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ISO9001 And The Roles, Responsibilities & Authorities Requirements

For a lot of companies having crystal clear roles and responsibilities along with clarifying who has authority for what is something which is perhaps not the highest of priorities, which to me seems strange, don't you want your people to know what's going on and who does what? There is sometimes the fear that if you define things too much then people will only work within that box, and while for some that may be true, I'd suggest that if your business culture allows that behaviour to flourish you have other challenges that you need to address. let me explain my thinking around why ISO9001:2015 is insisting on you paying attention to this.

Clause 5.3 Roles, Responsibilities and Authorities

Achieving the requirements of this clause isn't that difficult, done correctly it can also add a huge amount of clarity and alignment to your organisation which ultimately speeds up how your operation functions which would seem like it would a be a good thing. So here are the only 5 things you really need to do if you want to meet the requirements is create and communicate the following things:

  1. Document the structure of the organisation, i.e. actually have a formal Organisational Chart
  2. Show clear lines of reporting within the organisation (you can actually do this on your Org Chart!)
  3. Individual Job Roles, Responsibilities and deliverable of the role, it is also good to include who the main internal customers  & suppliers are to the role - this is the Job Description. Create Goals and Objectives per role - this is your annual / 6 monthly review type information
  4. The importance of having a customer focus
  5. Give responsibility & authority to an appropriate individual to maintain your ISO9001:2015 Quality Management System, they will make sure that the processes are delivering the outcomes you intended from the system
So with that in mind how do you actually go about implementing these things or making sure that they not only tick the ISO9001:2015 boxes but also actually add value to your organisation? Glad you asked, lets discuss..

The Org Chart

The organisation chart has been around forever and it's not really hard to create one. It does a great number of things, it shows where everyone lives and how they fit into the overall organisational structure, who reports to who and in what department or function and so on. You should never ever put peoples names into the org chart if you are including it directly into your quality manual but then I wouldn't put it directly into the manual, just reference the org chart as an externally controlled document. In the external document, of course, you put peoples names if you can add a photo of them then even better. Here is something else you could think about doing, for each role add the key responsibilities right there.

Job Role Descriptions

Again reference these only, they don't need live inside your Quality Manual but they are part of the Quality Management System so they should be controlled documents. There are numerous legal requirements for Job Descriptions that I'm not going to go into but you should verify these with an employment lawyer or specialist before you put them in front of anyone. A common mistake I do see is organisations including Objectives within the job description, that's not where they should live, separate them out as part of the performance review process into their own document, that way the Job Description don't need to be changed every 6 months or so.

The most important part of a Job Role is actually the discussion you have with the employee around the document. You need to sit down with them and talk through the document, not hand them it and get them to sign it having only glanced at it or actually have never read it. They need to understand what the role is responsible for, what level of authority it has and for what, how the role reports to and who reports to this role. Who their internal & external customers are, how this role impacts the company deliveries of their product or service & their part in that. How the role would support or demonstrate the company values and so on. This needs to be a two-way conversation and it needs to be around a written document, this is to ensure each employee has a clear understanding of their role within the organiation and their responsibilities especially towards yoru Quality Management System. This conversation allows both sides to ask questions and clarify things that may otherwise lead to confusion and disagreements.

Another element of ob roles fo ryou to consider. If you really want everyone to understand their part in the process or the organisation then why not give them access to the job descriptions of every other member of the organisation? That way everyone knows exactly what is expected of every role, there is nothing to hide. Does your local soccar or rugby team keep it a secret what each person on the picth is responsible for? no, becuase that would be dumb they are all ont he same team a need to know their part of the plan and how they fit in, it's the same in yoru organisation.


Every role at every level needs to have measurable objectives, these should align with the companies strategic and operational objectives for the year. Clearly at least some of the operational objectives need to be around the ISO9001 Quality Management System. As mentioned earlier, keep these objectives as a separate document that is discussed with the individual on a regular basis, I used to have a chat on a monthly basis with any of my direct reports and guess what I used the PDCA (Plan Do Check Act) loop to do it. Every month we would review where the individual was against the objective and Plan the next steps on the journey they wanted to take, with myself acting purely as a sounding board. Then, of course, they had Done steps the previous month so we would talk about those and how effective they had been (Check) in moving towards the goal and if we need to make any changes or follow-ups we would do those (Act), we would also discuss what additional support the person needed to succeed either from myself, from others or by the way of training. 

For any training that was done, we had documented procedures to follow, guess where they lived?.. yep the Quality management system and these were lined up against the requirements of the role, so if a specific role needed skill A then when someone went to that role they would get that training.

Having a conversation like this not only perfectly aligns with the ethos of the Quality Management System but provides a great coaching framework to help build your staff up. Again I would actually share everyone's objectives with everyone, my own included, that way everyone was clear what the goals were for everyone and knew we were all aligned or if they spotted something that was going to work against theirs it could be discussed and fixed. By not keeping these things secret on a 1:1 basis we improved the teamwork and the communication, in fact as we progressed we actually did the reviews of the objectives as a roundtable with the whole team as a form of accountability session, it was really effective!

Process Documentaton

We have mentioned that you need to document the responsibilities each role has in the systems however you have another opportunity to reinforce this. When you document your processes and procedures ensure that the role is mentioned in the areas where they are responsible for. By doing this you both tie it back the job description but you align it with the quality system and make it clear who needs to do what.

Customer Focus

Would you ever run a company not to have focus on the customer? sounds crazy right? The thing is though it is really easy to forget about the customers' needs when you are knee deep in the day to day operations. Maybe the output plan isn't good, the overtime bill is too high, the production team doesn't get on with the engineering team and sales just keep making promises. It is critical that at every opportunity the Senior Leadership team reiterate the importance of being customer focused. Customer focus elements should appear in every role description, there should be a measurement of customer satisfaction, customer feedback sessions or surveys and constant discussions about the need to focus and understand what the customer wants and needs. 

When you have your reviews, talk about the customer focus, when you have your quarterly or monthly reviews, talk about customer focus, talk about it in the hallway but make it meaningful and real, don't use catchphrases and platitudes, that doesn't help.

Now I am not saying here that you should mandate that the customer is THE most important thing, because they are not (and actually ISO9001 doesn't say they are either so it's not just me) The most important thing is your staff, look at after them, energies them, align them and they will 100% look at the customer and have the customer focus you want (don't take my word for it, go as Richard Branson or Warren Buffett!)

Maintaining The Quality System

The ISO9001:2015 requirements don't say you need to employ a dedicated Quality Manager, it doesn't care if you do or don't. It does say you need to make someone responsible for ensuring that the Quality Management System is maintained. Things change over time, improvements are made (remember the PDCA requirement for continuous improvement) the business focus changes, the company grows or the company shrinks, you open a new branch, all these things impact your Quality Management Systems and someone needs to be there to pull it all together. Someone needs to discuss the quality management system with the management team to be the subject matter expert for example and unfortunately, someone needs to coordinate and sometimes encourage improvement Notices and audits within the system. If you have a paper-based system them this can become quite a set of takes to manage, if you have an integrated system like Mango where the system takes care of a lot of the base work for you it's less so but you still need someone. Now, this doesn't have to be 1 person, it could be split as long as you make it 100% clear in the roles & responsibilities who does what and who reports to whom.

Get In Touch

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You can also call John on 0211649739 to set up a meeting 

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Saturday, 17 August 2019

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