As the air cools, and we start thinking about Santa’s list, let’s consider one way we check to see if we’ve been ‘naughty or nice’.

Monday, 23 September 2019 10:57

Improving Engagement per ISO 9001:2015

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Would you rather be on a team where everyone gets the vision, goals are achieved, and improvements iterate continually? Or on a team where tasks are done because they’re mandated, and no one knows or cares why?  ISO 9000:2015 contains a guiding principle called Engagement of People, which means shifting culture from “do-it” to “let’s do-it.”

Here are some ways to apply it:

  • Measure and report results, before and after process changes - so people learn the benefits and reasons for revised activities. Various tools like DMAIC  (define, measure, analyze, improve, control) and Design of Experiments include current state and future state expectations, and evidence that signals effectiveness of proposed changes. Good decisions and communicating results to line employees, creates engagement instead of confusion.

  • Engage line employees in reviewing process documents annually –  after all, they’re responsible for following them, and they’re usually the first ones who know when details are unclear or have changed, and why.

  • Include line employees and internal auditors (not just quality and leadership) in teams that determine causes and solutions for rejects or corrective actions in their department. When they understand the risks and contribute to the solution, improvements become permanent.

  • Keep internal auditors impartial – ensure they audit departments they don’t work in. Being impartial helps them see what department members miss. Auditing outside one’s own department can also deepen understanding of related processes and the overall system, and improve interdepartmental cooperation. 

  • Reward and recognize employee suggestions/ideas/feedback that contribute to improvements.  Encourage risk-based thinking and communication, not behind the scenes patches for processes that don’t work. 

  • Celebrate every improvement: Even something simple like following a new process, requires acknowledgement to cement it. Mark Twain once said, “I can live for a month on a sincere compliment.” Our employees are probably not much different. 

Monday, 19 August 2019 10:47

ISO Consultants: Risks and Rewards

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How you perceive and partner with a consultant dramatically affects the ROI of the engagement. In 20 years of working with ISO standards, both consulting and auditing, I have seen many of these good and not-so-good results.

ISO Consultants can bring many wonderful advantages to companies seeking the next level:

  • Real-world experience saves you time and $$$

  • In-depth understanding of the discipline & tools you are seeking to implement

  • Ability to see the gaps and needs in your current practices

  • Best-practice ideas for application in companies your size or industry.

Some very good reasons to hire a consultant toward ISO certification: 

  • For those just starting the ISO certification journey, or seeking to implement a new standard, a consultant can solve the daunting ‘knowledge gap.’  

  • A small company may not feel they can devote a staff member to learn the requirements, and then developing and implementing a QMS or EMS. 

  • ISO can feel like legalese – someone with experience can translate the nuances into understandable English, and manageable tasks. 

  • If your QMS has stalled, and if you can’t figure out what’s not working right, an expert can help you get unstuck and move to the next level

Not-so-good reasons to hire a consultant: 

  • Thinking you can delegate compliance to a consultant so you can pass the audit. This results in little staff understanding of good practice.  Thus, ROI is low. 

  • Wanting to ‘get certified’ by simply adding some paperwork to your system. 

The risks of this approach include:

  • Limited understanding and adherence to QMS requirements

  • Limited corrective action and improvements: When no one understands the improvement indicated by the consultant, things easily drift back to business as usual, resulting in limited ROI.

  • Limited management engagement: Management is responsible for the effectiveness of the QMS; to understand, resource, and drive a culture of improvement, efficiency, cost reductions, risk mitigation, and next level staff engagement. Without management commitment and engagement, even the best designed QMS will founder.

  • Low Shared Knowledge.  If only the consultant understands the system, and if they become unavailable, the QMS and your certification are at significant risk.

Best Practice Ideas – Top management keeps responsibility for the QMS and uses the consultant as a mentor and coach for your staff. 

  • Train department heads or influencers in the requirements of the standard you are pursuing.  Those persons are the drivers and supporters of culture.

  • Have staff shadow/partner with the consultant as they help YOU implement, monitor and improve your system. Employee understanding, engagement and process improvement flow from this.

  • Actively ask not just “what” but “why,” the reasons, benefits, and risks associated with actions, tools, and decisions the consultant recommends.  A culture of risk-based and continual-improvement thinking at all levels drives improvement of process controls and system effectiveness.

Remember, consultants, coaches, and mentors to help us get to the next level, but we are always responsible for our own results.

Monday, 01 July 2019 20:37

Simple Tools for Chasing the Next Level

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Becoming a new nation by declaring independence, as we celebrated on the Fourth of July, was not accidental.  It was a dream that was planned and fought for.  So is the next level for any company.

Without a tangible vision and measurable milestones to achieve it, people get lost in the regular routine of daily tasks, and achieving that next level seems impossible.

This is precisely why all the ISO standards ask management to make a commitment to improvement, and dedicate a full section of the standard to the concept. Section 10.1 of ISO 9001, ISO 14001, and ISO 45001 all state “The organization shall determine opportunities for improvement and implement necessary actions”, and Section 8.5.1 of ISO 13485  states “the organization shall identify and implement any changes necessary to ensure and maintain the suitability, adequacy and effectiveness of the QMS”.  So, let’s look at a few accessible tools to make extraordinary improvements in the second half of 2019.


Breaking it down.

Identify the gaps  departmental data, customer feedback, lost sales figures are all great sources.

-Does data show an objective you are missing? Use data in employee focus groups to identify gaps and possible actions.

-Do you see a trend within customer orders, complaints or returns? Is there a common source, training need, or a missing resource that could be addressed?

-High performing companies implement 2-4 employee suggestions each year – are you collecting, investigating, prioritizing and implementing employee suggestions? Engaged employees know they are heard, and are more willing to support other company objectives.

Set priorities – Choose one or two large goals each year, and a few smaller (departmental?) goals. A culture of improvement uses the smaller goals to build momentum and enthusiasm, and carry the team through the harder or slower projects.  Balance resources so you see financial, operational and engagement returns. 

Create teams – Include those directly involved, some objective eyes from impacted departments, as well as a member of leadership to spearhead and resource. When the people closest to the project, event or policy see an issue, they need management support that their feedback and suggestions are vital.

Set goals and targets – For each project create a simple project plan, with reasonable time-based goals.  Communicate targets to the team and staff along with the reward plan for each target.

Measure and adapt – Part of keeping up the energy level on a project is measuring progress, providing resources to overcome roadblocks, and revising the plan as needed.

Celebrate – Recognition is energizing, so celebrate the small wins as well as the large ones. Rewarding teams that hit a milestone can spur on other teams, even the whole company. Whether monthly potlucks, where you regularly recognize the contributions of team members and announce next steps, or donuts and kudos on payday, a barbeque, or a gift card – pick the celebration method that motivates your team (and if you don’t know, ask!).

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