Look beyond ISO 9001, focus on broad quality

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Look beyond ISO 9001, focus on broad quality

Friday morning. Nigel Croft has just concluded a three-day master class on ISO 9001 and the latest trends in quality management at NBN. Just before he heads out, we manage to sway the world’s foremost expert in quality management to share his thoughts on a new evolution: the shift from narrow to broad quality. What that means exactly, you’ll find out in this exclusive interview.

Nigel Croft is former chairman (2010-2018) of the ISO technical sub-committee (TC176/SC2) that is responsible for the ISO 9000 family of standards and the current convener of the task force for the High-Level Structure (HLS) of management standards. Needless to say, he is an international authority in standardisation. Especially his expertise on quality management is unequalled.



ISO 9001 is the world’s most popular management standard. How do you explain its success?

Nigel Croft: “First of all, ISO 9001 is the longest standing management system standard. It focuses on an organisation’s ability to consistently provide conforming products and services to its customers. For that reason, it has become an important component of global supply chains. During the last revision in 2015, experts from 83 countries and various industries – from food to high-tech IT to the public sector – gathered to give ISO 9001 its current structure and content. That international recognition and cross-sectoral acceptance as a facilitator for the global economy accounts for its success.”


How has the management standard evolved?

Nigel Croft: “The standard has become more user-friendly over the years – particularly for SMEs and organisations in the service sector – and covers a wider range of topics. In addition to providing confidence in products and services it now provides a framework for an organisation to address its more extensive quality-related policies and objectives.”


When is the next revision planned?

Nigel Croft: “In late 2020, ISO 9001 will be subjected to ISO’s systematic review process. ISO member bodies will evaluate if the standard can be confirmed “as-is”, or if it needs to be revised. I do not expect the third possibility – withdrawal – to be a realistic potential outcome! If the standard is reconfirmed “as-is”, the next review will then take place in 2025. However, if the ISO member bodies decide that some finetuning is needed, a minor revision may be done in the meantime. In any case, I don’t foresee major changes soon. We try to avoid “tweaking” ISO 9001 just for the sake of it. It’s a delicate exercise, and even small changes can have a significant impact on the user community.”


What exactly would be the impact of a major change?

Nigel Croft: “Many sectors derive their own standards from ISO 9001. For example, ISO 9001 forms the basis for standards in the automotive and aerospace industries. Consequently, a revision would cause a widespread chain reaction. That’s also the reason why ISO 9001 tells organisations what to do, not how – methodologies and technologies change very often. In my opinion, we should seek to ensure that ISO 9001 is “forward compatible” to allow organisations to take advantage of new and innovative methods as they come along. Based on an historical analysis of the evolution of ISO 9001, it seems that a major revision once every 13 - 15 years is sufficient.”



ISO 9001 tells you what to do, not how.




Why would you recommend ISO 9001 to organisations?

Nigel Croft: “A wisely implemented QMS not only benefits your customers, but also your organisation itself. The possible gains range from higher productivity and employee motivation to better communication. It even helps you to reduce waste or to apply a proactive approach to customer complaints. There’s basically no excuse not to adopt it: every organisation, regardless of size, sector or type, can get started straightaway.”


How long does it take to implement the standard?

Nigel Croft: “To fully implement all of the requirements in ISO 9001 – a prerequisite for certification – you should ideally foresee a one-year time frame. I’ve heard of organisations that have done it in six months or less, but that doesn’t sound right to me, based on my experience. It concerns me that those organisations haven’t maximised their possible internal gains or that they haven’t understood some of the requirements.”



The ideal time frame to implement ISO 9001 is one year.




Is certification always the goal when you start working with ISO 9001?

Nigel Croft: “It shouldn’t be. Certification is not the best motivation. Establishing a QMS is something you should do for yourself, not for the outside world. Basically, the standard is meant to bring discipline, scrutiny and a continual improvement mentality to an organisation. Certification can then be a milestone along the way. However, there’s also a different side to the story. More and more organisations experience external pressure to get certified. For many SMEs it has even become a question of survival. If you supply to governments or large enterprises, more often than not, certification for ISO 9001 is a requirement.”




If you supply to governments or large enterprises, more often than not, certification for ISO 9001 is a requirement.



What’s your number one advice for organisations that want to excel in quality management?

Nigel Croft: “Look beyond ISO 9001. If you really want to make a difference, integrate other management standards into your QMS. Depending on the nature of your organisation, you can boost your quality management greatly by combining ISO 9001 with ISO 14001 - environmental management, ISO 31000 - risk management or ISO 45001 – occupational health and safety. With over 40 ISO management standards there are plenty of options.”



If you really want to make a difference, integrate other management standards into your QMS.




Is ISO 9001 always the starting point?

Nigel Croft: “In many cases it will be, but it’s definitely not mandatory. It could be a different management standard. For example, a waste management company will more likely implement ISO 14001 first and then look at ISO 9001, which is perfectly acceptable. Or a hosting provider is more likely to start with ISO 27001 - information security management. It all depends on your organisation’s context and priorities. The most important thing is that you develop a single management system that integrates the requirements of all the standards that are relevant for you. Having separate standalone management systems is simply not efficient.”


In other words, quality management from a broad perspective.

Nigel Croft: “Exactly. The boundaries between ethical, ecological, social, economic and other aspects of conducting business are disappearing. Your management system should reflect that evolution. That’s why the High-Level Structure (HLS) of management standards, developed in 2012, is so important. By giving management standards a uniform structure, any one of them is easily integrated into an existing management system. The result: a sum that is greater than its parts.”



The boundaries between ethical, ecological, social, economic and other aspects of conducting business are disappearing.




In your NBN master class you also mention ‘guidance standards’ that combine well with ISO 9001. Which ones?

Nigel Croft: “ISO 9004 is a good example. While ISO 9001 mainly focuses on improving the quality and consistency of your services and products, ISO 9004 gives you guidance on how to build sustainable success: from anticipating trends to thinking about the use of natural resources. Other examples are ISO 10002 on proactive customer complaint handling and ISO 10004 on monitoring and measuring customer satisfaction. Although you can’t get certified for these standards, they are great additions to a broad-quality policy.”


How do organisations know where to start with that many options?

Nigel Croft: “It’s all about setting priorities. What is important for your organisation? If it’s to create a better place to work, then ISO 45001 might be your go-to option. Are you a hotel professional looking to wow your guests: take a look at ISO 10004. Is sustainability the main issue? ISO 14001 sets the requirements for an Environmental Management System. And so on. Today, it’s easier than ever before to have access to international expertise and best practices. Make good use of it!”  



Nigel Croft served as chairman of ISO’s Technical subcommittee 176/SC2, responsible for quality management and quality assurance, from 2010 until 2018. That committee covers the standards within the ISO 9000 family, such as ISO 9001 and ISO 9004. During his three terms as chairman, Nigel Croft gained worldwide recognition for his efforts.



Since 2018, Nigel Croft convenes Task Force 14 of ISO’s Joint Technical Coordination Group for management systems and leads the revision of Annex L of the ISO/IEC Directives. That publication defines the High-Level Structure (HLS) of over 40 management standards, making the integration of various management standards into one management system easier.

We are proud to say that Nigel Croft is one of our trainers at the NBN Academy. He leads our masterclass on ISO 9001.


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