Monday, July 4, 2011

Innovation and Education and a new document

Our External Quality Assessment / Proficiency Testing program (CMPT) began in 1983 to fulfil some local needs.  As years progressed, CMPT changed, increasing in scope of geography, increasing the quality and variety and complexity of samples, improving the assessment scales, and providing better critiques, and expanding our education activities nationally and internationally. 
By 2003 when we made the decision to introduce our quality management system under ISO 9001, it was clear that the first two components of our Mission State would be Innovation and Education.  From my very narrow and personally biased perspective, I was pretty convinced that we had the concepts of innovation in proficiency testing down pat.

So it was with interest when we started to read about a new version of an old document, ISO 9004:2009, Managing for the sustained success of an organization – A quality management approach. 
(Note: for the sake of brevity, I will refer to this document simply as 9004.  Don’t tell the folks at ISO.  They hate it when their documents are abbreviated to a single number.)

9004 is a newly developed companion document to ISO 9001:2008 on Quality Management, but it is not itself a standard in the traditional sense: it is much more a guidance or advisory document. It is stripped of the directive, normative term “shall” and usually replaces it with “should”.  It describes how any organization can use their ISO 9001 quality management system to increase their opportunities for sustained success.

I spent the last few days looking closely at ISO 9004, in part to see how well it describes our the path over the past 28 years, and second to see if it could have anything more to contribute to CMPT.     

Actually I am pretty impressed.  9004 does not really add anything to 9001, but it reshapes it, and provides a focus on how to organize the requirements in a way that can lead an organization along a successful pathway.  For example, 9004 talks a lot about Learning. 
 Learning comes from knowledge, and knowledge comes from a myriad of directions: from the information that you collect from your own organization including opportunities for improvement, internal assessments, external assessment, your evaluations and experiences of your suppliers and partners, your KPIs and indicators, and importantly both your successes and failures.  And knowledge also comes from the experiences, past and present of your staff.  Organizational learning comes when that knowledge is integrated into the capabilities and thinking and behaviours and values of the people within your organization.  But for all that to happen, you have to be prepared to SHARE your organizational knowledge with your staff.  If you are very active in collecting the information, but fail in the sharing part, then don’t expect the organization to grow.  
9004 also talks about my favourite topic of innovation.  9004 suffers from a lack of definition for the term, but a short search describes innovation as “the act of introduction of change, creation, novelty with the connotations of “advance” and “leading-edge”.  With that in mind, 9004 talks about innovation not only being about new products, but also about introduction of quality management, or new organizational structure, or new technology, or new processes, the point being change with a positive point of view.  
But for those of us that focus on innovation, 9004 also makes the key points that change carries its own risks because not everyone is always comfortable or positive about change, and change may uncover some previously hidden conflicts.  Plans for introduction should address timing and resources as critical and ALWAYS follow with an impact study (PDSA)  and always have a contingency plan (Plan B).

So far, I am pretty impressed with the document in my setting and situation, and plan to spend a little more in depth coverage, for example where I see 9004 having traction, and where I see it likely not. 

PS: I got my copy of ISO 9004:2009  from the on-line ISO bookstore (  It cost 150 Swiss Francs (about $150 CAN)

On another completely different topic, the beginning of July is always a good time.  On the west coast, lots of Canadians spend Canada Day visiting malls in Bellingham Washington, and there are lots of Americans cars here in Vancouver.  Kind of like going to your neighbours for a holiday BBQ.

1 comment:

  1. community members who go through the auditing process–which can be anxiety inducing–but you make a great point about how strong systems and dedication to continuous improvement are what management systems are all about. Thanks for sharing.
    iso 9000


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