Guest Post by John Mason (first posted on CERM ® RISK INSIGHTS – reposted here with permission)
A classic question for all CEOs and floor sweepers alike. What the heck do we do and what do we want to do? In big business there is visioning, missioning, goal setting, target measuring, market analysis, focus groups, policy and much much more, more and more. In small business, we offer far more than we would like to do, but in order to make ends meet, we take on more and more until we finally burn out or are lucky enough to realise a cash flow that will enable us to niche or focus on what we do and what we want to do.
Sometimes we find the answers in a strategic plan / business plan / marketing plan / operations plan / and others. The simple answer could be found on your web site. But what is intriguing is that the good old quality system can help. Or at least make us think about what do we do.
In the first step, we can define what we do in a quality policy. This will also enable us to reference or begin the process of setting a framework for objectives so that we know how and possible why we do what we do.
In the next step, we can set out true goals, objectives and targets which will be brought about by thinking about our stakeholders, interested parties and package it all up thinking about the risks of each.
Once we have these rudiments, procedures, process flows or workflows will filter out to enable us to meet these musings which then enable us to generate data to determine if we are getting what we do is right. This will inevitably include what did we do that we did really right and what did we do that customers liked and at the end of the day, what did we do that we really liked. Now all we have to do is communicate this information through whatever medium you would like to. Start with your web site, then your marketing collateral, then sales material, then bulletin boards, emails, newsletters and so on. Before you know it, you know what you do and so do all those who are interested in what you do as well.
The standard itself wants answers to the following; internal and external issues; needs and expectations of interested parties; the scope of your quality management system; interaction and controls between the quality management system and processes.
There is no all-embracing formula, template, document to manage context, but rather a series of interrelating documentation to ensure the overall context can be established. Perhaps the closest would be a strategic plan, that would then be underpinned by a business plan, which would then be underpinned by process specific or risk specific set of documentations which can be in any format or media that you think is appropriate to the reader. Sheesh. What ever happened to …’I am a baker. I bake bread!’, but sadly no.
What we need to do is spell it out and do so in detail appropriate to ourselves, then to others. But how does this help me, the poor old business person? Read on.
When thinking all things quality and quality management systems, I normally try and address context with a wonderful document called a quality manual. Not a re-engineered piece of clever literacy, but one that addresses each clause of the standard. In true unadulterated quality speak. Why? Because it brings the business into context with the standard.
Oh yeah, the standard. That wonderful document you are trying to benchmark against. So, address it and take the time to look at context. Hopefully, this will then link and or reference the ‘higher’ end documents of strategic plans and business plans that will bring everything into focus.
The standard goes on to want to know about; interested parties; the scope of your quality management system; interaction and the effect or potential effect on the company’s ability to consistently provide products and services and that meet customer and applicable statutory and regulatory requirements. Ouch, all of that huh. Yes.
And last, but not least, we need to have documented information that describes our context. This means it must be available in a format suitable to yourself and your interested parties, so that we all know what we are doing or at least what we are supposed to be doing. No rocket science here to address this need and to address your own governance as a business owner. Just make it happen.
John Mason is the managing consultant at quality.com.au. A team of management system consultants specialising in ISO certifications. They are one of only a few QA providers to be quality, environmental and safety certified themselves. John and his team, guarantee ISO quality certification (and ongoing support) via a proven 5 step, fixed fee, 10 week program. As the author of 2 books with nearly 30 years in business, John developed his own 24/7 virtual quality management platform, with a 100% certification first time track record and a client list including Volkswagen, Monash University and Hyundai.