Of all of the changes in ISO 9001:2015, the one that users typically mention as being the one they are most concerned about is Management Commitment (clause 5.1.1). Maybe it is because the change has been emphasized so much in communication and training. Maybe you have heard about the change in emphasis in requirements and have over interpreted the standard. Or maybe it is because there truly is an issue with commitment in your organization. Regardless of the background for your concern, there are some basic steps that you can take that will help mitigate it.

While the ISO 9001:2015 version of the standard is more prescriptive in its requirements for management, management commitment is something that your organization has or does not have. Meaning if your management demonstrates commitment to the current version of the standard, then showing that this requirement is met in the future should not be a problem. Yes, the standard is more prescriptive in its requirements, but these requirements can easily be incorporated with a few easy steps.

If your organization currently has strong management commitment, you should review the new requirements with the management team and discuss how you meet them using the language of the organization along with the language in the standard. For example, when discussing promotion of the process approach and risk-based thinking, ask management how processes are managed and decisions are made considering risks.

For the organization that has previously struggled with demonstrating management commitment, you may need to learn to walk before you can run. Here are some steps that you can take to demonstrate management commitment. These are also a good refresher for the organization that currently meets the intent of the requirement.

It starts with you. It is easy to put the ball in management’s court when it comes to commitment, but it is difficult to gain that commitment when others in the organization do not demonstrate their own personal commitment. As the quality professional that has been assigned responsibility for the quality management system (QMS), it is important that you project what you what management to demonstrate. This includes how you reference ISO 9001, its requirements, or the certification process. Simply being positive can help remind management of the value of a quality management system and ISO 9001 certification. This might mean that you only represent to management true issues for your organization and not what has been communicated by others as concerns in their quality management systems. In short, you represent the brand in your organization.

Go back to the quality management principles (QMPs). The QMPs were revised prior to ISO 9001:2015 to continue to establish the foundation on which ISO 9001 is based. The QMPs now include seven foundation principles and are available in ISO 9000:2015 and also at a public website (www.iso.org/iso/pub100080.pdf). Each QMP includes a statement, a rationale for the principle, and key benefits.

The seven quality management principles are:

  • QMP 1 – Customer focus
  • QMP 2 – Leadership
  • QMP 3 – Engagement of people
  • QMP 4 – Process approach
  • QMP 5 – Improvement
  • QMP 6 – Evidence-based
  •                 decision making
  • QMP 7 – Relationship management

These principles are best business practices for many organizations. However, reviewing the QMPs can reset your management team to understand the fundamentals but the benefits associated with them.

Next you need to ensure that your management team has read the ISO 9001:2015 standard. They do not need to be able to recite requirements in the standard from memory, but the management team does need to have a basic understanding of what ISO 9001:2015 requires. If they do not have the knowledge of not only their responsibilities but other requirements in the standard, it is difficult for them to demonstrate commitment as well as to ensure that the necessary resources have been provided.

One approach is to have some informal sessions with management on ISO 9001:2015 requirements. Consider discussing what the intent of the requirement is and why the requirement is important to management in relation to your organization’s QMS.

Use the quality management principles as a foundation for discussions with management. The QMPs are most likely ingrained in the culture of the organization, but they serve as a reminder on the foundation of what ISO 9001 is based. For example, explain that the requirement for evaluating and selecting external providers (suppliers) helps to ensure that requirements can be fulfilled. This leads to helping ensure on-time delivery is met to your customer.

Clause 5.1.1 Management Commitment does not require documented information to provide evidence that the requirement has been met. So how can this commitment be demonstrated? It is simple. Management should show up for opening and closing meetings for third party audits conducted by the certification body, attend management reviews, and provide meeting minutes or presentations provided to employees to show that actions are in place that demonstrate commitment.

We sometimes try to over complicate demonstrating this commitment when in reality it is in many cases showing some common courtesies at the time of the audit. Tell your managers to put down their mobile devices. When auditors see managers checking their mobile device for emails or actually responding, it shows a lack of interest. Most third party auditors will understand that management team members have very complex schedules and responsibilities. One tip is that if a manager has current activities that might cause them to step away simply provide this information to the third party auditor. This could include stating that they may have to step away to take a call or monitor their email. These should be limited

There is not a significant cause to making these changes in the organization. However, if these changes are not implemented the repercussions could have a significant impact on the organization’s QMS as well as its certification. Remember commitment starts with the behaviors that you present to management. Complete your own transition and then move on to management.