As with all standards, one of the major disadvantages with the system is that it presumes that work is best controlled by specifying and controlling procedures. 15 This is why you find over-elaborate documentation, people having to do ‘two jobs’ – do the work then ‘write’ about it. There is an abundance of documentation that only exists so that an internal auditor can do his or her job. These methods are preventing people making a useful contribution, making them feel that the value of their contribution is, in whatever way, defined by procedures.
Despite what many managers have been led to believe, to control performance by controlling people’s activity is a poor way to manage. It is usually a fast way to sub-optimisation – it makes performance worse. Take for example the main principles of the ISO 9004:2000. In this, quality management is talked of as though it is one of a number of management disciplines. Systems thinking, however, is at the heart of quality management and it represents a different and better way of managing work. It is not additional to, it is actually considered better than.
The standard (ISO/CD2 9004:2000, page 11) says: “The quality management system is an important part of the overall management system. ” Many may disagree with this saying that the two are one. To achieve genuine and sustainable improvements in quality, an organisation must be understood and managed as a system. The standard then goes on to say: “Organisations should define their systems and the processes contained within them to enable the systems to be clearly understood, managed and improved”.
While this may ring true the manual does not provide any useful guidance on how to go about doing that. Many managers may also argue that they would rather adopt a National Business Excellence Model rather than focussing on the ISO 9004:2000 system. 16 The National Model would result in them receiving an actual award which they can then communicate to their customers as opposed to the ISO 9004:2000 which is not even a certification.
Irrespective of what the standard advises management to think about, the core quality management philosophies can only be exercised if everyone in the organisation buys into the continual improvement notion. The actual organisational culture must foster this thinking of progressive improvements in processes and policies. It is possible to improve quality management and its implementation through the study of organizational culture.
Culture is defined, by Hofstede as the collective programming of the mind, which distinguishes the members of one category of people from another. 17 An organizational culture contains a pool of experiences and core competences which can be mobilized on behalf of quality management. Quality management, as a consequence of culture maintenance, relies on processes and characteristics which are already effective in the company. It is based on intimate understanding of the patterns which the company is developing and to which it is adapting itself, at the same time.
In my opinion, the basic reason for much of the delay in implementing quality management is that top managers are usually not aware of the collective answers to basic questions as contained in the organizational culture. That is, top managers are insufficiently aware of basic issues and values, which support the daily practices in their organization: the organizational culture18. Diagnosing the organizational culture explains among other things what organizational members understand by quality and how this quality is accomplished in daily practices.
Keeping in mind other important stakeholders in the business, quality systems have now been developed to accommodate standards for the maintenance of the same. The ISO 14000 is a generic management system that is primarily concerned with “environmental management”. This means what the organization does to minimize harmful effects on the environment caused by its activities.
In the case of ISO 14000, the efficient and effective management of processes is going to affect whether or not everything has been done to ensure a product will have the least harmful impact on the environment, at any stage in its life cycle, either by pollution, or by depleting natural resources. The Occupational Health and Safety standards are an example of guidelines that determine the care taken for employees in the workplace. By implementing such standards within the organisation, the general perception of the firm is improved in the eyes of the stakeholders.
One must remember that the main focus of any business is to retain satisfied customers. Any organisation without customers or with dissatisfied customers is in peril. To keep customers – and to keep them satisfied – your service needs to meet and nearly always exceed their expectations. The ISO 9000 standards family merely provides a tried and tested framework for taking a systematic approach to managing your business processes so that they consistently turn out conforming to the customer’s expectations. This directly results in consistently happy customers.
Another aspect that must be highlighted is that ISO 9000 lays down what requirements your quality system must meet, but does not dictate how they should be met in your organization – which leaves great scope and flexibility for implementation in different business sectors and business cultures. In the initial stages, Company ABC was a very small business concern with its own way of doing things that were not really documented. However, with the recent growth the firm has had over the last decade or so, the number of people involved ahs increased and hence the need written procedures, instructions, forms and records.
These help ensure that everyone is not just “doing his or her own thing”, and that the organization goes about its business in an orderly and structured way, so that time, money and other resources are utilized efficiently. We have also seen how the presence of national cultures can play a very significant role in the acceptance and success of implementing such quality standards. The ISO 9000 is a certificate of conformity. This has proved extremely popular in the market-place because of the perceived credibility of such an independent assessment.
The certificate can also serve as a business reference between the organization and potential clients, especially when supplier and client are new to each other, or far removed geographically, as in an export context. Hence, in spite of the negative aspects that may be of some concern with regards to opting to address a higher standard, I firmly recommend that Company ABC follow this suggested route and get certified for the ISO 9000:2000 standards and follow through by conforming to the ISO 9004:2000 as well.