ISO 9001 Series: Moving Beyond Compliance

By May 4, 2021blog

In the previous post of our ISO 9001 series, we ended on the note that it’s not enough to simply achieve ISO 9001 compliance. Rather, companies must be willing to take their efforts to the next level to understand how the changes they’re making to become compliant affect their ability to thrive.

In other words, compliance does not inherently guarantee success, just like writing a book doesn’t guarantee it will sell.

Why is this important, you might wonder?

Because companies that achieve ISO 9001 compliance can still fail. This usually happens when the processes and systems you implement do not deliver quick and consistent value to your customers.

The only way to move beyond compliance is to build a foundation of understanding. This is the why behind ISO 9001 certification, and actually carries more weight than the certification itself.

Principles Over Practices

One of the biggest causes of ISO 9001 failure is putting too much emphasis on the what and too little on the why.

Practices are performed just as planned, but the reason why the practice was established in the first place is often forgotten. This can create some dangerous, stifling effects on the business, such as unnecessary paperwork, bloated processes, forms, and other hurdles. These may only exist to maintain compliance, but do nothing to grow the business or move it toward greater objectives.

There’s a big difference between managing quality and managing for quality. Organizations that want to develop a culture of excellence should aim for the latter: when processes are designed for quality and not just quality compliance, customer satisfaction and business performance become natural by products of the process.

Moving From Compliance to Excellence

Companies that want to move beyond compliance and toward excellence need to look at the layers surrounding ISO 9001 compliance, not just the compliance requirements themselves.

For example, let’s say your company wants to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions. Instead of directly addressing these emissions, you could look at what leads to greenhouse gas emissions in the first place. In this case, you move from controlling emissions to preventing them.

From a compliance perspective, this could mean understanding why you receive the numbers you do when measuring emissions. You might also explore ways to control the emissions, who would be in a position to help do this, and the resources that might be available.

In short, moving beyond compliance requires taking a holistic approach to quality. It’s the difference between preparing for an audit vs always being ready for an audit, for example, because you’ve built the right processes and have the right people in place.

Allowing you to treat the root causes of issues in order to achieve not only symptoms but also real progress.

Next up in our ISO 9001 series finale, we’ll explore further what organizational excellence looks like and the role of executive commitment in achieving predictable, repeatable success.