As discussed earlier, The QMS Policy directly links to the Quality Objectives, giving them a foundation to start from.
Why are Quality Objectives important?
Quality Objectives provide you with a focus, an end goal to aim for, to promote continual improvement. Unlike the Quality Policy, the Quality Objectives are more detailed, demonstrating your organisations intentions, priorities and intended outcomes.
Throughout the whole standard, the Quality Objectives are referred over and over again. The ‘Planning’ stage is very important to ensure the intentions of your organisation are realised. This will then be reviewed again during the ‘Check’ stage, when looking at the effectiveness of the QMS.
The Quality Objectives are a fundamental foundation to start from.
What do the Quality Objectives include?
The ISO 9001 standard gives detailed criteria for the Quality Objectives, so when establishing your organisations objectives, you will need to consider:
- Consistency with the organisations Quality Policy. Remember, the Quality Policy has strong emphasis on customer satisfaction, so good Quality Objectives should consider if your products and services are conforming to your customers’ expectations whilst improving upon your products and services;
- All Quality Objectives should be designed to be S.M.A.R.T (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-based) and should have relevance at all levels of the company, meaning that each employee should understand how their job supports meeting the Quality Objectives;
- Any applicable requirements that may affect your product or services conformity;
- Monitoring the progress of the Quality Objectives and updated as and when is necessary;
- Communicate the Quality Objective to the relevant team and staff members, ensuring they are fully aware of their role in achieving the intended results;
- Maintain the Quality Objectives as documented information.
What are SMART Objectives?
SMART objectives stand for:
Using the SMART method allows organisations to create thorough and effective objectives that you can be confident with.
How do you decide what should be in the Quality Objectives?
When constructing your Quality Objectives, you need to:
- Describe the knowledge and skill required (Specific);
- Describe how the results of the objective will be measured and monitored along the way, who will be responsible, updates and communication necessary (Measureable);
- Describe what they organisation wants to achieve, effective planning and what resources will be given to meet the expectation (Achievable);
- Consider team competence, resources allocated, time restrictions etc (Realistic);
- Within a specified time period (Time).
For example, you may choose to include an objective for improving your customer service performance. The goal may be to include a reduction in customer complaints from 20% to 10% over a 6 month period or to improve your star ratings on a specific product from 3 star to 4 stars average over a 12 month period. This would involve specific team members, an understanding of the current resources available, potentially planning some retraining and some extra resources may be required. A responsible team or person would be assigned to monitor the results of the actions taken, specify what the report would involve, who would need to be informed and given a deadline.
If you tell your employees that you want to reduce complaints from 20% to 2% within 6 months, they may not be able to see how this is possible and be unsupportive. It is better to set realistic goals and overachieve than it is to set unrealistic goals and always fall short of expectations. To say you want to reduce complaints 20% to 14% within 12 months, allows for better planning. The members involved will be much more supportive of the objective if they know it is within a realistic time period and understand what they need to do to achieve it.
Sometimes organisations mix up Quality Objectives with company strategies or focus on financial benefits. It’s very important to consider the intentions of the objective, if it’s not relevant to the QMS conformity of product and service, it is not a Quality Objective.
Reviewing the Quality Objectives
The objectives should be reviewed at least once per year during the Management review. If the evaluation results show you have achieved your goal, you may want to tick that off and create a new unrelated objective. Alternatively, as part of your organisations continual improvement, the same objective could be revised again to achieve an even higher standard.
However, if the objective hasn’t been met during the evaluation, it will be worth revisiting the original brief of the objective.
- Was the SMART objective methodology used?
- Was the objective too vague or unrealistic?
- Does the organisation have the resources to achieve it?
Continual improvement doesn’t have to mean giant leaps, it can be slow and gradual, sometimes complicated and difficult, however always something to strive for to an organisation to grow and succeed. Quality Objectives will not only help your organisation mature; it will also bring the whole organisation together, working as one team.