Implementing and maintaining a Quality Management System (QMS) can be quite a challenge. It's not always easy to find the information, method, person or time to implement the QMS that best suits your needs.
In this article, we wanted to share 8 common challenges you may face when designing and implementing your next QMS, and 8 lessons our Quality experts learned when facing these challenges during their projects.
Top 8 challenges with quality management
1. Too much theory in quality management
Organizations that are striving for perfection often go overboard. In an attempt to implement the “perfect” Quality Management System, they often focus more on theory than on putting theory into practice.
Lesson 1: The perfect QMS doesn’t exist, but every QMS can and should be improved over time. When designing a QMS, make sure it is practical for the company. The theory is useless when you don’t put it into practice. Focus on the theory, but focus even more on the implementation of that theory and the added value for your organization.
2. Too much documentation
Many organizations create way too many documents; sometimes even to such an extent that the documentation starts hindering the functioning of the Quality Management System. In such cases, employees can get lost in the documentation and they may lose interest in the QMS. As a result, the QMS will not yield the expected results.
Lesson 2: The objective of a QMS is not to create paperwork, but to formalize the right information (to be more efficient) at the right time. Make sure that your documentation supports the communication of information, proof of compliance (evidence of results achieved) and knowledge sharing and that it never hinders your daily operations.
3. Too many details in quality management
Organizations often want their documentation to include as many details as possible. Evidently, this takes time and resources and will result in a more difficult application of the documentation.
Lesson 3: Make sure that your documentation is compliant with all the laws and regulations and that it supports (and doesn’t hinder) the different activities of your company. Some documents may require a high level of detail, others don’t. It is up to you to choose the appropriate level of detail for your situation. Think lean: include all and only the most important information at the right time.
4. Too much rigidity
If your Quality Management System is too rigid and inflexible it will be difficult to improve when necessary. As a result, it may not guarantee the best results for the future.
Lesson 4: Customer requirements and organizations are constantly evolving. Therefore, Quality Management Systems must evolve as well. They must be improved over time to remain consistent with the changing circumstances of your business. This will improve your performance and enable you to seize new opportunities.
5. Not enough implication and communication
From time to time, a Quality Management System is only supported by the Quality Manager(s). In such cases, colleagues often think that the QMS ‘belongs’ to the people who created it and -as a consequence – they don’t actively contribute to the quality system. Instead, they just ‘follow’ the QMS whenever necessary.
Lesson 5: Make sure your staff members clearly understand their role and responsibilities in the Quality Management System. Otherwise, they won’t feel part of the system. You need the full support of your entire organization to get the desired results.
It takes great leadership and communication skills to get the most from a QMS. If you inform your staff about successes and challenges it will serve as a motivation, and if you share lessons learned it will start discussions that will prevent you from making the same mistakes again.
6. Not enough motivation
When organizations implement a QMS because of external factors only (e.g. a client demands a certified QMS, competitors have an advantage because they are certified and you are not), it will be hard to get the best results from your QMS.
Lesson 6: Top management and staff should be fully on board and intrinsically motivated to get the best results from your QMS. Everyone must feel responsible for the overall quality of the product(s) or service(s) you offer and everyone should know his/her role in the QMS.
7. Not suitable enough
Sometimes a Quality Management System is ‘delivered’ as a ‘ready to use’ system. However, if a QMS is out of sync with the company’s strategy and operations, it will be very difficult to get the results you want.
Lesson 7: Quality Management Systems such as ISO 9001 are based on the obligation of results but not on the obligation of how to reach them. It is up to the company to choose the way that suits them most, so set up your Quality Management System in a way that fully supports your staff, processes and business.
8. Not enough attention to customers
We often see that companies are focused on quality but not so much on customer satisfaction.
Lesson 8: Without your customers, there is no business. Never forget that Quality Management Systems such as ISO 9001 are based on customer satisfaction. The goal is to achieve and maintain customer confidence. Therefore, it is necessary to know your customers’ requirements and expectations and to measure your customers’ satisfaction continuously.
How to successfully implement a Quality Management System
The following 8 tips may help you to successfully implement your next Quality Management System:
- Implement a QMS that is practical for your business
- Develop effective document management in line with your activities
- Use a level of detail that is appropriate for your activities
- Stay aware of changes to continually improve your system
- Involve your staff and communicate their roles and responsibilities
- Make sure all stakeholders are intrinsically motivated
- Set up a system that suits you
- Stay focused on customer satisfaction