ISO 9001 The Basics Explained: Clause 5.1 Leadership and Commitment

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Clause 5.1.1

Top Management must demonstrate leadership by setting the example to the rest of the business and ensure that the whole business is aware of the importance of the QMS. This clause specifies where Top Management are required to demonstrate leadership and commitment to the QMS.

Leadership Requirements

Leadership (Top Management) does not just refer to the Managing Director or Board of Directors. The standard refers to Top Management as being a person or team of people within the organisation that have the authority and control over fundamental decisions regarding the QMS. Is that you?

The requirements to demonstrate leadership and commitment are clearly laid out in the standard. Firstly, leadership must take accountability for the effectiveness of the QMS and its processes. This is key to the success of implementation and the ability to maintain the QMS.

Top Management must ensure the organisations quality policy and objectives are established, consistent with the context and strategic direction of the business, as well plans to meet them. They must lead the way to ensure the policy and objectives are communicated clearly, understood and applied by integrating them into the organisations business processes and day to day activities.

The “process approach” and “risk-based thinking approach” must be promoted by Top Management. They will take action to communicate the importance of effective QMS, its relevance to members of staff and how they can conform to the requirements. These actions are fundamental to help your organisation improve performance and provide a strong foundation for sustainable growth.

When making commitments to support the QMS, leadership must ensure that there are sufficient resources available for the implementation, to maintain it and ensure the QMS meets its intended results.

Top Management must engage with the organisation directly and provide support to them, including support to other management roles. This will help Top Management to contribute to the effectiveness of the QMS. Promoting continual improvement at all times, especially important during reviews of any process.

Top management may assign certain tasks to team members competent to complete the task, however Top Management must be accountable and demonstrate leadership when engaging and directing the organisation, supporting them and promoting the QMS. Anyone with authority to control an aspect of the QMS and its processes need to demonstrate leadership and commitment, however, if Top Management are not involved or do not demonstrate the activities the standard required (as a minimum), the QMS processes and activities will eventually fail due to lack of support and poor attitude within the business.

Top Management should take the opportunity to bring together the organisation, inspire and encourage them. The way Top Management engage with the organisation will be different for every business. However, as a leader, part of your role is to positively support and enable your staff’s performance development, their character, attitude and their commitment to the business. 

Document Requirements

Clause 5.1 is not required to be documented, although you may find it beneficial to record Top Management roles and responsibilities with regards to the QMS. 

Clause 5.1.2 Customer Focus

For Top Management to demonstrate their customer focus, there are three areas the standard requires commitment to. They must ensure:

  • Customer and applicable statutory and regulatory requirements are identified, understood and consistently met;
  • Any risks and opportunities that can affect the ability of the organisation to provide conforming products and/or services, or which may negatively impact customer satisfaction are identified and managed on an ongoing basis;
  • They maintain the focus on enhancing their customer satisfaction.


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