The planning process is a crucial step in the implementation of a quality management system. Though often time consuming, the end results are well worth the effort. Building a planning phase into the project helps to bring issues to the forefront before they can become larger problems.
Step 1: Engage the Stakeholders
One of the basic steps to implementing a quality management system is to involve top management. This group encompasses both executive leadership and the plant leadership team which drives the day-to-day activities and provides resources for sitewide projects. Whether you are working on an ISO 9001 implementation or another type of management system, the project will involve resources from across the organization. Because of this, it is critical that the management team is aware of the resource needs upfront.
Work with the management team to identify individuals who should be involved in the project and begin to get them engaged. Those that have expert level knowledge of one or more process areas are a great place to start. Be sure to make time for discussions around workload to ensure identified team members can take on the additional responsibility.
Step 2: Identify Roles, Responsibilities, and Risks
Once the team has been established, work together to identify roles and responsibilities and assign specific tasks. Prior to project launch, take time to work through a risk assessment to ensure all potential issues and roadblocks have been identified and documented. Take the time to discuss the potential solutions, but keep in mind all risks do not have to be eliminated. They just need to be discussed and addressed as necessary.
As the project progresses the risks may change. By recording the details of the information discussed, you can easily reflect on it again in the future. You may also want to consider conducting multiple risk assessments as the site moves through the implementation process.
Step 3: Develop a Timeline
Developing a project timeline with specific project milestones is a great way to provide a snapshot of the project. Keep it simple using graphics and high-level bullet points. It should be easy for someone who is not directly involved in the project to understand. This can be easily created using PowerPoint and shared during communication meetings for awareness.
Project kickoffs and milestone celebrations are a great way to engage staff impacted by the project. Management system implementations bring a lot of change to the organization so awareness should be done early on. This also helps to build excitement and educate the broader audience on the ISO standard requirements.
Once implementation has started, you should periodically ask for feedback regarding the progress of the project to gauge stakeholder engagement. This can be done by building in time for Q&A sessions during project status updates. This will provide useful input to the project team and help to build a sense of trust with the stakeholders.
Step 4: Understand the Requirements and Complete a Gap Assessment
Having a clear understanding of the ISO standard requirements helps streamline project planning. Review the standard being implemented in detail and identify areas that align with your current processes. This will help to clarify the scope and identify the stakeholders that need to be involved.
For an in-depth review consider attending a training course specific to the standard being implemented. These courses provide an overview of the requirements and typical evidence used to support each element of the standard.
Engaging with a certification body during the planning stage will also help to drive the project to success. This step is often overlooked, due to the workload needed prior to certification. While it’s true that it may be several months before the site is ready for the certification audit there is important information that can be gathered prior to the audit.
There are a variety of factors that impact the timing and rollout of an implementation. The process for implementation is unique based on the organization. The project timeline can be impacted by factors such as the need for single-site vs. multi-site certification, the number of standards included, the organization’s size, geographic location, and auditor availability. These decisions typically hinge on manageability, resources, and cost. For example, single-site certifications are often seen as easier to implement due to their smaller scope yet can become costly if the company has numerous locations. Meeting with the certification body to walk through these details will aid in setting realistic project goals and timelines.
Once the team is familiar with the requirements, conduct a gap assessment of the current system. Since this assessment provides an overall snapshot of the system it can be used to help build the project timeline. Work with the team to identify roles and responsibilities for addressing any gaps and utilize their expertise to set realistic timelines for completion. This will provide the group with a sense of ownership and encourage autonomy among team members.
Step 5: Establish Open Communication
There is no such thing as too much communication when you are in the process of implementing a quality management system. Sharing information regarding the project is critical to keep the momentum going. Implementation projects often last several months, so frequent updates bring awareness to project activities and upcoming changes. During the planning stage of the project, develop a communication plan to provide an overview of the who, what, where, and how of the project.
When developing the plan, consideration should be given to the level of input required by each of the stakeholder groups. Work with the team to determine the frequency and depth of communication needed. This will often vary depending on the group and the stage of the project. The plan will help to keep the implementation team on the same page when it comes to sharing information.
When determining a method for communication, consider utilizing pre-existing communication channels such as inter-company newsletters, email, shift meetings, or message boards. This allows the team to focus on the message rather than the method and will feel more organic to the audience. They will automatically look towards the mode of communication they are familiar with to learn more about the project.
Once the team has identified a format, remember to be consistent. The audience will soon become engaged in learning more about the project and begin to look forward to updates.
When sharing information, keep the message simple and easy to understand. A concise message will keep the audience focused. Highlight significant process changes, results of internal audits, and any upcoming events that may impact the stakeholders.
For in-depth team-focused communication, it’s a good idea to use calendar invites to schedule meetings and confirm availability of participants. These meetings can be held in person or via video call. For communicating with indirect stakeholders, project status updates can easily be added to existing meetings. Work with the management team to allow time during daily production or shift meetings for a quick update.
There is no “one-size-fits-all” approach to effective communication. The format and method of will look vastly different for each organization. The key to success is having a consistent plan that is familiar to everyone.
Awareness of ISO requirements is a critical piece to gaining employee buy-in during the implementation of a new management system. The more informed the employees are, the more engaged they will be overall with the new management system.
By taking the time to complete these steps before you begin the implementation phase, you can increase employee engagement, decrease misunderstandings or frustration during the project, and ensure a smoother and more efficient project.
It also helps to have a coach or mentor that has implemented management systems in the past, to give you feedback and advice. Our team of quality project managers can review your plan, complete a gap audit, or give advice on how to start a quality management system at your company. Visit the GaMEP Quality Services page or email me for more information.
Written By: Olivia Pitts, GaMEP Quality Project Manager