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AS9100 and the Communication Requirement

AS9100 clause 7.4 Communication is a small and innocuous clause, there really doesn't seem too much to it on the face of it. This clause in Rev D of the AS9100 standard for Aviation, Space and Defence organisation is all about ensuring that those within your organisation and outside of it get the right level of communication about your quality management system. The standard has the additional note at the bottom of Clause 7.4 communication should include both internal and external feedback that is relevant to your quality management system.

What it actually gives you a is a great structure to design any form of communication you need as an organisation, effectively you essentially create a communication plan for your Quality management system (QMS).

The Clause Requirements

Although there are 5 key elements listed in AS9100D Clause 7.4 that organisations need to be able to demonstrate that they are thinking about when it comes to communication, the reality is, there is really 6. It's best to think about creating a matrix issuing these criteria to decide on what you need to do.  

A. On what it will communicate 

The first thing the organisation needs to think about is what exactly it will communicate on. That may seem obvious, but you would be surprised the number of organisations that don't stop and think about things. Do you communicate about every single update or change to your QMS or are you selective about it? Do you communicate everything both internally and externally? If you are going to be selective about it then how do you make those determinations, is it linked to the sensitivity of the information, the impact on your business or something else?

Now keep in mind that the AS9100D Clause 7.4 is about communication of things that are relevant to your quality management system, so you need determine if something has an impact on your QMS to start with. Changes to internal procedures, policies are certainly there, what about mergers and acquisitions? Changes to the leadership team or reporting lines? Customer feedback?

B. When to communicate 

Timing is everything, and as an organisation you need to pick the right time to tell people (internally and externally) about the things you have determined will have an impact on your As9100 Quality Management System. Everything doesn't have to be done immediately, perhaps you want to layout a timeline of when you will communicate with each set of stakeholders about something, the thing is you just need to show you have considered it.  

C. With whom to communicate 

This is about making sure you know who you need to communicate with, I've seen companies use the RACI framework as a great tool here in order to determine exactly who needs to know about what. Again, you need to factor in both internal and external stakeholders here, in some cases this may include governments or media as well.  

D. How to communicate 

The how is always the challenge. Do you put out a statement, do you just launch an update and ask people to acknowledge it or is it a big town hall meeting or a simple phone call. Clearly it is going to depend on what you are communicating, the timeframe you need to do it in and who you are communicating with (it's like they structured the format intentionally!). It's good to come up with a set of general guides for your communication plan on the different options as it will certainly help in times of crisis or stress.  

E. Who communicates

Having a very clear understanding of who communicates what is essential, especially for communication going to external recipients. Some of the decision making may factor in things that are company confidential or have impacts on share price for example so making sure only specific people can make statements on things is critical. Conversely, updating the organisation on your purchasing policy is probably going to attract less scrutiny.

Feedback

While not a stipulated section of the clause the final part that we need to think about in AS9100 Clause 7.4 for communication is that big bold note at the bottom of the clause, "Communication should include internal and external feedback to the quality management system".

In other words, communication needs to be two way, it's not all transmit, you need to be aware of and factor in the feedback loop to what you are sending out. That feedback should be recorded somewhere as well to ensure that it is considered and as appropriate, factored into your Quality Management system to help drive the improvements that you need. Examples may be customer or employee satisfaction, complaints, feedback on proposed changes to procedures or policies, the list goes on. The key part here is look for feedback, give people the opportunity to provide feedback, acknowledge it, record it and where it makes sense, build it into your AS9100 rev D Quality management System.

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Tuesday, 29 November 2022

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