When was the last time you had to manage a “critical” project without the support of top management in word and deed? If it’s happened once, it’s happened too often. Yet, this happens all the time with quality management systems (QMS). Quality management systems are commonly — and wrongly — viewed as a “necessary evil”. That is, your company’s top management feels a ISO QMS project won’t have an immediate and positive effect on the bottom line, but they’re going ahead with the project because “they’re making us do it!” This, along with many other Quality mistakes, are the reasons why such projects fail.

A customer may require its vendors (and maybe you’re one of them) to have an ISO 9001 certified QMS in place. Or, maybe you deal in a product or service that’s highly regulated, so you’re implementing a QMS only “because it’s the law.”

Common Quality Mistakes That Lead To Project Failure

1. Poor Attitude

If your attitude is “we have to” instead of “we want to”, you may be setting up your QMS to fail before you’ve begun.

Think about it. You always perform a task better when your heart and mind are in it, right? Isn’t the same true of your employees? If you’re not sold on the QMS as a win-win, your employees won’t be, either. And neither will the certification auditor.

Besides management having a poor attitude, there are other ways to sink your QMS mistakes you can make.

2. No Development Plan

Just as with any other project, a QMS is more likely to yield desired results when a realistic plan is drawn up in advance. It’s just that simple: thorough project planning leads to a greater likelihood of success than relying on chance.

When you started your company, you drew up a detailed business plan before you went to borrow seed capital. True, the bank required you to have a business plan, but not because they just “felt like it”. They wanted you to succeed so they’d get their money back and so you’d become a regular customer.

The same is true of your QMS project — plan now for success, or pay dearly later.

3. Unrealistic ExpectationsQMS mistakes

Without bothering to put a plan together, top management will say, “We need a functional QMS in three months and we can spare one person from the staff to work on it.” It’s just a QMS, right? You only need a half-dozen procedures and a quality manual and you’re done, right?

WRONG! If you don’t do the research, you ensure that your expectations will NEVER be met. Realistic, achievable objectives come only from careful research and planning. If you don’t have a history of QMS projects, look at other projects.

Look at what other companies have done with their quality management systems. Ask around — maybe you know someone who’s been through the experience. The point is to have a clear idea of what you’re getting into and what to expect, so you avoid common Quality mistakes.

4. Lack of Management Support

Top management must be absolutely, unequivocally committed to the idea that implementing a quality management system will improve the business. If management isn’t sold on the premise, the rank-and-file isn’t going to buy it. ISO 9001 puts it this way:

Top management shall provide evidence of its commitment to:

What do you suppose the developers of ISO 9001 meant by “providing evidence of commitment”? A quick e-mail to a select group of individuals, saying “good old Wutsizzname” has been assigned the task? Or, does it go much further than that?

5. Insufficient Resources

Management has to ensure the availability of resources needed to develop, implement, and maintain the company’s QMS. By resources, ISO 9001 means people, training, equipment, tools, funds, and time. To ensure that there are adequate resources for your QMS, you need SMART objectives and you need a development, implementation, and maintenance plan.

These aren’t separate plans, either. They’re all part of a larger plan. The development, implementation, and maintenance phases of your QMS each have to be planned with the others in mind. Are you familiar with the saying, “The whole is more than the sum of its parts”? Well, nowhere is it truer than your QMS.

So, set your objectives, make your plans, and provide appropriate and sufficient resources. Monitor the progress of the project and adjust as needed. Or, take a wild guess as to how much and how long it’ll take to develop your QMS. (You might get lucky and avoid all these Quality mistakes.)

6. Poor Communication

For your QMS to conform to ISO 9001, top management has to communicate to the entire organization how important it is to meet customer and regulatory requirements. You didn’t need ISO 9001 to tell you that, did you?

The quality standard also says that “top management shall ensure that responsibilities and authorities are defined and communicated within the organization.” If Wutsizzname is the lead developer of the QMS, he has to be a developer in more than name only. Top management has to be clear about what his responsibilities are and how far his authority extends and should make it clear Wutsizzname is backed by management.

Poor communication isn’t simply a matter of what you say — it’s mostly what you do (or don’t do).

7. Lack of Customer Involvement

The last of Quality mistakes your company can make is lack of customer involvement. Customers and their satisfaction are the heart and soul of every successful business. And it’s not just external customers that deserve the company’s attention — there are internal customers for every project and process, as well. The ISO process model doesn’t make a distinction — a customer is a customer.

Customers of the QMS include procedure users. Their satisfaction may be measured by how well a procedure is executed, time after time. The best way to ensure customer satisfaction (i.e., consistently outstanding execution) is to involve the users in developing the procedure.

Who would know better than they whether the procedure accurately depicts the process in question? Why wouldn’t you have the users — the process owners and stakeholders — test and validate the procedure before its implementation?

In other words, if you tell Mr. Wutsizzname, “Don’t bother the people in XYZ department with silly questions – just write the procedure“, is the result of that procedure likely to come anywhere near what you expect?

Recapping the Seven Ways You Can Avoid Quality Mistakes:

  • Have a positive attitude;
  • Carefully craft a comprehensive development plan;
  • Manage your expectations;
  • Ensure the unqualified support of top management;
  • Provide sufficient resources to get the project done right;
  • Keep the lines of communication open at all times; and
  • Involve users/customers in the development process.

Is there anything that I missed? Anything you’d like to add to the list? If your ISO QMS project — or any other major project of yours — didn’t turn out like it was supposed to, what would your experiences tell you to do differently? Download free ISO QMS policies and procedures templates.