One of the first things which comes to peoples’ minds when describing Quality Management Systems and “ISO 9000” is documentation, which often includes a Quality Manual. The background to Quality Management Systems started with (big) procurement organizations such as government agencies and Fortune 500 companies making Quality Systems a contractual requirement. Frequently, these requirements included the need for a document, which was often called a “Quality Manual”, a “Quality Plan” or similar. These were used, by a supplier, to describe the approach to be used to fulfil the contract requirements and assure the quality of the deliverables.
Today, a hall mark of ISO 9001 Quality Management Systems documentation is a Quality Manual – one has been a requirement of the International Standard since 1987. Manuals produced by many organizations emulate the format and content of the ISO 9001:2008 clauses (4 through 8) to the extent that the words “The organization shall” have simply been replaced by the name of the company! This often leads to documents which run into 25 or more pages, written in arcane terminology which has little relevance to the business of the organization. The result? People rarely read the document, it’s often only rubber stamped by auditors and it gathers dust on an office shelf somewhere…
Amazingly, the 2015 edition of ISO 9001 dropped the requirement for a quality manual – indeed any type of traditional quality documentation, such as procedures, work instructions etc - leaving it up to the organization itself to determine what it needs, based on understanding customer, regulatory expectations and its own requirements for documentation.
Based on their experience with Quality Manuals, it might be tempting to an organization to discard theirs, after all, it only sees the light of day when the Registrar auditor is on site – and no-one else reads it!
But wait! Before that particular baby is discarded with the bath water, why is it that no-one reads the Quality Manual? Maybe it’s because it’s not helpful, uses arcane language and is formatted on an ISO document no-one has reason to read!
There’s a better model on which we can base our Quality Manual which might bring some help to users: The “Quick-Start Guide” you get with some items of house hold electrical equipment etc is a clue. These guides cover the basics of what the (new) user needs to know to get “up and running”. For more detailed descriptions, including navigating the complete set of functions, features and also for fault finding etc, reference can be made to the more comprehensive manual which is also included.Will your upgrade to the 2015 ISO 9001 requirements be heralded by a new, useful Quality Manual “Quick Guide to the Quality System”?