Thursday, October 9, 2014

Implementing ISO in Spirit

I joined our family managed business for the sake of flexibility. I thought I will have the freedom to come and go as I want and be able to spend more time with my son who had just started school. But God (as always) had a different plan. Within a short span of 4 years, a lot changed in our business. There were rapidly shifting dynamics and one day I realized that I was no longer in the fringes but was expected to be at the thick and thin of daily operations.
Within no time I was expected to get on top of things and understand the business as much as I could. Having worked in an ISO certified company earlier in my career, I thought of going through the documentation of our business to get a fair idea of the subtle details. (Till that point I was only involved in costing and basic support work to our Marketing personnel. There was absolutely no interaction with the customers or suppliers.) I decided to use the Quality Manual as my road-map and go through the functions one-by-one to get a hang of it.
To my utter surprise I found very little correlation between the documents and the actual processes at the functional level. Designations were wrong, flow of material and information was either wrong or disjointed, documents were obsolete or some new formats were being used which were not included in the QMS.

The gist was simple. There were documents maintained to adhere to ISO certification needs and actual additional documents which were helping in routine operations while fulfilling information needs.  The system was in place only in letter and not in spirit. The sole reason for this apathy that I figured with our ISO consultant was very hard-hitting. No one in the organization management was truly focused or invested in the idea of acquiring this certification for systemic betterment. It was clear that we had to take charge immediately and address the issue.

The astuteness of our ISO consultant came in handy. I took charge of the ISO maintenance of our organization. Being a part of the promoter family, I was (am) in a position to take serious decisions and work diligently to reap the benefits of this beautiful framework. I read through all the documents, walked through every function/ process/ documents, asked questions, took notes. We scrapped all the formats which were not part of our actual process and included those which were missing. Processes were rewritten; links were established to show how data/ information flow in the organization. Everything is now system-based – input – process – output.

The process is still far away from being perfect or adequate but atleast now we write what we do and do what we write. This is a system that gives us huge scope to streamline business processes, helps in documentation, create checklists to error-proof systems, establish synergy between processes and organization on the whole and most critical – helps build a knowledge-base that is not person dependent anymore. 

Today I am doing all the documentation independently and the consultant helps in auditing my work as well as the effectiveness of the processes. In the future, we aim to do our internal audits all on our own.
It is an uphill journey but we are proud to say that now our organization is ISO certified in the truest sense. We are gearing up for ISO 9001: 2015 which we now look forward to as an opportunity to become still better.