80:20 Management Consulting

80:20 Management Consulting
part of the 80:20 Group

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Demistfying ISO9001 Part 2

As a follow up to an earlier post about simplifying the terminology of ISO9001, I decided to pick another section that seems to give first timers a bit of grief and break it down into simpler parts.

Section 8.2.4 of the standard covers Monitoring and Measurement of Product. This is another section of the standard that can be quite difficult to apply to non-manufacturing industries.

Broken down into its individual parts though it is a bit more management.

Part 1:

"The organization shall monitor and measure the characteristics of the product to verify that product
requirements have been met."

Ok, so what this is asking you to do is determine what your customers require of your product/service, and how to prove that the requirements have been met. This is still quite a "manufacturing" style requirement but it can still be applied to other business types.

Lets take a construction company for example. By setting check points throughout the construction process, you can accurately determine your adherence to customer requirements without waiting till the end and having to make changes.

Part 2:

The second part of this requirement basically echoes what I said in part 1.

"This shall be carried out at appropriate stages of the product realization process in accordance with the planned arrangements (see 7.1). Evidence of conformity with the acceptance criteria shall be maintained."

What this is asking is that throughout your production/service delivery process, that you set checkpoints (where you see fit) throughout the process to ensure that you are still meeting requirements and keep evidence of it.

So in the case of the construction company, keeping evidence of each verification stage (ie. customer
sign off on decisions) would meet this requirement.

Part 3:

The last part is pretty straightforward

"Records shall indicate the person(s) authorizing release of product for delivery to the customer (see 4.2.4). The release of product and delivery of service to the customer shall not proceed until the planned arrangements
(see 7.1) have been satisfactorily completed, unless otherwise approved by a relevant authority and, whereapplicable, by the customer."

This basically just says whoever is responsible for approving your finished product needs to keep records of approval that all requirements have been met before handing it over to the customer.

Hopefully this makes this section a bit more digestible.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Do you want to be a Consultant?

Becoming your own boss and starting a consulting business may sound like the perfect career change for a lot of Quality, Safety and Environmental experts. Below are a few of the things I would ask of yourself before you take the plunge.

How comfortable are you with unstable work conditions? 

Being a consultant for me is like starting at a new job on a weekly (sometimes daily basis). You go through the interview process (quoting the work and talking about your skills), winning the job, your first day on the job (meeting all of the staff, learning how everything works), understanding the office politics and then in some cases finishing up (if it's just a one off job) all in the space of a few days. If you are a shy person or uncomfortable with having to meet new people all the time, consulting is not the direction for you.

Could you survive without any income for 12 months?

In an ideal world you would hit the ground running and start earning immediately. The reality is that even if you have clients already lined up, it may take anywhere up to 3 months (or more) before you start to see any real form of cash flow. You may also face weeks at a time where things are quiet and you aren't invoicing enough to pay yourself a steady income. I've had projects that have taken 3 months of my time and then payment may get dragged out for another 3 months. That could mean almost 6 months with no regular income while you wait for the big payout at the end. Unless you have a decent chunk of savings or a financier with deep pockets, it may not be the best idea.

Are you a self motivator?

Consulting work can sometimes be so mind numbingly boring that procrastination seems like the only way of maintaining your sanity. Unfortunately unless you can push yourself to put your head down and get it done you are going to end up with a huge pile of work to do and a stress factor of 9000.

Are all of your eggs in one basket?

I have met quite a few people over the years who have gone out on their own because they have one or two large clients lined up that makes the move seem worthwhile. The problem with this is that work always dries up eventually and companies change. That golden client your entire business rests on might decide to employee an internal resource or scale down their spending on external consultants or they might just decide you're not the right match for what they are looking for. If you lose that income stream, do you have other work you can fall back on while you hunt for new projects?

These are just some of the things I have dealt with over the last 5 years. It is a very rewarding job with a lot of freedom, but it has to be the right fit for you.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Three Things that Most Businesses Suck At

There are three specific ISO9001 requirements that I find most businesses I visit are terrible at.

These are:

- Document Control
- Corrective & Preventative Action; and
- Management Review

I'm not entirely sure why it is, but I think its because it takes a real drive from the top to make it work. Funnily enough the businesses that do it well are generally the ones where the business owner or General Manager has taken a really active role in developing and implementing the Management System.

Implementing Document Controls is an absolute pain when starting to develop a new Management System. Everyone loves to keep a copy of forms in their own personal folder so they don't have to keep looking for them when they're needed. People also love creating their own forms to suit their needs without going through any approval process. This is where the drive from senior management is required. If the boss is strict on document control then everyone tends to fall in line.

Corrective and Preventative Action is also a requirement that tends to get overlooked until right before an audit or until a major issue has occurred. By rewarding identification of potential and actual issues rather than punishing non-conformance it changes the culture of corrective and preventative action. People will be much more inclined to report issues if they won't get in trouble for it and there is an incentive to do so.

Lastly Management Review is probably the most poorly handled ISO9001 requirement that I see on a regular basis. It is rare to see a properly minuted, detailed and beneficial Quality Management Review that covers all of the agenda input items required by ISO9001. The majority I see are done purely to meet auditor requirements and provide no real benefit to the business whatsoever. This is one requirement that really needs a strong leader to ensure it gets done and gets done well.