Should ISO stay or ISO go? - Fifth Element Solutions
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Should ISO stay or ISO go?

ISO Quality Management

21 Sep Should ISO stay or ISO go?

ISO Quality Management
by Tracy Fitzsimmons


The year 1947 had many historical and memorable events to name but a few: my father was born, fashion designer Christian Dior presented his first influential collection, Britain nationalized it’s coal industry and Tom and Jerry cartoon ‘The Cat Concerto’ was released to theatres. In addition, and what has dramatically changed the way we manage process, ISO began operation.

The word ISO is derived from the Greeks word ISOS, which means equal. In it’s current form, it is commonly known as International Organisation for Standardisation. When I was at my secondary school, in 1987 ISO published it’s first quality management standard. Obviously at the time this was not even on my radar and little did I know that seven years later I would go on to help design and implement a quality management system, ISO9001 in a commercial property firm in London. This standard is now one of the most well known and best selling within the ISO family. So it’s been around a while, and at the end of this year it is being revised significantly (the last major revision was in 2000, minor changes in 2008). Businesses have changed somewhat since 2000 and it is important that standards are modified to meet business needs. So, for me, ISO’s should stay and continue to complement businesses. From my experience having worked both sides of the fence, from being audited on the client’s side, to designing, implementing and auditing systems, I think ISO’s are hugely important – they set the bar, raise the bar, they challenge you and they bring consistency, checking (through audit) and consequence –some of these elements can be absent, and sometimes the bigger the business, the more common it can be for a lack of checking and consequence!

Over the years I have worked across a range of industries, the NHS, Commercial Property and Training Companies in the City, each being very unique, with different needs. However, they all have common elements, they all have staff that need to be inducted and managed, clients that need to be happy with your services, from a billionaire looking for his or her next property portfolio, a patient waiting for an operation to a student completing his/her studies. What the quality management system framework brings is an equal playing field, a steady hand to a sometimes chaotic back office function or lack of guidance to customer service teams. I’ve seen resistance to change, and implementation has sometimes been a challenge, but one thing remains a common thread throughout – as soon as you audit and can demonstrate where there are gaps in service or product control and review the customer experience, then that seems to sharpen the lenses of top management. They then realize that actually, rather than being painful and costly (or they need it to tick a box), these systems actually add value to their business. But only if you have everyone on board on the journey with you, a top down approach is a dream to work with, on many occasions we have worked bottom up!

So, I’ve jotted down some points for those of you who are considering a management system, some of which you may feel are pretty obvious (but can become clear as mud when you are being pressured by senior teams or customers to get a system in and certified, and fast) is to really focus on these points below – and take your time, if you want something to last and add value – don’t rush it. Ask yourselves:

  • Why you want it – what are the drivers?
  • Who are the main stakeholders?
  • What resources you need to consider internally? Yes, you need a consultant if you don’t have the in-house expertise, but you also need people on the inside to work with the consultant.
  • Select an experienced consultant that will tailor the system to meet your business requirements and the core elements of the ISO standard – they should explain in layman’s terms what is needed, step-by-step.
  • Remember, you are not writing the next bestselling novel – you don’t need to write everything down that you do!
  • You don’t need a mountain of paperwork; a slick management system should reduce paperwork and streamline processes.
  • Keep it simple – don’t overcomplicate things and ensure you set realistic targets.
  • Involve all service lines, they all need to give valuable input, they will take ownership and stay on the journey with you to ensure the system is a success, rather than pulling in the other direction.
  • Keep it practical and make sure your processes reflect what you do – not what you think you should do.


Understand the standard’s core requirements (your consultant should guide you on this) – it doesn’t it say anywhere in the standard that you need 100 procedures!

At the end of this year ISO9001 is changing – are you ready?


So if you are ready for a management system, and your objective is ISO9001 certification, remember it needs to complement your business, showcase what you do, check how you do it through pro-active auditing and drive continual improvement. But the most important thing is the people, the most valuable asset all businesses have, engage them, embrace the challenge and work together. Then you have something special, and can feel proud when you achieve that official ISO certification, crack open the champagne and celebrate each success! So, a new dawn is coming, at the end of this year ISO9001 is changing – are you ready? My next blog will highlight my thoughts on the proposed changes, and how we can help you transition your existing ISO9001 system to meet the new requirement, but more importantly, take your business to the next level.