Sample Objectives

As auditors, we are called upon to assess conformity and effectiveness. To assess process effectiveness, we need to evaluate to what extent the planned activities are being realized and the planned results are being achieved.

We may need to venture outside the defined scope of a specific process audit to fully judge its effectiveness (results). To assess how well the process is meeting the needs of its internal customers, interview those internal customers. They may have a different view of the process outputs than the process supplying them. Their opinion can lead to the facts needed to assess process effectiveness.

Another key element in evaluating effectiveness is to examine the planned results expected by the process owner in terms of their quality objectives. However, some organizations struggle to identify meaningful quality objectives. As an auditor, you may be called upon to explain what is meant by a specific, measurable quality target.

A “quality objective” is defined by ISO 9000:2015 as a quality result to be achieved.

The quality policy is a framework for establishing quality objectives. The policy must include a commitment to

1) satisfy applicable requirements and
2) continually improve the quality management system.

The quality objectives must be measurable and consistent with the quality policy. Since the quality policy is the framework, it follows that an organization should have an objective to measure the degree to which requirements are being met, plus an objective to measure the results of the quality management system.

If the quality policy identifies other important areas, e.g., product reliability, the organization would be expected to have a measurable target for product reliability. In addition, customer satisfaction is a necessary performance measure of the quality management system.

Remember, goals are conditions to be achieved in the future. They should be defined consistent with the organizational vision and mission. Goals are established to guide decisions and actions. However, they usually do not involve measurable results, and therefore, do not change as often as objectives.

Objectives are focused on critical issues and milestones. They describe the activities and targets to achieve your goals. They even identify the dates for completing the activities. They are measurable in terms of being achieved, or not.

For example, a general goal might be to reduce waste. The related, specific objective might be to reduce waste from 4% to 3% by the end of the year.

ISO/TS 9002 provides these further examples of objectives:

  • a transport organization running a bus service might set an objective for the percentage of buses that will run to the scheduled timetable within set limits;
  • at a production location, the objective output per hour with maximum acceptable reject level can be set;
  • in a hairdressing salon, for the times when all available staff are busy, one person can be assigned to greet new customers; the objective here might be that “customers entering the shop are to be welcomed within one minute and their requirements determined”.

Depending on the industry, organizations might consider quality objectives such as:

  • Requirements Traceability = Traceable to Design / Total Requirements
  • Design Stability = Change Requests / Product Releases
  • Test Rate = Tests Passed / Tests Planned
  • Scrap Rate = Product Rejects / Products Produced
  • Problem Rate = Problem Reports / Total Customers
  • Fix Response Rate = Fixes Closed on Time / Fixes Due
  • Return Rate = Products Returned / Products Shipped
  • Repair Failure Rate = Nonconforming Units / Repaired Units
  • Complaint Rate = Received Complaints /Total Customers
  • Customer Satisfaction Index = (Questions x Ratings) /Surveys Returned
  • On-time Delivery = Deliveries by Due Date / Deliveries Scheduled
  • Service Quality = Defective Transactions / Total Transactions
  • Milestone Delay = (Phase Duration – Planned Duration) / Planned Duration
  • Defect Removal = Defects Removed / Defects Reported in Test Cycle
  • Action Effectiveness = (Actions Taken – Repeated Nonconformities) / Actions Taken

Some of these quality metrics would be expressed over a period of time, e.g., complaints per customer per year. And, some values may be multiplied by 100 to give a percentage. Also, objectives don’t have to be variable measures. For example, installation of a new document management system by the end of the year could be a quality objective.

Quality objectives should be based on comprehensive strategic planning. Organizations must be careful how they set these objectives and how they communicate them. Employees may manipulate processes to achieve the desired results, especially if the numbers are used to judge their personal 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 seen as arbitrary, and set beyond the capability of the process, it may lead to employee frustration, reduced morale, and lower performance. Individuals must feel they have some control over the outcome for an objective to promote improvement. The quality objectives should help monitor and control the processes, not the people.

As auditors, we can use the quality objectives and related results to help us assess process effectiveness. And, we can assist the organization by clarifying the need for specific, measurable quality objectives that help them manage and control their processes and overall business.