Defining Measurable Objectives/ Metrics to Drive Continual Improvement

Measurable objectives are an essential input for all levels of the management and come from the top management (TM). These objectives guide personnel at the work level to help ensure the success of a management system. The need for a set of value-based metrics is met by looking carefully at the company policy (based on the strategic direction) and then drawing the measurable objectives from it.

My thought is for any organization giving more than the desired value is a challenge! Values in today’s business world are often related solely to the ROI (Return on Investment). Providing value to the customer is a goal. The question is at what cost? Due to budgetary concerns, no organization wants to do more than what is required. Availability of funds is input to the design of the final product and or service. Consequentially, the values that an organization sets for itself must be based on trying to meet the objectives and expectations of the customers, or the statutory bodies (if relevant) within the constraints of the resources. Where a statutory body is involved, it is the vital responsibility of that body to precisely define expectations and what metrics they will accept.

My opinion is that the statutory bodies such as the FAA, FDA, EPA, and USCG, would have concerns about continual improvement by the external service providers. It is therefore critical to conduct an analysis and conduct management reviews internally to achieve the intended purpose of Clause 10.3 of ISO 9001:2015. However, it all starts with defining, providing and monitoring these clear expectations. This means that the statutory body should provide guidelines for stated requirements, as the IMO does in the ISM Code, within Resolution A.1118(30) & MSC-MEPC.7/Cir8. In a similar manner, the USCG could provide clear guidelines for TPO (Third Party Organization) and for the towing companies for the Subchapter M.

Statutory bodies, understandably, may struggle with defining their policy in the initial stages and clearly converting it to a set of measurable objectives (Value based metrics) for external providers. The need for the Leadership (TM) is to spend time and resources well at the plan stage of the PDCA cycle (Plan-Do-Check-Act) by understanding the context of the organization (Clauses 4.1 and 4.2 of the ISO 9001) and appreciate the various risks (Clause 6.1 of ISO 9001) keeping the customer focus in mind. The Standard here provides useful clauses to make the decision. An objective audit of the internal procedures of the statutory body (Clause 9.2 of ISO 9001) would provide the inputs for the Management Review (Clause 9.3) and ensure a robust decision-making process. This then should be followed by regular audits of the organization to which the processes have been outsourced (meeting the requirements of Clause 8.4.1 and 8.4.2 of ISO 9001). The organization which provides the outsourced service or product needs the information in terms of clause 8.4.3 to perform to the total satisfaction of the statutory body. As such providing clear requirements is a vital role of the statutory body.

Once requirements are clear, then the organization providing a product or service will use these inputs to design their Policy (Clause 5.2 of ISO 9001) 5.2.1d. This policy would then ensure that the feedback loop will help to drive continuous improvement efforts of the QMS. This policy would then provide the framework for the “value-based metrics” which in Quality terms would be the measurable objectives in terms of clause 6.2. Both 6.2.1 and 6.2.2 would put the organization on the correct path to success. The statutory body would vigorously and regularly audit the correct implementation itself or by using an independent professional service provider.

In effect, what this means is that just being certified to e.g. ISO 9001:2015 is not enough for any organization. What is required is a functioning PBMS (process-based management system) based on the chosen standard and other criteria implemented by committed leadership and motivated manpower.

(The author Dr. IJ Arora, is the President and CEO of QMII)

Monitoring Outsourced Processes is a Primary Responsibility of Every Organization

The international standards provide a world of wisdom enabling robust planning to achieve results by the organizations. In this global economy, often doing all the work in-house is not a cost-effective solution. Moreover, with super-specialized industry requirements, perhaps a lot of quality products and services can be procured at reasonable prices. Yet it seems organizations fail to act in the spirit of the standard when putting in place requirements for monitoring outsourced processes. Clause 8.1 of ISO 9001:2015 in operational planning and control has a sting in the tail with a clear whip requiring that “the organization shall ensure that outsourced processes are controlled.”

Statutory requirements are created to provide the required oversight, maintain customer focus and protect the interests of the customer when products and services are cleared for use. The caveat is that the statutory body should be well resourced, have the infrastructure, maintain organizational knowledge levels (Clauses, 7.1.3 & 77.1.6 of ISO 9001) with competent manpower (Clause 7.2). This often is not possible or with time not sustainable due to budgetary constraints, knowledge level dropping with time, Leadership forgetting their primary role (Clause 5.1.1) of taking accountability for the effectiveness of the QMS (Quality Management System). As such, the resources (5.1.1 e) needed for the QMS are not provided or budgets not available. The statutory bodies rationalize it by their helplessness since the government does not provide the funding and budgetary support for this.

Whatever the reasons, the question is who suffers? A ship is sunk, and aircraft with all on board has crashed, dangerous drugs are in use. It is the customer who suffers. In helplessness on their ability to do their duties, the statutory bodies outsource the work to contracted parties or worst to the manufacturer itself! The whole logic of creating a statutory body is lost with this.

What then is the remedy? The essential rulemaking that implements compliance requires competence, resources, and infrastructure with a committed Leadership ensuring continuing suitability, adequacy and effectiveness of the system. When budgetary constraints do not allow this role to be fulfilled, the risk to the system along with the products and services it provides must be assessed and mitigated or the opportunity for improvement taken (Clause 6.1 of the ISO 9001).  This would require the authority to appreciate the FMEA (Failure Mode Effect and Analysis) and take measures to remedy this. If this risk is not appreciated as NC (Non-conformity) the CA (Corrective Action) will not take place nor will the government know of the consequences of underfunding or of recognizing the failure and finding alternatives/ considering options. If the manufacturer has the resources, the government may consider this an asset and avoid duplication of resources, thinking in national terms. Outsourcing to the manufacturer as has been seen can mean losing customer focus and is strict counter to the very philosophy of statutory work. It would call for aggressive, proactive and strict monitoring of the outsourced processes.

In my opinion, monitoring the outsourced processes diligently, as clearly prescribed in the standard is the answer. New options may not be necessary, if the existing clauses of ISO 9001 and related industry-specific standards, where applicable, are understood in the spirit of the standard and vigorously implemented.

  • Dr. IJ Arora