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Quality Management

The principles of quality management introduced in ISO 9004:2000 define a framework that allows organisations to improve their performance. These principles stem from best practices and experience of numerous international companies and institutions.

ISO 9004:2000 defines eight founding principles that make up the rules and advice intended to help organisations continuously improve their performace by focusing on customer (beneficiary) satisfaction while taking into account the needs of the different players involved.

The eight principles of quality management are:

  1. Customer focus:
    Because organisations depend on their clients, they must understand their current and future needs, and meet and strive to go above and beyond client expectations.
    The organisation must see the client as not only a consumer but particularly as the user of the products and services produced by the organisation and must make sure that this fits with the company's goals. Therefore a customer focus system must be set up so that the organisation can have a better idea of its clients' needs and expectations so that it can meet them as best as it can. Moreover, customer satisfaction should be regularly evaluated so that opportunites and/or risks can be identified as quickly as possible. 
  2. Leadership:
    The directors of the organisation coherently define the organisation's goals and direction. They must create and maintain the internal atmosphere that is needed for employees to feel fully involved in attaining the organisation's goals.
    The goal of this principle is to make sure that the needs of all players are taken into account when defining and formalising a clear vision for the future of the organisation by setting goals that satisfy everyone. Shared values must be created so that all possible fears are replaced with a relationship of trust. 
  3. Involvement of people:
    Employees at all levels make up the very essence of an organisation. Involving everyone puts the skills of each individual to work for the organisation.
    Employees must understand that they play an important role in the organisation and should be involved in the process of setting motivating goals for themselves. Employee skills should be evaluated regularly and training plans should be set to help employees evolve in their job. Conversely, it can also be useful to allow employees to evaluate their superior on his or her management style and their work relationship. In such a context, each employee will be more inclined to improve his or her own skills to meet personal goals and therefore to share his or her experience and knowledge. 
  4. Process approach:
    An expected result is achieved more efficiently when the corresponding actions and resources are managed as processes.
    Therefore, the activities needed to achieve a result must be identified clearly as processes and someone must be named responsible for each one. Identifying activities can be made easier by involving the concerned parties. On this basis, it is possible to evaluate the performace of each process and analyse the way in which it can be improved in order to best meet the company's strategic goals. 
  5. System approach to management:
    Identifying, understanding and managing a system of interdependent processes for specific goal allows organisations to improve their effectiveness and efficiency.
    The idea of this principle is to consider that the act of clearly structuring and documenting the actions contributing to the organisation's goal allows it to improve its effectiveness and efficiency. To do this, the organisation must first identify the existing dependencies in order to reduce conflicts between processes and repeating work. This should lead to the formalisation of a clearly documented quality management system. Training or informing the necessary players may be necessary to make sure that everyone adopts this step. 
  6. Continual improvement:
    Continual improvement must be one of the organisation's permanent goals.
    The different processes must be monitored and their performance should be analysed cyclically in order to suggest and implement improvements. This can be done through a regular management review and with internal and external audits. It is particularly important to know how to spot improvements and make everyone aware of them. 
  7. Factual approach to decision-making:
    Effective decisions are based on the analysis of data and tangible information.
    This principle consists in making decisions based on a factual analysis of information corroborated by experience and intuition. According to this approach, it is easier after the fact to argue a well-founded decision by making reference to accessible documents. This gives all parties involved the means by which to understand the way in which the decisions are made. 
  8. Mutually beneficial supplier relationships:
    An organisation and its suppliers are interdependent and a mutually beneficial relationship improves their capacity to create value.
    Relationship with suppliers must be thought of in a way so as to reconcile easy short-term victories with future considerations. To do so, an organisation must understand the interests of its partners, clearly define their obligations in a contract and regularly evaluate their performance. When this principle is correctly applied, an organisation can improve its relationship with suppliers notably with regards to response time and therefore the overall cost. 

Article written on 16 December 2004 by Jean-François Pillou