The ISO Cornerstone – Metrics!!

by Dave K. Moskal

The monitoring, measurement, analysis and evaluation of quality management systems and their processes is one of the cornerstones of ISO 9001. The ISO 9001:2015 Draft International Standard (DIS) adds the requirement that top management ensures the quality objectives that are established for the quality management system are compatible with the strategic direction and in context of the organization. Irrespective of ISO, it is crucial that any objectives that are established are useful, meaningful and drive favorable activity within the company. Objectives are a way to ensure that your strategic direction is realized and that the planning for that direction is kept honest. Metrics are used to quantify measurements that are used to track and assess the status of processes. Metrics are merely tools that are used to identify both the gaps and strengths of your organization. They will give clarity to the organization of its processes and quantify their efficiency and effectiveness to optimize the control of them. The processes of your quality management system will allow personnel to address issues in a structured manner.

So what are some good metrics to have? This is a very common question that organizations have and the answer is that it depends on the organization. There is not a combination of ideal ‘one size fits all’ metrics that exists to deliver the right information for every company in every industry or operating environment. The best metrics to have are those that communicate to the user whether the company is progressing towards its stated goals, stuck in a holding pattern, or has fallen short. The metrics should have buy-in at all levels of the organization, not just from management but also from those whose activities are being measured.  It’s important that personnel who are involved in the activities not only understand the metrics but commit to them. This will help ensure that the data that is used is accurate and that positive progression is made toward the strategic direction of the company.

Metrics should also exist at all levels of the organization.  The implication is that measurements relating to “work” will be an indicator of the future achievement of grander objectives.  Metrics that relate to activities “earlier” in a process can also be used to indicate future success.  It is too late to wait until the end of the month before finding out if we made any money or not.  Measures of input performance are incredibly valuable.

It is imperative that sound data is used to calculate metrics accurately, remember the old adage of ‘garbage in- garbage out’. You don’t want to be making decisions based on metrics that are not painting an accurate picture. Doing so will not only ensure that wrong decisions are made and steer the organization in an unfavorable direction, but will also cause personnel whose activities are being measured to not cooperate or to ignore the metrics all together. The credibility of the metrics that are developed, how they tie into the strategic direction of the company, whether they are communicated to and adopted by all stakeholders involved in the activity being measured are critical factors to the success of the performance measurement. Likewise if the metrics developed are not relevant to performance or if they are measuring something that is too insignificant to affect performance, then management jeopardizes their effectiveness by focusing on those measurements instead of others that will drive favorable activity and have a positive impact on the quality management system and the strategic direction of the organization.

While there is no universal answer, it is crucial that metrics and their corresponding objectives are well thought out, have meaning and drive favorable behavior, and are effectively communicated to personnel in the organization.

Cavendish Scott, Inc. has been helping organizations establish meaningful management systems for 30 years.  Metrics are a key part of that.  For more information contact info@cavendishscott.com