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ISO Myths & Legends Buster
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ISO Myths & Legends Buster
We spend a lot of time researching and listening to our clients and so called 'experts' in the field of ISO Standards and thought, well hoped that we could clarify a few things and help dispel many common miss-conceptions associated with the ISO Standards.

'M' stands for Myth or Miss-conception........ We will continue to update our Myth & Legends page with new ones as we here them ......
ISO 9001. 
M: We need to write procedures for everything that we do for ISO 9001 
No the ISO 9001 standard only requires six mandatory documented procedures. Usually these can be integrated into four.

We are ISO specialists and not 'wordsmiths' so we document your system as opposed to giving you a system of documents 

Where additional procedures would benefit, for example to reduce business risk, then we would certainly recommend this, however the spirit of the standard is contunual improvement and not endless reams of procedures. 

M: All businesses that have ISO 9001 must have procedures and work instructions where people work. 
Again not the case, how many employees / staff come into work each day and open a procedure manual before they start work? Competent staff do not require procedures to do their job properly.

Additional formal documented procedures should only be implemented where the 'business' feels they are needed, and not because somebody 'thinks' the standard demands it.

: We have to have a quality manual like a door-stop that nobody reads. 
An ISO 9001 quality manual need only be approximately 4 or 5 pages, less for some businesses. In fact some excellent one page quality manuals are around.

The requirements of ISO 9001 stipulates that the quality manual only needs to include the scope of your management system, details of any justifications for any exclusions, a reference to any procedures and a description of the interaction between the processes - That's it !!

Unfortunately the common practice is to copy the clauses of the standard and replace 'shall' with ''we do' - This is very bad, yet common practice. It serves no purpose whatsoever to the business and can be a liability during audits and maintaining the manual. The manual should belong to the business, and not just be an edited copy of the standard.

Once we have completed the mandatory inclusions we normally advise our clients to let the sales & marketing people do the rest. As opposed to the manual becoming a useless dust collector it is far more beneficial to the business to use it as a sales & marketing tool. 
For an Environmental Management System to conform to ISO 14001, no manual is required at all. 

M: We will need to appoint a Quality / Environmental Manager when embarking on ISO 9001?
Not the case, this depends on you as a business, the standards only require that you appoint a management representative, in some SME's the responsibilities of the representative are shared out among current staff.

M: Document Control is an administrative nightmare, we may have to recruit an administrator of the quality system to approve and distribute everything.
This is one of the biggest and potentially most damaging beliefs that surround the ISO standards, and assessors should not contribute to this problem by demanding the adoption if inappropriate large company techniques. 
We have noted that many authors of books do not help this, when 30% of their books often focus on document control and brush over the really important requirements like customer focus, improvement objectives, monitoring, measuring and continual improvement.  

M: Why do we have to produce loads of flowcharts, we end up getting all confused and really don't see the point. 
The ISO 9001 standard does not ask for any flowcharts or process maps at all.

These are usually recommended by consultants as a business improvement tool or to see the business processes more clearly.

We believe they are a benefit to the business, consultant, certification auditor / assessor and the business's client therefore we provide these at no additional cost however they are not a requirement of ISO 9001.
The standard actually only requires you to describe the business processes and their interaction, theoretically, this may be done, if you wished to, using a camcorder !! 

M: I keep my client details and communication in files, some are on e-mails and some are in design files. I was told that I must set up specific customer files and number them in a certain way.
Not true, it may be preferable to maintain a customer file if it helps your business, however there is no requirement in the standard for this. The standard states that records shall remain legible, readily identifiable, and retrievable. If you can demonstrate this with your records being in files, folders, cabinets or on e-mail and it works for your business and customer then fine. 

M: ISO 9001 will take away our flexibility as a business.
Not at all true, the ISO 9001 standard allows flexibility throughout its requirements, businesses need to be flexible, and the standard does not hinder this in any way. 

M: Getting ISO 9001 is simply documenting what you do then always do it?
Not true and arguably a bad way to approach the entire project.

The ISO standard is really about focusing on your customers, setting measurable business improvement objectives, monitoring your processes, and continually improving how you operate as a business.

Also how could you possibly improve if you always do what you have done in the past? 

Assessing / Auditing

M: The auditor is only interested in our procedures
A good auditor will be more interested in the process behind the procedures, how effective these are and how they have been planned, implemented, monitored and reviewed. 

M: Auditing is the policing of our system.
Auditing should be seen as a positive business activity to establish whether your system is being carried out to your planned arrangements. 

M: A trick to avoid answering a question from an auditor is to change the subject and  keep talking until he forgets what he has asked.   
Professional auditors know exactly what they need to evidence to determine whether or not the management system conforms to the requirements of any given standard being audited, no amount of talking or changing the subject will detract them from this. 

M: I'm very convincing and quite intimidating, the auditor will listen to what I tell him.
Yes, the auditor is trained to listen, he / she will, then only accept it as fact once he has examined objective evidence. 

M: I will just show the auditor the records that I have prepared.
The auditor will select and sample records him/herself to satisfy that a requirement has been met.

ISO 14001: Environmental Management Systems
M: My business won't be able to get the Environmental Management Standard ISO 14001 because we build houses, and the market won't allow us to build environmentally friendly ones. 
Any business can obtain ISO 14001. These include building, transport, chemical and coal power station suppliers.

The standard does not stipulate that you have to be completely without environmental aspects and impacts. It focuses more on, trying to reduce your normal impacts (such as energy use, waste etc), and that you have effective controls in place to prevent incidents that could cause pollution, such as fire and spillage.

If you have any questions that we have not covered or would like any further information please feel free to e-mail us at: billynaisbett@isosystems.org 

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