How to formulate your quality policy statement and your quality objectives in your ISO quality manual

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When embarking on a new quality management system and writing a new quality manual for your organization, one of the most important decisions you must make is how your quality policy statement should be read. A quality policy statement is a requirement of an ISO9001: 2000 quality management system and can be considered as the overall guiding philosophy of your company or organization.

If you compare guiding a business to piloting a ship, the nautical equivalent of a quality policy statement might be something like “Let’s sail to New York.” This is a general statement of the overall goal. In your company’s quality manual, you might say something like “Our goals are to achieve 100 percent customer satisfaction, constantly innovate in our products, and continually improve in all of our activities.” How can you steer the ship if you don’t know where you want to go?

The quality goals you choose to include in your quality manual, on the other hand, are the basic details, the day-to-day goals that will show how you are doing against your overall goal. Quality objectives are also a requirement of an ISO9001: 2000 quality management system and should be included in your quality manual.

Depending on the size and complexity of your organization, I recommend that you have 3 to 7 quality objectives in your quality manual. Less than three is likely to be inadequate to accurately measure improvement in quality. It’s probably too difficult to keep track of more than 7, and it can start to get redundant.

Quality objectives must be measurable based on objective numerical data. A vague statement in your quality manual such as “create the best product” cannot be measured. The word “best” is a subjective assessment and cannot be measured precisely. Chances are, your quality goals contain some kind of numerical reference. Here are some examples:

  • Customer satisfaction rate: 97 percent or better.
  • Customer returns: less than 10 per month
  • Customer returns: less than 5 percent of sales.
  • Final inspection rejection rate: less than 5 percent of units produced.

You must keep records of your organization’s performance. You should track your performance against each of your quality goals. These records will be reviewed by your external auditor in case it is audited according to the ISO9001: 2000 standard.

Regardless of whether you are ISO certified or not, you definitely want to keep track of where you are in relation to where you want to be. To steer the ship accurately, you not only need to know where you want to go, but you also need to know where you are currently.

I recommend that you compile statistics on the performance of your quality goals at least twice a year. Your performance metrics should be one of the inputs to your management review meeting, but you can compile and review the statistics as often as you see fit.

Whether during the course of your management review or at any other time, an analysis of your quality target performance can be quite revealing. You can validate that you are on the right track or you can point out shortcomings. Hopefully, a regular review of your quality goals will keep you on track, and will continue to point you in the right direction, in your quest to continually improve your quality system and your entire organization.

I always recommend that people keep their ISO quality manual as simple as possible, while covering the necessary requirements of ISO9001: 2000. Keep your quality policy statement simple, but meaningful. Keep your quality goals simple, meaningful, and measurable.

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