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Strategy: It's for Departments (not just owners)

Why set strategic objectives by process or department? In the current version of ISO 9001:2008, a section within 8.2.3 discusses monitoring and measurement of processes. It has always been there, but for many small businesses this has been a complete conundrum. When questioned during audits the most common response is “Oh, our customers send us reports for quality and on time delivery – after all, if our processes work we’ll deliver good product, on-time.” This data is actually not a bad start…but if you rely on customer reports all you see is a minor sampling of your end result.

Imagine you had a new supervisor starting today. As you described the responsibilities to this person, how would you describe your expectations? What information would you want to see to evaluate how the supervisor and her/his department operate according to your expectations? Without measurable expectations and supporting reports, the likelihood is you will hear various versions of “we’re doing our best but XYZ happened and we missed the deadline (again).” While each team is very probably doing their best, without defined criteria being recorded daily most issues in a company are probably not even known. If problems are not made visible, there is limited data available--which means management can’t find the cause behind issues and, therefore, cannot determine effective measures to resolve them. Result: you end up handling individual crises, not seeing the pattern of contributing causes which, if prevented, would make the company and your workers more productive.

Next, imagine an entire company where everyone knows what the overall company goals are and what their individual department goals are. They also know where issues occur and are able to identify the cause for those issues. Management can now gather as a team, and provide the missing resources to enable all teams to meet their goals.

This is the purpose of having a strategic plan: that sets Key Process Indicators (KPIs) for each department and then monitors them at regularly scheduled intervals. When the new version of ISO 9001:2015 is released, risk analysis and the supporting KPI’s to address those risks will become a core activity of management system monitoring. Don’t wait and plan your management strategy in a rush. Begin now. If you haven’t done so already, define your company strategic goals. Meet with each department manager and define with them for 2-3 indicators of the effectiveness of their department; then ask them to begin tracking those metrics monthly and presenting it at Management Review Meetings. Now dream together to see what you want to focus on for future improvement projects.

May all your improvements be strategic- and not crisis-driven!

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