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5.3 Quality Policy
Top management shall ensure that the quality policy....
5.3 Quality Policy
New : To include a commitment for continual improvement. What should I do for my quality policy? Do I need to change them?
Only if you have no statement at this time regarding continually improving the effectiveness of the quality management system.
a) Is appropriate to the purpose of the company,
This is addressed in a discussion of the company (company) and why it believes that the quality policy contents are appropriate. Discussion of stated objective(s).
b) Includes a commitment to (1) comply with requirements and (2) continually improve the effectiveness of the quality management system,
Key words here are commitment and continual improvement. Continual (continuous) improvement gains a new importance in ISO 9001:2000. Yes – I know – I keep repeating this…
c) Provides a framework for establishing and reviewing quality objectives,
Again, we have some ambiguity on how a quality policy can "…provide a framework…". This will be an interpretation issue. As I get more information on this I will include it in this analysis.
d) Is communicated and understood within the company, and
Communication of the Quality Policy is carried out in many ways, from company news letters to wallet cards to signs on walls. This should never be an issue during an audit.
e) Is reviewed for continuing suitability.
Continuing Suitability of the Quality Policy should be a Management Review meeting item. To ensure all your bases are covered, your Management Review form should address BOTH Relevance and Continuing Suitability of the Quality Policy.
5.3 Quality Policy used to be element 4.1.1 of the old standard.
See Quality_Policies_Samples.doc for some examples.
Remember, the quality policy has to be controlled. As with other documents which are subject to revision, this is expected. This implies that the quality policy will change as objective(s) change.
It should be noted here that how a company communicates the quality policy should be carefully considered. For example, if wallet cards were distributed, will you re-issue wallet cards? How will you ensure employees with wallet cards know their card is obsolete after a change? I have seen this happen and it was a distribution nightmare.
The requirement for the quality policy changed a bit from the previous version of the standard. The most significant difference now is that your Quality Policy must state your commitment to continual improvement. The old standard stated the requirement to "…comply with requirements…" The new standard goes a step further and says that your must "continually improve the effectiveness of the quality management system". "Continual improvement" as a new theme continues throughout the entire standard and the quality policy is part of it.
The quality policy can be compared to a company's mission statement. It clarifies why your company is in business and how it plans to stay in business. The people who write your quality policy must understand the vision and purpose of your company. This typically is Top Management. The individuals who draft the quality policy within your company must, at the very least, ensure it is appropriate to your company.
When creating the quality policy remember to specifically identify the requirements that you are committed to meeting. These requirements should be centered around the characteristics your stakeholders and customers are most interested in with your company. For example, a courier service may say that on time, prompt deliver is the most critical factor as far as their customers are concerned. A government agency may include a commitment to environmental stewardship or to making services available to all constituents.
You must now include in your quality policy your company's commitment to continually improve upon the above requirements. In order to do this your company must set objectives for quality. Though this is done in clause 5.4.1 Quality Objectives, the standard requires that quality objectives be directly connected to the quality policy. This connection is made by (in Quality Policy) identifying the requirements that must be met and (in Quality Objectives) establishing the objectives that indicate whether requirements are met. You also must identify opportunities for improvement (in quality policy) and establish objectives that show the company will pursue the opportunity to improve (Quality Objectives). Confused Yet? Basically, in the quality policy you are going to state what your requirements are and the areas available for improvement, and under your quality objectives you will state how you will go about achieving them.
For the purpose of the Quality Policy requirement you do not have to set the quality objectives, you must only understand the link.
Keep your policy relatively short and sweet, this is not the appropriate forum to show off your writing skills. At the very least ensure your policy includes a statement of commitment to meet requirements (requirements should be summarized into major categories), statement of commitment to continual improvement (identify the type of things you wish to continually improve) and reference to the supporting quality objectives. You must control your quality policy when it has been finalized.
Once your policy has been drafted it must be understood, implemented, communicated and maintained. This is a good job for the CEO, no better individual at your company to color the vision. If he/she is unavailable top management will also be an excellent carrier of the message. Remember that auditors are going to ask employees what the quality policy is (or ‘what it means’ to them), a quick consistent answer should be available from everyone within your company.
The quality policy must also be reviewed regularly. The best forum for review is a management review meeting. Unless major changes take place within your company a yearly review is satisfactory.
Potential Audit questions....
1. What is your company’s mission? Is this stated clearly in your quality policy?
2. Has your quality policy been communicated throughout your company? How is it communicated? Do employees in your company understand and believe in the quality policy? (They will be asked this)
3. What evidence do you have that the quality policy has been reviewed?