Quality, a concept which involves the entire company

When regulations are concerned, quality increasingly focuses on fundamental topics such as the analysis of the context in which companies operate and leadership. All of this involves every party concerned in the process. G.I.S.I. and Intertek explain how

by Claudio Bertoli e Alessandro Ferracino

Quality is a concept whose importance has been fundamental ever since the dawning of the industrial age. In the beginning, clients’ demands were perfectly known to artisans, activities were carried out in non-codified ways and the artisans based their work on the clients’ needs. Industrial progress made it evident that the growing complexity of production processes and the need for an increasing productivity led to a fragmentation of workers’ activities, with a consequent low specialization and limited awareness as to the final product and the entire production process. All of this led to quality which was below expectations. In order to attempt containment of this phenomenon, at the beginning of the twentieth century control departments were created, and afterwards the first statistical analyses were introduced. However these attempts did not completely solve the problem. It was not until the end of the second world war that Japan, emerging devastated from the conflict, was capable of applying the statistics-based controls of Western origin, integrating them with all the company processes. This was the start of what in the Eighties would come to be known as Total Quality, developing highly sophisticated methods and implementation processes.

The evolution of norms for an increasingly effective system
In 1987 the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) published the ISO 9000 norms, regulating the concept of quality for the first time. In 1994 the ISO 9000 standard was reviewed and the UNI EN ISO 9001:1994 norm was published, defining the requisites which a quality system had to have in order to satisfy clients’ requirements. It was however seen that the norm was difficult to interpret and apply, so in 2000 there was a new edition, easier to understand, while minor updates were made in 2008.
A substantial evolution occurred in 2015 with the UNI EN ISO 9001:2015 edition, which will become fully effective by September 15th, 2018, and which focuses more efficiently on the basic concepts needed to have a quality system as efficient as possible. This was necessary to create a more universal bond regarding interactions between the company and the outside world. The norm as it had been previously designed probably did not involve effectively the corporate “planet”, therefore “making” quality was the heritage of the few who worked for everyone else. The aim of the new edition is involving all stakeholders. It should be noted that “stakeholders” is a term codified by the norm to designate all parties involved in the process aimed at reaching quality objectives.
The 2015 edition was subdivided into 10 chapters so as to harmonize it with all other effective norms. Unlike previous editions, it no longer focuses on the compulsory document part but on basic concepts: procedures which were formerly mandatory are no longer requested, whereas evidence must be provided regarding the processes defined by the company to approach its business.

Awareness of the positioning on the market
The most relevant innovation is that the 2015 edition dedicates entire chapters to such fundamental subjects as context analysis and leadership. The introduction of a new set of norms with respect to Management Systems referred to Annex SL introduced some logical innovations which had often been neglected in favour of an approach based on risk, a concept which was actually already present in the past. In order to interpret in a concrete way these two structural requisites, let us try to identify examples with practical implications. The analysis of the context of the organization is often not indicated with this definition within its daily routine, but it is very practical for corporate requirements; what is sought is the awareness of the company’s positioning on the market by means of a careful study of the industry, and by introducing the concept of “stakeholders” which goes beyond the historical concept of client. In this panel of requisites, organizations must find and describe in a knowledgeable way their positioning within the context, represented by the interests of the various “players” (investors, partners, employees, clients, suppliers, the State or community and so on) so as to evaluate risks and identify opportunities.
If this is interpreted correctly, it is the method used systematically, in a more or less formal and structured way by mature organizations in various occasions: market studies, business plan preparation, industrial plans with different purposes (financial, structural), annual reports, reorganization plans, sustainability reports, material analyses and stakeholder engagement. This interpretation highlights a strong convergence between the management and business systems, maximizing the efforts for a widespread use of the identified management instruments.

Leadership: towards a greater responsibility of management
Another pillar is the attention to leadership, which, while replacing all the historical requisites referred to the management’s responsibility, moves towards a more modern concept of responsibility, very useful for the functioning of the organization. This must be expressed by the management, mainly by means of the constant research of a direct involvement of the management itself with no possibility of delegating (envisaged by the previous versions). There is a growing need to highlight the coherence between policies, business strategies and working choices of the organization, which must be guided by its top management by giving an example, and which must show this logic even by means of the deployment of its aims. In this respect, it is increasingly advised to use structured methods of deployment (with ample room for choice among the better-known ones available in bibliography) which guarantee credibility for users and ease of verification and modification.
Here reference may be made to the well-known x-matrix, of Japanese origin, by now part of the most famous instruments for project organization. This instrument creates a physical connection between: long-term strategic objectives, measurable target points of the next management period, working plans for improvement, the relative measurement indicators and responsibilities for each objective. Once more, a simple and widespread instrument, allowing to fulfill correctly the respect for leadership requisites. These practical examples will prevent the pointless “parallel management” of formal tools finalized to a mere conformity to norms and will increasingly be integrated opportunities.