A management systems standard (MSS) provides an internationally agreed-upon model for organizations to follow to ensure the proper handling of day-to-day operations. An MSS provides the structure for operations, such as how the organization buys materials, maintains accounting records, trains its employees, processes payroll, implements pollution prevention or decreases insurance rates.

A common MSS operating principle is the plan-do-check-act (PDCA) model.

One of the most popular MSS is ISO 9001, which is in the ISO 9000 family of standards addressing quality management. ISO 9000 addresses what the organization does to:

Fulfill the customer’s quality requirements.

Meet applicable regulatory requirements.

Enhance customer satisfaction.

Achieve continual improvement of its performance in pursuit of these objectives.


Since its debut in the 1980s, ISO 9001 is the trusted quality management standard of more than one million organizations worldwide, in industries ranging from automotive to aerospace to healthcare.

Now that it has been nearly six years since the current version of ISO 9001 was released—and in accordance to the International Organization of Standardization regulation—the newest version of ISO 9001 is being developed. The planned release date is the fall of 2015.

Change, of course, is difficult. With each revision, there is the normal amount of chatter—especially within organizations using ISO 9001—revolving around, “Why is the committee making this change?” Mark Ames, standards subject matter expert and president, AQS Management Systems Inc., explains in an interview with ASQ TV that the standard is increasingly being used outside of the traditional manufacturing arena—in service industries as well as healthcare and education. The revised standard will include changes in language to accommodate these recent developments. The second change is also being woven into the 2015 revision; it deals with the changing use of the ISO 9000 family of standards.

“People would like to integrate ISO 9000 with other management systems standards,” Ames says, “such as ISO 14000 for environmental, ISO 50000 for energy, and others.”

It is important to note that these changes do not occur in a vacuum. While it is true that there is a committee making decisions, the public is asked to review the standard and offer suggestions and opinions.

For more information on next steps for ISO 9001 in the standards development process, contact [email protected]



The plan-do-check-act cycle is a four-step model for carrying out change. Just as a circle has no end, the PDCA cycle should be repeated again and again for continuous improvement.

When to Use Plan-Do-Check-Act

As a model for continuous improvement.

When starting a new improvement project.

When developing a new or improved design of a process,
product, or service.

When defining a repetitive work process.

When planning data collection and analysis in order to verify
and prioritize problems or root causes.

When implementing any change.

Plan-Do-Check-Act Procedure

Plan. Recognize an opportunity and plan a change.

Do. Test the change. Carry out a small-scale study.

Check. Review the test, analyze the results and identify what you’ve learned.

Act. Take action based on what you learned in the study step: If the change did not work, go through the cycle again with a different plan. If you were successful, incorporate what you learned from the test into wider changes. Use what you learned to plan new improvements, beginning the cycle again.


 The information in this sidebar was excerpted from Nancy R. Tague’s “The Quality Toolbox,” Second Edition, ASQ Quality Press, 2004, pp. 390-392. To learn more about a plan-do-check-act cycle—and read an example—read the book or visit http://asq.org/learn-about-quality/[email protected]/overview/pdca-cycle.html