How do we maintain and communicate corporate culture using ISO 9001?
I have a Saturday morning secret weapon, to improve my business. I attend the Levy Entrepreneurial Group meeting. Thank you Joe for creating it, Jack and Terry for leading it, and Don for introducing me to it. I love talking to the attendees, they have so much experience and they are happy to share. Subjects range beyond my imagination, no small feat when you realize I write fiction as a hobby. On the drive home, this week’s meeting on corporate culture, had my mind running like a squirrel that got into chocolate covered coffee beans. Good thing traffic was light, I was definitely a distracted driver.
Let’s start by defining corporate culture. It is the psychology, attitudes and experiences of the society formed in a company. It is a blend of values, beliefs, rituals and myths, developed over time. To sum up, corporate culture is the perception of a company by its’ employees, vendors, and clients.
So how do we create and keep a positive corporate culture? Implementing ISO 9001 correctly.
Communicating Corporate Culture using ISO 9001
It starts with the Quality Policy. It is a simple, straight forward statement of how we treat the customer, our employees and our suppliers. It must be something more than a framed plaque on the break room wall. Company leaders, and that is anyone who supervises, trains, or assists other employees, must live and refer to the values stated in the policy when it comes to decision-making. Thus a requirement of ISO 9001 is communicating the corporate culture.
Job descriptions also communicate the corporate culture in more subtle ways and are required by ISO 9001. The job descriptions guide the employee to work within specific constraints and include a responsibility to evaluate and improve how the company does business. This should also be reflected in the employee review process and the development of objectives. All of these are requirements of ISO 9001. All of these communicate the corporate culture.
Using the standard organizes communications to the employees. Clearly defining the corporate culture using ISO 9001 provides consistent values as different people generate job descriptions, reviews and other employee documents since everyone is guided by the quality policy.
Small companies often do a good job of “presenting the vision” when they start. Growth can change all of that. Training is necessary. Not just job training but also training on the corporate culture. Much of Saturday’s meeting included examples of when this was done well and when this was done poorly. The standard requires the training on the quality policy which defines the corporate culture. Using ISO 9001 requires the communication of the corporate values.
Keeping the Corporate Culture Using ISO 9001
When developing your documentation systems it is critical to realize everything is linked and the quality policy it the keystone holding the over arching philosophy together. Using the standard as a guide helps control the dispersal through the documentation process, making it easier to communicate the corporate culture using ISO 9001.
Section 4.2 of the ISO 9001 standard lists the documents a company needs to use for training to keep the corporate culture in place:
- A quality policy and objectives
- A quality manual
- And documents for planning, operation and control of the processes
All of these must reflect the corporate culture, particularly when it comes to guidance on decision making.
According to section 5.1 of the standard, management must accept the responsibility to keep the values important to the corporate culture in place. A key element to keeping corporate culture is stated in clause 5.5.1 of the ISO 9001 standard, “Top management shall ensure responsibilities and authorities are defined and communicated within the organization.” That isn’t just guidelines on who does what and with what and to whom, but also the values guiding each and every interaction, decision and activity in the workplace.
Viewing Employees as a Resource Stabilizes the Corporate Culture using ISO 9001
ISO 9001 has a whole section on employees. How does management make sure they are competent, aware of the corporate culture, and trained? Does the corporation provide the infrastructure and work environment to make the employees successful at living the corporate culture? Most importantly, the standard recognizes employees are a valuable resource. Section 6 of the standard is a guide to empowering employees. It becomes a simple task to stabilize the corporate culture using ISO 9001.
Outside perceptions of the Corporate Culture using ISO 9001
The Care and Feeding of Clients
ISO 9001 requires interaction with the client and a development of a feedback mechanism, not only for errors but in ways to provide better service. The corporate culture has to be built around serving the customer or the company doesn’t stay in business. Thus the clients perception is improved and the corporate culture using ISO 9001 is propagated.
Most companies focus on communicating and living their corporate culture when it comes to their clients and their employees. A much smaller number take the same care to communicate the corporate culture to their suppliers. Implementing ISO 9001 addresses that shortfall. The supplier must have a good perception of how the company expects them to perform and clear communication as to whether these requirements have been met. This goes beyond, meeting performance requirements, on-time delivery, and reasonable price. Consistency is created through the entire process stream and clear perceptions created of the corporate culture using ISO 9001 to deal with suppliers.
How the standard is viewed and implemented can take many forms. However, creating and maintaining the corporate culture using ISO 9001 is one of the strengths of doing the job right, staying in business and providing jobs.