to do. The right partner will with a light touch help you capture what you do and how you do it in a way that means you sail through audits without doing anything you are not already doing.

Working towards and maintaining ISO certification is a logical part of a growth plan – find an expert partner who can support your business, advise you from experience and keep your focus on the benefits of being ISO certified rather than the process itself!

Straight talking advice from Yorkshire Powerhouse

Now you’ve read our article on being ISO Certified- have you any more questions?

Here at Yorkshire Powerhouse, we’re happy to help as much as possible – is there anything else we can do to help you, do you have any further questions or can we help introduce you to an expert – please let us know:

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