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Using ISO 9001:2015 to Improve Sustainability Tracks

• Do you need to make basic changes in your product or its cost structure in the next three to fi ve years?

• Do you need to make basic changes to production or service delivery processes in the next three to fi ve years?

• Do you need to make basic changes to supporting processes in the next three to fi ve years?

• When and how do you need to act on basic changes required for products or processes?

Such questions should be answered periodically, and the conclusions drawn from the answers compared to those of the last few years. You must be able to detect market changes that gradually become apparent.

The sooner you detect a trend, the better you will be able to act on it and ensure your organization remains relevant. If you are fast enough in detecting basic market shifts, you may be able to make changes ahead of your competitors and thereby gain market share. These activities should not occur on an ad hoc basis. There should be a process deployed to ensure they occur.

Self-Assessment, Internal Scans

Some organizations use a self-assessment process to trigger change. Following this strategy, the results of self-assessment can highlight the need to change. It is more common, however, for organizations to be driven to fundamental change by external forces—to react to an impending crisis and ignore self- assessment. This can be a mistake.

If your external scan indicates a need to make basic changes, a next logical step is to conduct a self-assessment. Most organizations conduct them every three to fi ve years, but it is appropriate to perform an abbreviated version at least annually. This concept is called the internal scan, and it should look at current key indicators of performance as well as envisioned product and process issues.

This process must take into account the results of the external scan but should not be considered as a secondary effort. When done properly, it involves systems-thinking concepts. Top managers must think about how the internal system interacts with the external world.

The purpose is to identify changes needed to keep a system relevant under emerging conditions. Remember that changes in

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one part of a system can (and frequently do) have intended or unintended consequences in other parts of a system.

Asking the Right Questions

Planning implies development of action items to be successful in the future, but often action plans are based on incorrect information. The planning process inherently receives information relating to lots of questions, and questions are far more important than answers.

The right answers to the wrong questions can send the organization on a disastrous course. If time is spent developing the right set of questions, the answers will be a guide to future success.

Strategic Thinking

Performing external and internal scans requires strategic thinking. The consequences of ignoring strategic thinking can be serious. If you fail to detect a basic shift in customer needs or wants, your competitors may meet those needs, and you may become completely irrelevant in that market. You could be forced out of business. At best, you would need to play catch-up to remain competitive.

Organizations are typically sensitive to determining the need to change their products, services and processes. It is not so easy to know when to address overall change to a management system.

The automobile industry serves as an example of this. For decades, U.S. automakers changed models practically every year, but they were slow to recognize and react to the shift in attitude of the marketplace toward the quality of the vehicles delivered.

When the need to improve quality became a crisis, the industry had to make basic changes.

As with products and individual processes, management systems can become stale, infl exible or even irrelevant. Longterm success depends at least partially on the organization recognizing when market shifts occur and acting in time to ensure survival, if not prosperity.

After needed changes are identifi ed, it is always worthwhile to revisit the organization’s mission and vision statements. If the needed changes are truly signifi cant, one or both of these may need to be revised.

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