Compared to the previous standard, ISO 9001:2015 places much more emphasis on leadership and commitment of top management with regard to the quality management system. Top managers are willing to get involved in this, but often don’t know where to start.

To help top managers implement ISO 9001:2015 and prepare the associated audits, Pauwels Consulting is organising ISO 9001 workshops.

We spoke with Luc Marivoet, prevention counsellor, quality officer and ISO 9001 specialist at Pauwels Consulting, about the goal and content of these workshops.

Luc, can you introduce yourself briefly?

Luc: Gladly! I’m Luc Marivoet and I’m fifty-two years old. I have more than twenty-five years of experience working in quality management and I have been employed by Pauwels Consulting for almost six years now.

At the moment, I’m involved every day in setting up, implementing and maintaining certified ISO 9001 quality management systems, in particular at a large company in the railway sector. I’m also a prevention counsellor at Pauwels Consulting.

“It used to be the case that quality management was given attention primarily in function of audits.”
In 2015, the new ISO 9001:2015 standard was introduced. How does it differ from the previous standard in terms of management commitment?

Luc: If companies wanted to implement a quality management system in the days of ISO 9001:2008, a quality manager and a management representative were appointed from the ranks of the management team.

The quality manager took care of the implementation and monitoring of the quality management system, while the management representative made periodic reviews via a management review to assess whether the quality management system was achieving the intended results.

Top management did therefore make a commitment, but this could be limited to an annual review.

Has that now changed?

Luc: Definitely. Compared to the previous standard, the new ISO 9001:2015 places much more emphasis on leadership and commitment of top management. Leadership is about vision, empowerment, change and behaviour.

The standard requires top managers and company managers to be more committed to the quality management system and to provide more guidance. This is based on the notion that quality is a matter for everyone at all levels in the organisation.

In this way, ISO 9001:2015 aims to promote the integration and coordination with business processes and strategies. This means top management must now take more responsibility for the effectiveness of the quality management system.

“More than ever, ISO 9001:2015 is a means to achieving strategic success.”
Do you think this represents a positive evolution for top management?

Luc: Absolutely! The quality management system now reflects the needs of top management better, because ISO 9001:2015 pays more attention to an organisation’s context, the requirements and expectations of all stakeholders and risk management.

Now more than ever, the quality management system is a means to achieving strategic success by responding to the needs of all stakeholders and managing risks and opportunities.

What does it look like in practice?

Luc: Previously, the quality manager or quality director was interviewed during the audit, but now, the new standard clearly states that top management itself must explain the strategy used:

  • What positive and negative factors (internal and external) have been identified which are relevant to top management’s goals and strategic direction?
  • What internal and external stakeholders have been identified?
  • What are the requirements and expectations of these stakeholders?
  • How do you deal with them?
  • Is all this information regularly monitored and assessed?
Can you explain these questions in more detail?

Luc: Every company outlines itself a certain strategy of course, but top management must now also make this concrete through the quality management system.

In this context, top management must establish the possible internal and external issues which are important to determine the business strategy, by using a PESTEL analysis for example.

Such a PESTEL analysis serves to identify positive and negative factors that can affect an organisation. PESTEL stands for ‘political, economic, social, technological, environmental and legal’.

This analysis provides a canvas for conducting the discussion about ISO 9001 within the management team. It presents six important issues to think about.

“In the past, people only spoke about customers; now, they talk about ‘interested parties’ or ‘stakeholders’.”
And does management then have to identify internal and external interested parties?

Luc: That’s right. In the past, people only spoke about customers; now, they talk in a broader sense about ‘interested parties’ or ‘stakeholders’. This could be employees, trade unions, local, national and international public authorities or even neighbours.

For example, neighbours are an enormously important stakeholder in the railway sector company I’m currently working for. If you ignore such parties, it can seriously frustrate your strategy or planning or you could miss out on important opportunities.

Once the stakeholders have been identified, top management must also examine the influence these parties have on the company, what the importance of this is for the company and how the company will deal with it.

“With ISO 9001, you can turn a risk into a competitive advantage. ISO 9001 is therefore an opportunity rather than a hindrance.”
Can you give an example?

Luc: Definitely. One of the customers which I personally help with a quality management system has been confronted with a legislative proposal that obliged them to make all their products biodegradable by 2020.

This was an important issue, because there were currently no raw materials available to make certain products in accordance with this legislation. This issue came to light after a context analysis and an analysis of the requirements and expectations of stakeholders, where the public authorities were an important party involved.

Top management responded to this by looking for raw materials to make the new biodegradable products, rather than waiting for a lobby to make the law a bit more flexible. If they succeed (and there is a real chance they will), they will have turned a risk into an opportunity and gained a competitive advantage.

Looked at in these terms, the ISO 9001:2015 standard is therefore an opportunity rather than a hindrance. Such a standard can actually help business. In fact, we formulated a strategic response based on the new standard. As a result, the top management is now even more committed and the company has gained a competitive advantage.

“What questions will the auditors ask during the certification audit?”
Why is Pauwels Consulting going to organise ISO 9001:2015 workshops?

Luc: Pauwels Consulting constantly helps companies to implement ISO 9001.

The first question that top managers often ask us during the implementation of ISO 9001:2015 and the preparation of the associated audits is: “What questions will the auditors ask during the certification audit?”

We therefore often observe some uncertainty and restraint among top management, which led us to the idea of offering help with targeted ISO 9001:2015 workshops.

In my opinion, top management at many companies also need some brief crash courses to be able to think more efficiently about ISO 9001, in addition to long-term assistance with the practical implementation of ISO 9001:2015. It can only benefit the business strategy.

What is the goal of the workshops?

Luc: The ultimate goal of the workshops is to help the top management deal efficiently with ISO 9001:2015 and identify and utilise both the risks and the commercial benefits and opportunities.

As consultants, we act as both facilitators who provide structure and take notes and as moderators to stay efficient and relevant.

Furthermore, we provide the top management with a framework and a road map with ready-made questions that an auditor can ask during an ISO audit. This allows them to prepare properly.

“During the workshop we look closely at risk-based thinking, an important aspect of ISO 9001.”
How long does this workshop last?

Luc: An ISO 9001:2015 workshop is spread over two to four half days, depending on the complexity of the company, the already existing knowledge and implementation of ISO 9001:2015 and the availability of the participants.

In this context, it is particularly important that all members of top management participate, otherwise the whole exercise is pointless and you will get a skewed view of stakeholders and factors which play a role in the strategy.

Thanks for this interesting explanation, Luc, and good luck with the ISO 9001:2015 workshops and your other quality management projects.

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Questions or information?

If you have any questions about quality management systems or ISO 9001:2015, please contact us without obligation by calling +32 (0)9 324 70 80 or e-mailing [email protected]. We would be pleased to assist you!

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