COO - CEO -- Who's Responsible?


Fully vaccinated are you?
This thread is continued from: Meeting the intent of ISO 9001
John C
From:Cork City, Ireland
Registered: Nov 98
Posted 11 September 2000 05:09 PM

Yes, this is a more difficult question. I'm working on it for years and assembling the argument and the ammunition by figuring out answers to questions like your first one.

How many CEOs, or even direct reports look in on this forum? The answer is obvious and gives a hint at the size of the problem.

Everyone says 'it must come from the top, but, in fact, it seldom does. My achievements in this area have been slow and limited. Pull them in and they seem to be coming along well but then backslide again. There's strong resistance built into every manager, for a variety of reasons.

The first thing is to refuse to do it for them. Try not to take action items from the meetings. Push them at the people responsible and then look to their managers to respond if the actions aren't followed up. Push it back all the time.

Have mgmnt review meetings not less than one per quarter. Ask the CEO 'When do you want your next review meeting?' and things like that. Never do any of the work for yourself, but get the idea across that it is for them that you are doing it, representing them and meeting their goals by delegation.
I guess your COO is Chief Operations Officer. If that means the top person on site, then that's fine. If the COO's direct reports are the operational manager's, then also fine. This is the key point, that the person responsible has to have the authority to make it stick. But you must remember that, if the COO reports to the CEO, then the CEO has the responsibility for everything the COO does so, if the CEO is wrong headed over ISO 9001 and the documented system, then the COO will quite likely not drive it well, irrespective of what he/she thinks. Everyone wants to concentrate on what their boss wants. That's how they got as far as they did. So, if the top guy doesn't want it, it won't happen.

rgds, John C

[This message has been edited by Marc Smith (edited 13 September 2000).]
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You are absolutely right that the if the CEO is against it, it won't happen. My point has more to do with sustaining the effort (once commissioned)long enough to make it successful and institutional. This is where I think those looking to the CEO for daily engagement are doomed to frustration. A Chief Operating Officer (or equivalent) is by definition focused on the "how it gets done". My mission (quality director, org effectiveness, etc.)is to make sure that these efforts stay relevant to the COO's perspective.

Top management must drive. I just think you're better off trying to engage the captain in charge of the ship's bridge than the admiral who is deciding the mission.

John C

Again I agree. I'm using the term CEO to relate to the top person on site. I believe that person should use the documented system and take a positive role in directing the organisation. But, whether this is most of the time or a fraction of the time depends on the nature of the business. Obviously, there is a lot of outside work that needs to be done but the CEO should not become entirely divorced from the everyday running of the internal operation. There will be exceptions, of course but in these cases, the distribution of responsibility would be quite clear and recognised.
I'm looking at the 'management with exec responsibility' requirements of ISO 9001 separately from the above. I would not expect the CEO to have any specific and visible involvement other than that of the Management Review meeting. For the review, I would expect the CEO to inform people what sort of input is expected so that senior management present can draw relevant conclusions about the effectiveness of the documented system. It should not be a case of the Mgment Rep just offloading a lot of defect data and making a statement about what is to be done about it. It's a case of getting a real look at the system and making management decisions about it.
Most of this can be done on the spot though I guess that, if senior management is really taking this seriously, then it's going to tie in with their management task and get more attention at staff meetings. Aside from the Mgment Review, I don't see the CEO going around pushing ISO 9001. Nor anyone else, for that matter. Ideally, I believe, ISO 9001 only concerns the CEO, the management rep, the ISO 9001 facilitator, if there is one and people who have designed a process and procedure and wish to ensure it complies with the standard or people investigating, on behalf of the Mgment Rep, to see if there is compliance to standard. Beyond that, all discussion should be about compliance to document.
As a minimum, it is sufficient for the CEO to attend the meeting, preside over agreement and the allotting of actions and make sure that the actions happen by making just as strong a response to failure to take action as would be expected at the CEO's own staff meeting, including holding departmental managers responsible for their staff's performance, just as in any other function. Also, by including the performance of individuals as part of their overall performance review input. It's simple motivation; Nothing works better and, in fact, nothing works without it.
rgds, John C
Nothing personal-but I disagree. We have 3 CEO's - the President, The Vice President of Engineering and Quality, and the Vice President of Sales and Customer Service. These people are OWNERS. Every shift awareness meeting we have; they mention the importance of the QS system, and how everyone shall abide. I don't ask them to do this. They are sold by it. It's called management committment and every company should have it. Every company needs to have it to see the real benefit of QS 9000. Unfortunately some managment reps are not as fortunate as myself.

Andy Bassett

Wow Dawn, i really would like to visit your company, what part of heaven are you in?



A couple of comments on Management Review. We do not conduct mangement review for the purpose of looking at the quality system. We set up a quarterly organizational management review that cuts across all levels. The CEO, COO and his direct reports all attend. We review program performance by product line, management systems performance by discipline (financial, human resources, quality, safety, etc.), customer satisfaction, action requests (CARs, suggestions for improvement)and discuss potential action items.

While I have to set it all up, and administer the meeting, the CEO has historically and consistently participated and probed all report areas. I truly believe this formal and disciplined approach has benefited all of them in ways that their weekly one on one meetings never could. We are still refining the data presented, but are generally moving toward the balanced scorecard concept.

Andy Bassett

Congratulations Curtis

With my biggest present contract i am doing exactly the same, i am combining all the measurements required by ISO 9000:2000 into a form of Balanced Score Card. I have already got most of the data necessary, including a Customer Satisfaction Survey and a Internal Climate Survey (BTW I have extracted miles of beenfit from these two survey, both of which took me about 1 hour to prepare)

I am of course struggling to get measurements from the key processes. I will probably end up having to do this myself


Andy B



You wrote earlier-

Top management must drive. I just think you're better off trying to engage the captain in charge of the ship's bridge than the admiral who is deciding the mission.
I would have to disagree with you for a couple of reasons. In all such cases of TQM, there is only one constant - change. All of that continuous improvement that a TQM system demands brings about an enormous amount of change, and the way that a company is able to manage those changes can make the difference between profit or loss. Companies, as a whole, have been very successful at Running the Business, but are at a loss as to how to Change the Business so as to gain a competitive advantage.The very definition of change implies that the process can be painful, because frequently corporate leadership may be called on to take the organization where it would not have gone in order to ensure long term organizational success. In this case, the captain on the bridge has to know where he's supposed to steer the ship.



[This message has been edited by qualman (edited 18 September 2000).]

John C

You say 'We do not conduct management review for the purpose of looking at the quality system'.
But ISO 9001 requires that you do.
The principle is that you have a documented system, you implement it and, knowing what you have done and being able to see the results, you know how to improve.
So the first questions to be asked are not related to how well your organisation is performing but are; Have you a documented system (quality system)? Do you implement it as written? What actions are you taking to improve?
The objective is not to achieve satisfactory results, but to reach your potential, quickly.
rgds, John C



The decision to pursue ISO 9000 was a directional change for our organization and was, in fact, initiated by the CEO (over my Baldrige prejudiced objections - I am now a convert). I was assigned the task of designing and implementing the system. When I needed doors opened or walls knocked down, however, it was the COO who possessed keys and a sledgehammer. I think we are actually in close agreement here. Imho, CEO's are critical to vision (direction, change, etc.) and COO's are critical to execution (implementation, maintenance). This role delineation made my efforts a whole lot more effective - particularly when I stopped looking for the CEO to drive execution.


The standard requires that the organization " ... shall review the quality system..." One of the problems I think quality professionals sometimes suffer from is that we don't focus on the perspective of management. With this in mind I designed, as near as possible, a business system instead of a quality system. Our management review does address the requirements within the standard. It actually exceeds the requirements.

From management's perspective, it covers the health of the organization across all disciplines. In my experience, executive perspectives tend to run like this - if it looks compartmentalized, then it belongs to a specialist (HR, quality, safety, etc.). If it looks like "Management" then it must be theirs.
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