Standards and Measures
Par is a recognized standard for golf performance. It is applied at the end of every hole and at the end of every round. It is used to measure performance in terms of strokes. Golfers compare their performance against a standard to determine how well they golf relative to the established standard. Because other golfers use the same standard, golfers’ scores allow them to assess their performance not only relative to a standard, but also relative to other golfers.
A ruler represents a standard for linear measurement. This standard is applied to any linear object to discern its length in terms of defined (standard) units. In America, these standard units are inches.
A standard exists for each type of purebred dog breed, e.g., a standard poodle. Such standards describe established criteria pertaining to height, weight, color, coat, stop, etc. Using this standard, any purebred dog can be compared to its standard. One can conclude that her dog is heavier than standard or taller than standard, etc.
So a standard is an established set of criteria or a frame of reference against which individual cases can be assessed or measured.
ISO 9001 is an international standard for quality assurance. If par as a standard measures golf performance, and a ruler as a standard measures length, what does ISO 9001 as a standard measure? Answer: quality management systems. The standard is applied to organizations’ quality management systems to determine the degree to which these systems satisfy a given set of established criteria.
Any organization staying in business has some kind of system to keep afloat. The question here is whether or not the system is consistently applied and whether or not the system is robust enough to meet the established requirements of ISO 9001.
ISO 9001 requires that a system be in place to promote consistent control over processing, a system that continually improves process performance. Because it is a standard for quality assurance, its criteria pertain to processes affecting the quality of products or services offered to customers. An organization pursuing certification to ISO 9001 needs to demonstrate that its processes affecting quality are systemically managed. It requires a system of assuring quality, meaning that the processes involved are defined and operation of these processes is controlled to an appropriate degree to assure quality.
If an organization re-invents itself and its processes with the acceptance of each customer order, this inconstancy in processing will result in inconsistent performance, inconsistent product or service quality, and inconsistent customer satisfaction. Organizations operating such systems do not receive ISO 9001 certification.
ISO 9001 requires a system of processes to be defined, through with each customer order consistently flows, thus promoting consistency of processing, thereby promoting consistency in resulting product or service offerings. This results in consistently satisfied customers—which of course is good for business.
If a person told you that he was a better golfer than Tiger Woods, you would expect the person to prove it. If this person’s proof consisted of, “Because I say so,” you might not find this evidence compelling. Before believing this person, you would most likely want to know the person’s handicap—which is ultimately derived from the standard we know as par. Absent such objective evidence, how would we be able to tell how good Tiger is in the first place?
If a person told you that their organization would be an excellent supplier to your organization, you might want more than “Because I say so” as evidence. You might want to know if they are a fly-by-the-seat-of-their-pants type of organization, or if they actually have systems in place to assure quality. If a potential supplier can prove a system is in place, and that this system has been assessed and registered to ISO 9001, now you have some evidence of systemic quality management. This imparts confidence that your orders will be processed in a manner known to produce successful results.