ISO 9000 Made Easy
Copyright (c) Amy Zuckerman 2000

THE MADE EASY SYSTEM: Cost-saving data collection
and documentation techniques

Management issues
A. Determine who's in charge, but keep it flexible.

Flexibility is the main aim of a workable documentation system. Even so, someone has to be in charge. Someone has to drive the system.

In the news world the person who oversees the creation of the publication is usually the managing editor. The person who sets editorial policy is the editor working in conjunction with the publisher and editorial board.

Corporations/service companies - Translated to a large manufacturer or service company, a member of the quality control staff -- if one exists -- should act as the "managing editor." This person will oversee creation and implementation of the documentation system, as well as supervise the process on an ongoing basis. A member of senior management, or a management advisory board, should serve as "the editor." Their purpose is to set policy and arbitrate in the event there is the need for a major overhaul of the documentation system.

Midsize companies - A midsize company like American Saw, based in Longmeadow, Mass., established a four-person ISO 9000 implementation team with Tim Barry, manager of training and continuous improvement, acting as advisor. Splitting up its forces, the team interviewed managers and engineers of key departments to determine the sort of work they performed and the best means of documenting those procedures. Team members made sure everyone involved understood their job processes and assisted them in writing the initial procedures describing those processes.

Small companies - Small companies like Yankee Environmental, based in Turners Falls, Mass., will probably have one person juggle several roles. In this case, a senior manager/owner operates as "editor" and "managing editor." He both sets documentation policy and sees that it's carried out.

Whatever the company's size, management must be prepared to offer guidance and supervision in the following ways:

Management must be prepared to offer guidance throughout the process and to jump-start a system.

Although employees will be instrumental in writing work procedures, management can not expect employees to know where to begin.

And until a system is well in place, management can not expect employees to function on their own.

Management must be a full participant for a cost-effective, long term documentation system to work. This puts pressure on management to learn as much as possible about documentation models before creating a system for their company.

Here are two steps management might take to get going:

1. Visit communications companies to learn how documentation models operate under high-stress circumstances, and how they are maintained over time.

2. Visit companies in your region that have ISO 9000 documentation systems in place, or documentation systems established for military or other quality programs. Note carefully how these systems have been designed and how they are maintained, paying close attention to methods used for collecting data, for changing or editing documents, as well as for document storage.

B. Let an information gathering/documentation system evolve naturally based on a company's style, culture and work needs. Be aware of models, but do not try to impose those intact models on your company.

Trial and error is key to creating an ongoing documentation system. And that means the human side of this process can not be stressed enough. Individuals work in individual ways. Although they can be taught new styles and adapt to an extent, it's far easier to create a system that takes their personal styles into account from the beginning. Too often when companies over expend time and money on ISO 9000 registration they blame the process when they should be examining their own actions.

Managers generally agree that a company's corporate culture can make or break the ISO 9000 process. Autocratic managers can not expect employees to become active participants in a process when they have not contributed their opinions in the past. And even companies with strong employee-empowerment programs have to realize that some procedures must be "set in stone" out of necessity and some of the ISO 9000 work must be determined by management "edict," or else the system may bog down in endless attempts to reach consensus.