Toughest ISO 9001:2000 Requirements (5.4.1)

ISO 9001:2000 states that “Top management shall ensure that quality objectives, including those needed to meet requirements for product, are established at relevant functions and levels within the organization.”

So, process and product objectives must be set at the relevant functions and levels within an organization. An example would be a manufacturing scrap target that is applicable to only a few departments. In addition, each department may have a different objective, depending on their current scrap levels.

However, be careful how you set these objectives and 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 quality objective may 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.

Clause 5.4.1 continues with “The quality objectives shall be measurable and consistent with the quality policy.”

When you drive down the road, you can glance at the indicators on the dashboard to see how your car is performing. In a similar fashion, your organization needs to identify the key quality measures for evaluating the performance of your quality management system.

Use the quality policy as the framework for establishing your process and product goals. However, be careful about the policy content. For example, if the policy statement refers to “reliable” products, then a corresponding reliability objective will be expected. Using the quality policy, set specific, measurable targets on the path to attaining your goals.

The product objectives will be largely determined by your product specifications. Focus your attention on the process objectives and the methods you will use to measure process performance. Also, identify the timeframes and responsibilities for achieving them.

Keep your objectives realistic and related to achievable outcomes. For example, meeting requirements, keeping to schedules, pleasing customers, and identifying improvements (with measurable targets for each one).

Provide the necessary resources to collect the product and process data. Analyze the data (as called for by clause 8.4) and use the facts for more effective decision making. If your desired results are not being achieved, identify the actions necessary to make it happen.

The standard requires an “effective” system, in other words, a system that is carrying out activities according to planned arrangements and achieving planned results. An efficient system is certainly desirable, but not required by the standard. Efficiency relates to the resources used to achieve the results. Keep this in mind as you set objectives.