Getting started on your ISO STANDARDS CERTIFICATION project
Starting out on the ISO Standards Certification journey usually begins for one of two reasons. It can result from the aspiration to improve your business or organisation. Alternatively, it might stem from the need to meet a requirement or regulation of some sort.
Aspiration for improvement and the need to meet requirements, are equally important. First, both signal to your customers and stakeholders that your business has reached a significant development point. You are responding to the needs of your customers and committed to providing better outcomes from your work. Secondly, you are ensuring, in a very visible way, that you are committed to meet your obligations consistently and effectively through continuously improving your business.
Committing to ISO Standards Certification and other international Management Standards is an important decision. The ISO journey will help you to clarify your management, and probably, your approach to your market. However, it will require some resources to complete the project. In addition, it will change the way your business runs as you put in systems to improve your operation. Ultimately, the outcome is worth the effort as your business will be much better suited to achieving its goals.
What ISO Standards Certification are you pursuing?
The ISO Management Standards cover a wide landscape since the standards have scope in most industries. Examples of the subjects covered by international Management Standards include…
- AS 9100 Aerospace.
- ISO 9001 Quality Management.
- ISO 13485 Medical Devices.
- ISO 14001 Environmental Management.
- ISO 27001 Information Security.
- ISO 29993 Learning Services outside formal Education.
- ISO 45001 Health & Safety Management.
…as well as a range of other general standards and niche standards.
In order to ensure that you move toward a successful outcome, it is important to focus your efforts. It is best to support your people through the process rather than to change too much at once. Consequently, pick one ISO Standards Certification and work to complete that before adding other standards.
So what is the first step?
In the case of ISO Standards Certification the first step requires a decision and then a commitment. This is often the hardest step. Management must fully commit to the project. One way of doing that is to make the project part of the overall policy goals of the organisation – part of the mission statement. That commitment is critical to the success of the project. In fact, it is that commitment that not only starts the project but drives it to its conclusion.
The Management commitment must also be honest and fully supportive. The project will involve a lot of management input. Once the commitment decision is made, ISO Standards Certification requires senior managers to be the leadership for the project – as for any organisational project. However, they must also participate in and support the project goals, and the planning needed to achieve them. In addition, managers must be responsible for the allocation of suitable resources. Ultimately, they will also need to ensure lines of accountability, and provide communication at all levels in the organisation. Finally, as with any project, managers will need to monitor progress, consider problems arising and work with the staff to ensure improvements.
Planning your ISO Standards Certification
In particular, the commitment of required resources and responsibilities is a management decision. It is also fundamental to success. The normal operating processes must go on. However, the project will use people and resources. So, managers must consider what additional resources to allocate and their source. This includes the decision as to whether to use internal and/or external resources. For example, who should be responsible for the documentation? Probably an internal resource. However, is external expertise required to help guide the planning and later review of the developing system.
Most organisations use outside consultants because they provide the management with an unbiased overview on the projects’ progress. In addition, consultants are able to review developments and ensure sure they meet the requirements of the “Standard”. This external expertise enables a quicker route to Certification since consultants can see the pitfalls of certain actions. That oversight helps save time and money.
The advantage of internal resources is they are already employed by your business, so there is no obvious cost. However, too often the staff are already carrying out important Company activities. This means either extra resources are now allocated to fulfil their responsibilities or other staff must work harder. If your staff are already working to optimal levels, additional work will weaken your normal operational processes. It also means the project itself is not properly resourced. So, managers have to balance a lot of decisions when allocating resources to the project.
Limited staff experience
At the start of a project like ISO Standards Certification there is often limited staff expertise. They may have gleaned some information from the Internet or perhaps from previous experience. Unfortunately, this raises several problems.
For example, with documentation two problems arise…
- Template documents sourced from the Internet or previous jobs may have little relevance to your activities. In an attempt to overcome this discrepancy, the local adaptations will often be wordy or irrelevant.
- Documentation taken from previous jobs is also problematic. It often does not fit your existing system well and causes problems because it does not describe the systems your business is using. This causes all sorts of problems in training and managing processes later down the project.
- Often staff have had some previous experience of ISO standards work environments. However, they have limited experience in setting up a new ISO Standards Certification for a Management system. As operational staff, they have not had to interpret and work with the specific words and meanings within the requirements of the ISO standard. This makes it difficult for them to set up the systems because they cannot see past their operational experience.
The advantage of external resources is that they have the experience of implementing ISO in similar organisations. As a result, they can concentrate on the ISO project. Therefore, they bring knowledge of multiple projects to your context. They have experience of successful or problem implementations. So, this experience gives them options to help choose the Best Practice for your organisation. Additionally, external resources are employed to work solely on the ISO Standards Certification project. Thus, daily operational activities will not distract them. This focus helps speed the project along and ensures a better match between your management system and the operational processes.
To manage your ISO Standards Certification project, the allocated staff must fulfil some key conditions. Let’s look at this in a bit more detail at what the project management must achieve…
Setup the project to ensure the required staff resources are available. It is especially important to give key project staff allocated time for the project work.
To ensure your project complies with the standard, you must document all your work processes. Therefore, understanding the current processes and collating all the existing relevant documents and forms is essential. This is a good opportunity to review existing Forms and Documents which have developed over (possibly) many years. Are they all still current and valid? Too often, there are Forms and Checklists that have outlasted their relevance but continue in service. The important work designing new documents to precisely match your current operation involves investigation, understanding and knowledge of your processes.
Certification assessment for ISO Standards is based on the match between how the documents describe your work processes and the actual process taking place. If the two differ, you will not have established a standard. Therefore, it is essential at all levels of your work processes you have competent and experienced people who can clearly write the documentation.
All staff who work in the process environment must be involved in your ISO Standards Certification Project. It is essential to have good communications with all affected staff. Be open to changes. Identify any immediate refinements and improvements. Involve the staff in finding ways to communicate effectively and promote ways for them to give feedback on what is happening. Communication and involvement are essential to getting staff commitment in your project.
Training and implementing:
Once your documentation is complete your operational staff must work to those documents. So, it is essential that the processes described by the documents act as the standard for any work carried out. Any deviations from those documents are likely to introduce inconsistencies in your work results. So, everyone must work to that standard. Therefore, the documentation must be used for training and implementation of any changes or new processes. This not only builds the staff competence, but also ensures adherance to the documented standards.
Awareness of the purpose:
Communication and training are not only essential to the standard applied to the work. Everyone must also be aware of the Purpose of the changes. This also includes Awareness of the purpose of the ISO Standards Certification itself. If employees are unclear on why changes are happening and what they will gain, they are less likely to help achieve the goals. Consequently, staff should have training to raise awareness of the need for changes, the company policy on these matters and how the project can improve the business overall.
Induction of temporary and full-time employees will need to meet the new standards you are setting. It is important that everyone can relate to your processes and management standards. Product or service consistency is a key concept in ISO Standards Certification. So, all staff must work on that principle. Therefore, everyone – permanent or temporary – must work to the standard set in your documentation. Induction starts that process.
As your ISO Standards Certification Project develops a process of review must take place. The Management Review Meetings are the opportunity for senior management and key staff to take an overview. The meeting should monitor performance, identify opportunities for improvements and ensure the continued relevance of the Management system. It is also useful to record other changes that otherwise might need other records or minutes. All ISO standards pinpoint the important management review function. It is fundamental to ensuring that the project progresses, and that future improvement of the system will continue.
A critical part of the ISO approach is regular checking. There are two required stages, internal and external checking. These are ‘Audits’ (not the financial kind). The audits check you are doing what your documentation describes. If your documentation and your actions are different then the quality of your product or service is likely to decline or be inconsistent.
This is the first level of checking. Essentially the internal audit look to see if you are complying to your own Best Practice and to the chosen Standard? Your own staff or external consultants can conduct internal audits. The auditors must complete an agreed training and cannot audit their own work. Internal auditors know how your business works and should use this knowledge to find ways to improve your processes.
These audits examine your organisation from the outside. The auditors will have extensive experience of ISO systems. However, they will probably have little knowledge of your company and how it works. The external auditors will look at your ISO Management System and consider how it works and whether it is bringing about improvements according to the ISO management principles.
For the External Audits, the first step is choosing the UKAS or similar national Accredited Assessors. You should get quotes from at least 2 Assessors. The Assessors can be international organisations like BSI or TUV or UL. Alternatively, they could be industry specialists or smaller national Certification Bodies.
The duration of the assessment will depend on the Standard you have chosen to implement in your ISO Standards Certification Project. Assessment duration may also relate to the number of locations, risk and complexity of your operations as well as employee numbers.
Assessment for your ISO Standards Certification
Your assessment will take the form of two stages…
Stage 1 Assessment:
This stage will establish if you are ready for the Stage 2 assessment? It will look for confirmation of the Scope of your Activities, review your documentation against the Standard’s requirements; and do a site evaluation.
Stage 2 Assessment:
This stage will undertake sampling to demonstrate that you are complying to the Standard. The Stage 2 Assessment often identifies issues in one of three categories:
- Opportunity for Improvements: The auditor may make suggestions to help you comply.
- Minor Non-conformances: These identify some aspect of your ISO System that is not compliant. You must demonstrate compliance before the Accredited Assessors can approve your Certification.
- Major Non-Conformances: These identify where you are not compliant with one of the ISO requirements. This category will normally require a re-audit and compliance before your Accredited Assessors can approve ISO Standards Certification.
If you have a successful Stage 2 Assessment, then the Auditor will recommend you for Certification. However, the Auditor’s Head Office has to pass the Report for full approval. This is to ensure completeness and to check the auditing standard. Upon approval of the Audit Report, the appropriate ISO Certificate can be issued.
After your ISO Standards Certification
Successful Certification is an ongoing process. Once your ISO System is up and running then you must follow the principles and processes of the system. You should see continuous improvements in your processes. You should also see greater organisational clarity, clear reporting lines, evidence based decision-making and better staff – management communications.
However, that is not the end of the process. There are at least yearly Surveillance Audits by the Assessors. This is to ensure ongoing compliance to the ISO Standard and continual improvements to your working practices.
Charter4 Offers Your Organisation the Help it Needs
Approved ISO Standards Certification is the End of the Beginning, not an End in itself. The process of improvement and development should continue if your system is properly followed.
At CHARTER4 we have many years’ experience of supporting and implementing many ISO Standards Certification projects. Our work is to support your project, guide your steps to certification and provide the advice you need to save you time and resources.
We want your ISO Standards Certification to get approval. However, your project involves the commitment of significant resources, effort and time. It is our job to ensure that you get a return on that investment. At CHARTER4 we want to go further than simple ISO Standards Certification. Our main aim is to “Improve your business, rather than just comply”. We want to see your business improve and develop because of your investment, not in spite of it. If you would like to know more about our approach to your success, please click one of the buttons below to contact us.
You don’t have to be good to start … you just have to start to be good!
~ Joe Sabah
Certification with Charter 4 – the Business Benefits
- Improve, rather than just comply.
- Full service and ongoing support to compliment your resources.
- Build on your Processes & Systems (no standard templates).
- Help defining your Best Practice.
- Certification by independent UKAS accredited Assessors.
- 100% Success & guaranteed support until Certification.
- Help to get Government Grant (when available).
- Flexible support to complement your resources.
CHARTER4 – Partners for you with the experience and insight to help you grow using international Standards. We will help you improve your business rather than just comply with the Standards.