Monday, September 28, 2015

Goodbye, Quality Manual

Who loves their quality manual? Please give me a show of hands. Hmm, not much enthusiasm. That’s because the quality manual for most companies serves no other purpose than something to give to customers or auditors. Most employees have never seen or heard of their company’s quality manual. And yet it has been a required document of ISO 9001 since the standard was first published. That has changed in ISO 9001:2015. There is no mention of the words “quality manual,” and the only true leftover requirement is that you have to document your quality management system (QMS) scope. I expect that many companies are going to drop their quality manual altogether now that it’s no longer mandated. But wait! Let’s re-imagine the quality manual as a document that actually helps the organization. First of all, let’s get rid of the rehash of ISO 9001 requirements. Most quality manuals feature this, and the rehash constitutes 95% of the words included. If you want to see what ISO 9001 says, get a copy ISO 9001. The quality manual should be completely focused on the company, period. Secondly, let’s think of the quality manual as a sort of “User Guide for the company’s QMS.” What would an employee or interested party need in a user guide? Well, let’s provide the following:
  • Structure and contents of the management system 
  • Road map to lower-level documents within the system 
  • Company history and background 
  • Overall process flow of the organization 
  • Company’s products and services described in a clear, practical manner 
  • Organization’s strength and capabilities 
  • What to expect during an audit and how to prepare for one 
  • Responsibilities and authorities of key personnel 
  • The scope of the QMS 
Some of these items have always been included in quality manuals, and others are new additions. The point is to assemble all the high-level content that people need to know into one consolidated location. This could be accomplished in 3-4 pages at the most. Since it’s so lean and streamlined, employees might actually see value in using it. The quality manual could truly become the gateway to your company’s management and business systems. Now we’ve got something useful. But let’s drop the name “quality manual.” Any thoughts for what this information should be called?

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