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AS9100 and the Leadership Clause

The interesting thing about the leadership clause of any standard is that it is one many organisation do not pay enough attention to. It tends to be an area where people still believe it is the quality or the safety or the compliance manager's role and so the senior management team take a hands-off approach leaving things to the person they have handed the challenge over to. Auditors do tend to take a dim view of this approach and AS9100 for Quality Management Systems (QMS) for Aviation, Space and defence organisations is no different since it is of course built on top of ISO9001:2015.

The expectation of the standard is that the senior leadership team are intimately involved in your QMS and can demonstrate involvement in the system on a regular basis and that it forms a big part of how they run the organisation. It is easier to just think of AS9100 as your base operating system for your organisation.

What is involved in AS9100 Clause 5 - Leadership?

As we mentioned AS9100 is built on top of ISO9001:2015 and so the structure is the same and the sections in the clause re the same with only very slight additional requirements, here is the breakdown: 

  • 5.1 Leadership and Commitment – As per ISO9001:2015
  • 5.1.2 Customer focus – One Additional Requirement to ISO9001:2015
  • 5.2 Quality Policy (Establishing & Communicating) – As per ISO9001:2015
  • 5.3 Organisational Roles, Responsibilities and Authorities – Additional Requirements / Clarifications to ISO9001:2015

As you can see from the above list there are only a couple of changes between the two standards and in reality these additional elements in AS9100 rev D are more clarifications that real additional requirements, ISO 9001 infers them, AS9100 stipulates them. 

The underlying ISO9001:2015 clauses are discussed in more detail in each of the following articles:

...

ISO9001 And The Leadership Clause

Previously a company would hire a Quality Manager and that was it, the Quality Management System was theirs. ISO9001:2015 makes it clear this isn't going to fly, here are 10 things you need to know.
...

ISO 9001 and the Customer Focus Requirement

The customer focus requirement in ISO9001:2015 shouldn't be a surprise, it was there in 2008 but now it’s got bite!. So what are the changes and why do you care?
...

ISO9001 And The Quality Policy

The quality policy is one of those documents that is ubiquitous to ISO9001, don't fill it with pointless buzzwords or platitudes, make it count, find out how.
...

ISO9001 And The Roles, Responsibilities & Authorities Requirements

Meeting the ISO requirements for Roles, responsibility and authorities is not hard, in fact working through the requirements will help improve your business and your communication.

Clause 5.1.2 Customer Focus Additional Requirement

The AS9100 standard has 1 additional requirement for customer focus that organisation need to be able to demonstrate compliance to which is this:

In other words, it specifically says that you need to that you need to be both measuring and acting on these results of the following things:

On time delivery – this makes sense as part of other requirements is around planning of your organisation and acceptance of work based on your ability to deliver. If your On Time deliver (or DIFOT) is poor then there is a high chance you aren't correctly planning your business and so it provides a great closed loop approach.

Product & Service Conformity – Again ISO 9001 suggest that you do this, and it makes sense to do that but here it is stated you must measure the conformity of your product or service. To do that you obviously need to have documented standards or specifications for it to meet, those are typically a heavily influenced by your clients. That means of course, if you are not meeting them then your product or service is acceptable and needs to be improved. So again, the system is effectively enforcing a continuous improvement loop into your organisation and certainly auditors are going to look for this. Where may organisations fall over is that they are very good at documenting a problem, product X doesn't meet specification Y. Where they fall over however is the detail about the investigation on why, what the findings were, what steps were taken to fix it and how you proved that the fix you put in worked, i.e., you need to document the entire improvement loop, not just the top line summary.

Clause 5.3 Organisational Roles, Responsibilities and Authorities  

The changes here are again more of a clarification in some respects, here's the 1st extra statement:

Now ISO9001:2015 already says you should appoint a management representative to effectively manage the system, it does not say you have to employ a specific quality or compliance manager because some companies just do not need that dedicated resource. However, someone, typically in the top management team should be responsible for your Quality management system and AS9100 spells that out quite clearly again.

What AS9100 does stress however is the authority and independence of this person:

The standard is very clear that the person who owns the QMS must be given both the organisational freedom and unrestricted access to the top management of the organisation when they need them. What that means is this person has license to go anywhere and speak to anyone at any level in the organisation when working within the QMS. Why is that so important? Well imagine that you have a problem with the big blue widget which is part of the larger silver widget you send into space. To ensure that those problems are never covered up or hidden you need to give your management representative the freedom within your organisation to effectively follow their nose to the root of the problem. It also helps create a fairly high level of accountability for everyone else if they know that this person can go anywhere and speak to anyone up to and including the CEO or the board (yes the board – they are also deemed top management and should be available as required).

Small changes, big Impact

Like so much of the additions to AS9100, a few small changes or clarifications can make a really big impact on how you run your organisation. With the addition of 3 lines in the leadership clause the standard has specifically required you to implement closed loop measurements on key organisational performance and freed the management representative to go anywhere and speak to anyone in the pursuit of solving issues or improving your QMS or your products. That's quite an impact and one that the auditor is going to be looking for evidence that those extra requirements are indeed part of your day to day systems and activities.

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