Category Archives: Change

Making ISO 9001 Part of Your Culture

Why make ISO 9001 part of your organization’s culture?

I have seen many companies registered to ISO 9001:2008 failing to take full advantage of the structure that this standard provides.  These organizations only see the marketing benefits of the certification while missing the opportunity to improve the quality of their products and services by testing their systems against their customer requirements.

ISO 9001 is a basic business process system that provides a solid structure for future improvements. In fact, this standard expects a continual improvement approach to quality and expects that organization fully understand and meet the customer requirements.

ISO provides an excellent roadmap for developing a culture that supports positive change. To maximize the benefits of ISO implementation, the ISO requirements need to become seamless with the workings of the organization.

Internal Audits need to be scheduled and conducted during the course of the year, not just before the external auditor is due to visit.  This helps to recognize and correct any nonconformity before any adverse consequences occur.

ISO requires that the organization establish systems for controlling documents, records, nonconforming products and changes in design.  These requirements are so basic that it is hard to imagine a company operating successfully without them.

Another ISO requirement, a robust Corrective and Preventive Action System is an invaluable tool for improvement. ISO expects that with every problem or potential problem, the organization will drill down to its root cause and develop a solution based on this investigation.  ISO’s emphasis on continual improvement is totally compatible and complementary to other systems and methods of business improvement and provides a platform for future evolution of the business in its journey towards excellence.

These very basic requirements need to be made part of your organization, not because they are ISO requirements, but because to succeed you need to make these part of your culture, that is, part of the way you do business.

Making Change Happen

Things never stay the same.  They get better or they get worse.

Left to their own devices, organizations will deteriorate.  To effect change and move an organization in a positive direction, leaders must plan, share, and act on those plans.

Sustainable change requires that the organizational culture be receptive to the desired change.  The culture itself may require change.  Rapid change is possible once a receptive culture is present, but cultural changes are evolutionary.

Cultural transformations take time, patience and perseverance.

In most organizations, overt and covert resistance needs to be overcome.  Such resistance is often due to a lack of trust that has developed over time and to regain the feeling of mutual trust will also take time.

The main ingredient of cultural change is trust.  Restoring or establishing trust requires a sincere effort that cannot be misjudged as manipulation.  You cannot effect trust by merely wishing it or dictating it. Trust must be built incrementally.

As organizational members start trusting leadership, and each other, other positive changes are possible.  Then, as improvements are made, they will be sustainable.

Once trust building is recognized as a necessary element of transformation, the leader is in a better position to envision and mold an organizational culture devoted to continuous and sustainable improvements.


Change is the most frequently used buzzword these days. In the business world, the need for positive change has been widely recognized for many years. Change and its management has been the main ingredient in strategic thinking of successful organizations, whether in the form of continuous incremental improvement, or as innovation and breakthrough.

World-class organizations devote considerable time and effort deciding what needs to improve and how to effect positive change. Successful leaders of these organizations communicate a clear vision of what higher levels of performance are needed and are able to motivate others to achieve the goals and objectives necessary to realize that vision.

Transformational initiatives often fail for two main reasons:

  1. Lack of leadership vision and support
  2. Failure to obtain the commitment of all members of the organization

Providing a vision is necessary, but not sufficient for transformational success. If the resources needed to effect positive change are not provided or are removed at the first sign of a business slowdown, the initiative is destined to fail.

Without a cohesive long-term strategy, leadership’s attempts to implement an initiative may be perceived by the workforce as the “program of the month”.

The second element is one of inclusion of all members of the firm. Jack Welch, former CEO of GE, not only adopted Six Sigma, but made it part of GE’s “DNA”.

Six Sigma became an integral part of how GE’s entire company operated. To make a leader’s vision reality, leaders must “sell” their vision to everyone in the organization. If the culture is to shift to one of greater empowerment, the employees need to believe that the leader is sincere and the change is real.

Some leaders may be motivated by the marketing advantage of “getting the piece of paper” for an ISO certification.  Rather than recognizing the benefits that can be derived by envisioning and wholeheartedly supporting change as means of improving their business, it is often viewed as a quick fix to resolve a specific situation.

Still, others see Lean Manufacturing, or other transformational methods, as a “magic wand” that can turn a dysfunctional company around without getting everyone involved and without recognizing that teamwork and a Continuous Improvement philosophy are necessary ingredients for positive sustainable change.

Throughout the world, companies that have been successful at implementing change have been characterized by those two elements:  a leader’s vision that has become a commitment by everyone in the organization. These companies are energized by the pursuit of a common organizational vision. In these companies, teams are commonly found as a method of investigating and solving problems and achieving goals.