What Should I Expect From My Quality Management System?

What should a good Quality Management System provide?

Clients often ask, what's the difference between a good and bad quality management system? A follow-up question usually questions the value of one based on ISO 9001. No one should ever be surprised by such questions. There are good and bad approaches to establishing an organization's quality management system. - This article will highlight the benefits of a sound quality management system to any organization.

A quality management system (QMS) is a formalized method of documenting an organization's business processes. It uses procedures and other documents that define the responsibilities required to achieve business objectives. You can define these objectives as the "what, why, when, where, how, and who" activities required to operate. The organization's QMS is responsible for defining these and organizing and centralizing quality control policies that help keep processes standardized and coherent.

The purpose of a QMS is to establish and document trustworthy, repeatable processes that ensure continued success. These documents should accurately represent the organization's processes without creating unnecessary complications. When properly implemented, a QMS should provide:

  • Confidence. All levels of the organization should feel confident that business can proceed as expected and defined despite any challenges.
  • Reliability. When properly documented, reviewed, and revised, documented processes can ensure the success of an organization throughout the ever-changing environment.
  • Ease of Use. An organization's QMS should be easy to use. It should be based on and consist of the processes required to operate the organization. (These are the processes "natural" to each type of business.)
  • Focus. When an organization's QMS is based on the business processes and not on unfamiliar requirements, it provides an internal focus that flows smoothly and helps all employees observe the organization's success. 
  • Repeatability. The purpose of an organization's QMS system is to ensure that every time a process is performed, your team uses the same information, methods, skills, and controls.
  • Quality. A guarantee that quality will not decrease over time due to internal failures or external ones the organization manages control over.
  • Clear Expectations. Internal and customer expectations will always be clearly understood and agreed upon by the organization.
  • Continuous Improvement. If there are process issues or opportunities, you should address these within the QMS to ensure continuous improvement of the organization.
  • Customer Satisfaction. A vital benefit of a successful QMS is tracking and understanding the satisfaction level of an organization's customers. Without customer satisfaction, an organization cannot be successful in business, making this a critical knowledge base.
  • Awareness & Training. A well-documented QMS will always include a trustworthy training program that ensures employees are adequately trained for the jobs they are expected to do. This program should also identify any "cross-training" requirements determined by the organization.

You can say that any established QMS can technically provide all the minimum requirements necessary for an organization to operate. However, the question comes back to whether it's a "good" quality management system. Is it providing the best value to an organization, or does the QMS appear costly? Is it cumbersome and difficult to maintain or easily managed? Does it ensure business continuity despite changes, or are there too many unknowns? Has management embraced the QMS and encouraged its use, or are they working around it? Do employees find it easy to work within the QMS, or are they looking for excuses not to? Is it meeting the minimum requirements of a documented standard, or is it genuinely based on the organization's goals and objectives? - Answering questions like these will help organizations determine the health of their quality management system.

A good (or healthy) QMS works WITH the business and never against it. It provides a sanctuary (of sorts) to the employees of an organization because they can trust in their documented processes. It provides the foundation needed for the business to succeed. Further, implementing an organization's QMS with a controlled standard (e.g., ISO 9001) helps define a structure to standardized methods that work for millions of successful organizations worldwide!

So, what should a GOOD quality management system provide to an organization, whether it be a large corporation or a small business? Piece of mind that the company is doing the right thing.

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