You’ve probably come across one business or another blogging or otherwise shouting about receiving their ISO 9000 accreditation for quality control management. It has become something of a trend. You even hear about companies issuing press releases about it, so excited are they about their achievement.
It is not exactly the sort of thing that ever gets much media coverage. Yes, it’s a rigorous process and it says good things about the business that they have gotten through it. It is something to be inwardly proud about, sure, but is it something that really needs shouting about? Because, let’s face it – it’s a topic that’s about as riveting as reading the small print on a contract.
There is something else going on here, though. No matter how dull the detail of a QMS might be, the fact that so many businesses do choose to publicise their engagement with the process says something about attitudes to control systems in general. Controls are important. By advertising the fact that your QMS has been accredited, you are in effect saying – we do things the right way, using structured, consistent, repeatable processes that everyone in our organisation understands.
Yin and yang
There is at the heart of business a constant tug-of-war between this kind of logical, organised, controlled mindset and the desire to be innovative, creative and unique, to throw off the chains of structure and order and trump the competition by taking a few risks. There is typically a rather black-and-white, yin and yang characterisation of the two approaches – while the latter is seen as vibrant and sexy, the former is grey and boring.
The free thinkers and risk takers are often viewed as the ethereal talents who can really make a difference to a company’s fortunes. But the organisers, the administrators, those whose mundane talents lie in finding an effective method and sticking to it, are just as important. A balance between the two opposites is required.
Controls play a wide range of important functions in business. QMS is growing in popularity because clients and customers value consistency, they want to be able to trust they will get the same high standard of quality every time, and that means a company has to be able to replicate levels of service.
Internal controls also allow management to delegate tasks without worrying about the impact on performance. Again, it is all about consistency. If you run your own business, say, and have built your reputation on your own very high standards, it can be difficult to let go and risk handing power over to other people, lest those standards start to slip. With the right kind of controls in place – clear policies, CPD, process auditing and so on – you can ensure that your way of doing things remains the blueprint for everyone.
Finally, it is essential to have the right controls is place to ensure compliance with all relevant regulations. Businesses of all shapes and sizes are bound by law to do certain things in certain ways, whether it is managing accounts for tax purposes or handling personal data or operating fire safety protocols. A lack of appropriate control in such areas can really hit a company hard – it only takes one member of the team to make one mistake that violates a statutory code and you could be looking at a significant financial penalty.