Saturday, March 30, 2019

WTH? A Useful Quality Manual?

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content of the ISO 9001:2008 clauses (4 through 8) to the extent that the words “The organization shall” have simply been replaced by the name of the company!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”?

People Got Talent!

Competency is all around us. It pervades our lives. We see competency on t.v, - for example “America’s Got Talent” – talented people, regardless of their age, gender or social background.  performing all manner of stage acts that wow the show’s judges and viewers. “How did they do that?”, we often ask ourselves…

ISO 9001 includes a requirement for an organization’s people, involved in the Quality Management System, to be competent in their work responsibilities. The normative reference (vocabulary) document, ISO 9000, defines competence as “the demonstrated ability to apply skills and knowledge”. Those t.v show contestants could certainly demonstrate skills and knowledge, but how did they become so competent? They weren’t likely to be born with some “gift”, therefore, their performance is most likely to have been the result of combination of factors…

Practice, Practice, Practice…

 Zig Ziglar is credited with this: “Repetition is the mother of learning, the father of action, which makes it the architect of accomplishment.” Most of those performers will likely attribute their abilities to a combination of education (performance “theory”), training (master classes or similar) and practice, practice, practice… Competent performers can usually demonstrate a specific part of their act, and describe the reason and purpose for it, often including some portion of the related theory.

It is the same with many work related activities in manufacturing. A journeyman machining center setter, for example, would be able to demonstrate competencies in terms of:

·         Blueprint reading

·         Geometric Dimensioning and Tolerancing (GD&T)

·         Machine feeds and speeds

·         Material properties

·         CNC Programming

If we analyze these, we can see that some knowledge aspects are going to be education based – for example material properties which affect the way a part is machined, or CNC programming. Some knowledge aspects may be training derived, either from a classroom event and/or “on-the-job”. Furthermore, a significant proportion of competency is experiential – which comes from practice, practice, practice.

When an organization is determining competencies, it’s worth breaking down the required records into these three categories:

·         Education

·         Training

·         Experience

Then, creating some criteria against which a person can then be evaluated, for the job they do, should be relatively straightforward. Creating a record of these criteria and that they were demonstrated would meet the ISO 9001:2015 requirements stated in section 7.2.

Management must prepare themselves, however, to discover that some employees may not be at the same level of competency they were considered to have reached. From Burch’s Learning Model of the 1970s, we can see there are 4 distinct stages of competency:
·         Unconscious Incompetence

·         Conscious Incompetence

·         Conscious Competence

·         Unconscious Competence

It’s important to recognize, however, that these stages are not concrete and changes can affect the person such that they regress from unconscious competence right back to unconscious incompetence. Anyone who has encountered a MS Windows update will attest to experiencing that. 


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