12 Ways to Simplify Your QMS, Part 1

An effective quality management system is not about long written procedures and lots of paperwork. It is intended to direct operations to help you achieve the company’s strategic goals. Over the next few posts, we will highlight activities that we have seen to have significant effectiveness in making the QMS a part of everyday culture.

1. Keep documentation lean. ISO requires that you document the procedures needed to control your system, but it also says that the extent of the documentation is dependent upon the size of the company and the complexity of your operations. Nothing states that you must write long, detailed procedures no one reads (this is especially problematic if you have employees whose first language is not English). The idea is to create process controls that are useful and accessible to employees. To control processes and guide the details of activities, consider using flow charts, checklists and visual work instructions. Use tools that are available and easy to apply.

2. Hold frequent Management Review Meetings. While ISO doesn’t state how frequently Management Review should be held, the purpose is to provide a forum where management can:

·   monitor the effectiveness of its quality management system, ·   set and monitor progress toward strategic objectives and ·   make course corrections in a timely manner.

These meetings should be a routine part of management strategy where you review QMS performance to identify opportunities for continual, company-wide improvement.  Annual or biannual ISO meetings become an artificial exercise where staff try to remember the issues identified, the resources provided and the objectives set several months earlier.

Consider instead holding Management Review meetings at least quarterly and monthly if you are in the middle of significant change.

3. Use team problem-solving. Whether it’s an internal improvement or a response to a NonConformity, if one person defines the Root Cause and Corrective Action Plan alone, it is unlikely this solo action will prevent recurrence of similar issues. When an issue arises, use a 20-minute coffee break to facilitate relaxed brainstorming session with the affected team  to identify other, less-obvious, contributing causes using a root cause analysis tool like a fishbone analysis, THEN ask the same team to present a plan that will preclude recurrence.

4. Recognize ideas that simplify/clarify the process. One of the eight quality management principles ISO is based upon is Involvement of People. When employee suggestions get implemented, recognizing the contributor encourages further participation.  Try holding a monthly/quarterly company lunch (potluck, if necessary) and publicly recognize the individuals whose ideas have benefitted the company. Share with everyone what they suggested and the results.

5. Maintain an Attitude of Gratitude. It’s common to recognize the star performers (e.g. the sales star, the QC manager who helped you pass an audit), but the truth is it takes the full team to maintain a successful company. Getting “too busy” to say thank you drains morale, inhibits innovation and increases errors.

Each month, ask department/team members to vote for the most valuable contributor (and explain what they did); then, celebrate what went right this month with the amazing team you have and recognize this month’s star.

Check back soon! Our next post will discuss supplier relationships, strategic objectives and measurement of key process indicators. Thank you for sharing your (comments/best practices, etc.) below.