Will Quality Objectives Help or Hurt?

Clause 5.4.1 of ISO 9001:2000 requires top management to ensure measurable quality objectives are established at relevant levels and functions within the organization.

However, be careful how you set these objectives and how you communicate them. You might find people actually manipulating processes to achieve the desired results, especially if the numbers are used to evaluate employee performance.

When handled poorly, performance targets can result in internal competition and a lack of cooperation. In fact, a specific process objective can be optimized at the expense of overall system performance.

If a target is perceived as arbitrary, and set beyond the capability of the process, it may lead to employee frustration, reduced morale, and even lower performance. Individuals must feel they have some control over the outcome for an objective to actually promote improvement. The objectives should help control the processes, not the people.

Quality objectives should be based on comprehensive strategic planning and be consistent with the quality policy. Management should define measurements to help identify process improvements, not as evidence for employee appraisal sessions.

Clause 6.2.2 (d) requires organizations to tell employees about the relevance of their activities and how they contribute to achieving the quality objectives. To support these objectives, management must provide the necessary training, resources, and internal communications to enable their competent, informed workforce to be successful.