A difficult child...


Jase Eyre

Here's a good one for ya...

I have just commenced working with a Hong Kong company on their QA system. This company's got problems. They have been accredited to ISO 9001:1994 for the past six years, but they are on the verge of losing their accreditation. They have called in OUR company to see what can be done to fix the problem.

Here's a snapshot:
*SME engineering company with some consultancy work. Expanding in related areas. Approx 100 employees.
*There is no support for QA amongst senior management; the CEO likes the idea of accreditation, but that's about as far as it goes; only one third of the Board of Management supports QA beyond simply paying lipservice to the idea. The majority of senior management is more interested in maintaining a bulk turnover to maintain profitability rather than looking into productivity gains.
*There is no support for QA among middle management. They see it as an unnecessary imposition that adds no value to their work and eats into their time. Their attitude is validated by the words and actions of senior management.
*There is SOME support for QA (at least in principle) among the professional staff (approx 25%), but they are no fans of the current system, which they find somewhat burdensome to comply with.
*Morale is rock bottom. Staff turnover is running at about 30-40% over the past quarter.
*There is talk about introducing ISO 9001:2000 and ISO 14001, and some work done in both spheres. Supporters see this as a way of redesigning their QA system from the ground up - a 'fresh start', as it were. Detractors just see it as 'more damn QA'.
*Another consultancy tried to fix things up about six months ago (the source of most of our information thus far). Someone from that company (who gave up) told us they tried to get input from staff and management on the redesign, but drew a blank: Most weren't interested at all (particularly senior/middle management), the rest couldn't find the time (or weren't freed up /encouraged to participate by their line managers).
*The company as a whole are unwilling to engage in any IT solutions to solve problems of document control / ease of system use. There exists a half-developed but abandoned intranet project. Everything is currently paper-based.
*There are three months to go before the registrar walks through the door with a big red pen.
*There are, as yet, no documented records of processes or activities carried out by the company upon which to base any new system.
*Current system lacks a management review process due to the ambivalence of the majority of the board.
*The previous internal auditor has just left. There is no replacement as yet.
*There is a three week deadline (on us) to implement a 'revised system', and 2 months of 'test time' in addition.

How's them apples! Sound familiar to anyone? What would YOU do (we already have our own ideas...)?!?!


David Mullins

Hi Jase,
Given your time frame of 3 weeks to refashion the QMS I'd work on updating the system to the existing standard, and worry about 9001:2000 and ISO14001 later.
Firstly develop a plan for what needs to be accomplished - it's not too hard -something like review existing documentation, examine processes, chart processes, cut and paste existing information into new procedures that fit the current processes, develop any additional procedural guidelines required for compliance with the people concerned, etc, etc.
Then I'd grab the CEO and ask him/her how important is certification to the business / what would it mean to them if they lost their certification. Presuming a positive answer I'd ask what they are willing to do to keep it.
Again let's presume fairly positive responses (e.g. "whatever it takes, within reason").
Now you need to hit on the CEO for the commitment you need from all levels of the organisation for the next 3 weeks to re-design the system, and during the test period, so that you plan can be implemented.
Then I'd get management together, with the CEO present, and explain to them that you've spoken to the CEO, the company is fully committed to....., and then tell them what you need from them, and tell them the impact of failure/success, and that it is dependent upon commitment. Make sure you finish this session (only needs to be 15 minutes - they'll appreciate that) with the positives of how this will benefit them and the company.

This is an abridged version of course, and the real work is in grasping there current processes, and identifying what gaps exist, and how to best close them in the time allowed.

If you want to bounce anything off me I can be contacted on 08 8259 7953 (Adelaide/SA).



Good luck on you, Jase Eyre. I guess You need it to get management really committed. Could you keep us informed of your progress. I (and maybe many others) am really interested in the case.



Fully vaccinated are you?
I agree with the trend of David's answer. The problem, as we all kow, is support. I'm sorry to say I try to stay away from companies like this any more. They fail, blame it on you and give you a bad rap. I guess I'm getting too old to want to fight a brick wall.

I will say I typically see this problem voiced in relation to getting an implementation off the ground rather than in keeping a registration up.

If it was me, I would voice my concerns immediately to top management and give them an ultimatum - the truth. If they won't support it there's just about nothing you can do.

In fact, before I take on a new client, I voice concerns from my initial visit. From a quote I did today for an upgrade from ISO9K to QS9K:

> A stop at an assembly / operation (post-mold) provided evidence that
> the facility could be 'out of control'. Documentation was not where is
> should have been and there was a fair amount of confusion about what
> should be there and what was there as well as where the 'missing'
> documents were.
> A review of the nonconformance log provides evidence of a fair number
> of customer complaints and in fact it appears customer complaints make
> up a high percentage of 'problems' in contrast to internal DMRs (I am
> assuming DMR = Defective Material Report for material identified as
> defective within the facility). The number of internal audit findings,
> as well as the kind of findings, is troubling.
> In addition, the number of outstanding nonconformances indicates the
> system is technically broken - a major nonconformity. Although an
> escalation 'system' was verbally described, it was admitted that it is
> not functioning which is born out by the evidence. In addition
> escalation is not evident in the system as documented (OP145
> "Corrective and Preventive Action").
> It was noted that there is a relatively high turnover rate for hourly
> employees while salaried employees were described as relatively
> stable.
> My conclusion is that there is a low level of discipline - often
> disregarding guiding documentation and other communicated
> requirements. Part of the problem may be that some requirements are
> not adequately communicated, however I believe the problem is deeper
> than that.

I explained that this is an obsticle to a project. Jumping into boiling water isn't my idea of 'smart'. If what you have isn't working well..... While I won't name the company or its location, I will say the registrar is Intertek. Note that this company has been registered since 1994. From what I saw they had a sweetheart auditor/registrar. Even bidding on such a project scares me.

I was working with a large multinational a couple of years ago. For 6 weeks people were for all intents and purposes ignoring me. I went to the plant manager and technically I quit. I explained that there was no high level support and that without it I could not help at all. He called all the top managers together and we had a sit down meeting. He explained his support and his expectations. Weekly meetings (with him in attendance) were set up. Before the meeting chairs were taken out of the conference room. Each manager had 10 minutes to explain his/her progress for the past week. There was absolutely no excuse for missing a meeting and no one could come late or leave early (to address concerns I had about interdepartmental communication, everyone had to be present).

I was lucky - the plant manager actually was interested. He kicked ass, then the plant kicked ass - we all kicked ass and came out of the registration audit (abour 4000 employees) a few months later with 1 minor finding!

I wish you the best of luck. Your ass is in the fire. I'd charge a lot of money for that job...

Andy Bassett

Jase - The people on ths site have a habit of saying what you dont want to hear, but its true.

If you have any contact with companies like this, run a mile. However life is not simple, and sometimes we get ourselves into these situations for different reasons. I have learnt my lesson and it will be a long time before i am involved in such companies, although i have one or two existing ones to get of my books.

Having said that, even initially good lokking companies can hit some problems, i am this weekend preparing for my third crisis meeting with one particular company, and this is the approach i am taking.

A:I have sent a short report (1 page A4) listing a few positive points, highlighting the problems, and informing them that to save money maybe i should stay at home until they are ready). Now managers in general will have no hesitation to throw a consultant out and see him starve, but they HATE to be dropped themselves.
B. Be clear in what the problems are.
C. List what you beleive are the solutions.
D. Be clear in what you need from the managers. (For example i have requested a 12 week stop on new projects, and 16 hours per week Problem Solving meeting attendance during this period)

ON re-reading this list, the proposals sound a little banal, but ISO type situations always benefit from a little clarity.

Andy B

Andy Bassett


Would you keep us posted on this situation, I spend 5% of my time on ISO problems and 95% on Problem Childs, i will be interested to see what happens.


Andy B

Dave Taylor

You have left out the most important item. WHY on earth does this company want ot be resistered?? Is it a nice thing to hang on the wall? It doesen't sound like it is something that management thinks is value added. Is an improtant customer demanding it?
If not number three it is hopeless. That is not to say you, as a consultant, should not spend your best efforts ( at hopefully $20,000 to $50,000) to reestablish this rather silly registration. In the real world, fools are not punished enough.

But success will elude you and the company. It may be difficult to understand at this point, but this is a good thing.

David Mullins

The 3 weeks has passed.
What's the deal?
What did you do, and what were the results?

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