After seeing many quality policies, some too long for employees to relate to, I feel compelled to explain in detail what is require of the quality policy by ISO 9001. Whether you are coming up with a new quality policy or reviving yours, this article, gives you step by step comments and examples of how to best create your quality policy.
Include a commitment to comply with requirements
Another requirement of the ISO 9001 standard in regards to the quality policy is to comply with requirements. You may accomplish that by mentioning your commitment in a short sentence, such as:
We will comply with all requirements
We will comply with customer requirements
We comply with our customer requirement and other requirements.
In this case the first and the third sample attempt to include other requirements your organization may have such as federal, statutory, legislative, etc. You can be short or you can list all other requirements, such as:
We will comply with customer requirements, API requirements, industry requirements, statutory, legislative and any other requirement.
Again, you can add your own words but the statement needs to convey that. Any words or combination of words that is suitable for you will suffice, as long as you can demonstrate they meet the intent of the standard.
Include a commitment to continually improve the effectiveness of the quality management system
This requirement is to show commitment for continual improvement of the organization’s quality management system. Basically, if I read your quality policy, your mission, your vision or whatever you decide your quality policy to be, would I see that commitment? Whether you are using the specific words from the standard, or other words, whether you have a long drawn statement or a short statement, if I’m able to see in your quality policy that you are committed to continual improvement then you will be meeting the requirement of the ISO 9001 standard in regards to quality policy.Some examples are:
We are committed to continually improve our products and services
We are deeply committed to the continual improvement of our processes
We will always strive to improve the effectiveness of our quality management system
Provide a framework for establishing and reviewing quality objectives,
Your quality policy should set the framework to the quality objectives. This doesn’t mean that you are going to include your objectives in your quality policy; however that is up to you, you may indeed want to include your objectives. The only difficult part about it is that you will have to change your quality policy, every time you update your objectives. If updating your quality policy is not a problem to you then you are entitled to have your quality objectives as part of your quality policy.You can have a short statement or you can have an intricate and elaborate statement talking about how you will comply with the quality objectives. The auditor may ask; where in your quality policy are you setting the framework for complying with the objectives? Some examples would be:
We are going to comply with the objectives set forth by the company.
We will establish process metrics and strive to meet them or exceed them.
Our company ensures that all quality objectives are monitored.
That is very straightforward and very easily demonstrates that you have established quality objectives, and obviously will review them to find out if you are complying. Another example would be:
We as a company will strive to meet or exceed customer satisfaction and will perform all necessary activities to achieve that.
You are not specifically saying you will comply with the objectives but by saying that your ultimate goal is customer satisfaction and that you will comply with any other goals related to it, then you are saying that goals will be established and will be sought and hopefully achieved. In reality all of the goals that you set for your company may directly or indirectly be related to customer satisfaction. For example, increased productivity, increased customer retention, increased effectiveness of certain processes, all will lead to customer satisfaction.
I strongly suggest that the quality policy be endorsed by your top leader to demonstrate management commitment which is a requirement of the standard. Having a signature will clearly show endorsing. Doing this will also give all the employees an opportunity to see that top management is leading the company wide quality effort. But it is not a requirement that the quality policy be signed, it just needs to be established by top management.
How to document the quality policy
The ISO 9001 standard requires that the quality policy be documented. In the old days where electronic systems were not widespread, documenting the quality policy meant to have a paper copy of it. Now the standard recognizes that there are other mediums to document policies and procedures and in fact there is a note on the standard to make this clarification (See Note 3 under 4.2.1). So whether it is electronically, on paper, or both, ensure the quality policy is documented,
Should we give everybody a copy of the quality policy? Should we plaster the company with a copy of it? In the old days where access to PCs was not easy, people will make copies of the quality policy and post them in various areas, such as in conference rooms, lunch rooms, everybody’s office, etc. Nowadays you can still do that, however since the majority of employees now have access to the quality policy on their own PCs, keeping paper copies of the quality policy is no longer necessary. Electronic quality management systems such as in Mireaux’s Web-Based QMS can be used, where everyone can easily access the quality policy. Your organization may decide to have the quality policy on the main page of your website or you can have it linked from the main page of your website.
The quality policy could also be given to employees in the form of small badges. Most companies now use badge systems to access different areas of their facility. You could easily add another card to that stack or if possible, you can put a copy of the quality policy in the back of the badge. The only difficulty is that if you change your quality policy often -and that is the reason why we don’t like to change it often- then you will have to change all the badges. Similarly, if you have a print out of your quality policy posted in various offices, you will have to go around the company, lunch rooms, conference rooms etc. and update the quality policy if you decide to change it. So it will be most appropriate to keep it electronically. However if you want to keep it in other areas, you can do so, just keep a log of where you are posting the quality policy so that it will be easier to replace it when a new revision comes up.
My recommendation is to keep it electronically but I do suggest that a few places, such as the lobby, lunch rooms or other prominent areas are good locations to post hard copies of the quality policy especially if customers visit often. Make sure to put a nice color copy of it and in a frame.
One of the most used methods for introducing employees to the quality policy is during new-hire orientation. While this is a great starting point, it may not be as effective since the new employee is being bombarded with tons of information.
Mireaux has developed a nice video to train employees in the quality policy. The video is short and highlights the keywords of the quality policy, stressing those that reflect the requirements of the standard. The video can be watched by new hires during orientation, as well as any other employee periodically as needed. The video can be posted electronically such as in Mireaux’s Web-Based QMS and be watched by employees on their own PCs or shown as part of a class. Mireaux’s video even includes some questions, which is a great way to measure training effectiveness and to see how much of the quality policy the employee retained and understood.
Whatever your training method is, ensuring that your employees are able to explain the sentiments of the quality policy in their own words, or explain how it applies to their jobs is the key indicator that your quality policy is effective and understood.