ISO Certification

How to Impress your ISO Certification Auditors

ISO Certification Planning meeting

ISO Certification is not very much in the fashion these days. Gone are the days in early 2000s, when ISO certification used to be an important indicator of demonstrating a Quality organization. Gradually, the ISO certification started getting attached more to the concept of company documentation and less to the actual concept of improving the business processes that should be effective and efficient for the customers.

The true spirit of ISO was lost somewhere which emphasized for the continuous improvement. The ISO certification mostly became an urgent matter to show the world that we have done it. And thereby the thousands of ISO consultants emerged on the scene to capitalize and get on this bandwagon. The final result was that the demand for ISO certification started fading out as the customers, public and other stakeholders did not want much of it.

Having gone through these silent peripheral stages of fading out of ISO certification craze, let me share with you one more time, that there is no harm in getting your company or organization ISO certified. I still believe, that If it doesn’t give you the desired benefits and dividends, then I am also sure that it does not harm your company in any negative way possible. Having a structured and disciplined documentation within the company definitely is not something which you should hate nor it is going to give any harm of financial loss to your company. 

What is the Bottleneck - Hate to Write!

ISO Certification related issues

One of the biggest bottlenecks for completing company documentation is that most of the staff within the company hate to write, they may do what they are trained for. But they are not the best writers to document what they do. In other words, they may not know how to write a procedure, how to draw a process map or workflow, which they are already doing every day. These are some of the practical problems that I have experienced and faced while working in the Quality department of the banks and non-banking companies. 

The solution - Separate Quality Department

The solution however was simple yet most of the companies hesitate to apply it. Every medium to big sized company ideally should have a separate and dedicated department for Quality and Business Process Management in order to address such requirements. The staff working in the Quality department usually are trained in many Quality related skills that will include business writing, flow charting the workflows and business process analysis and re-engineering. The Quality department is also responsible to jot down the policies, procedures and workflows extending their help to the process owners and to the organization in general.

The smarter route to jot down the required documentation.

Based on my professional experience with one giant real estate company in Dubai, I will share with you one practical advice which we planned, implemented and worked like magic.

For ISO certification, you need to plan in reverse.

The core company’s documents are consisting of three sets of categories:

1. Policies

2. Procedures / Processes

3. Forms / checklists

The above three sets of documents have to be interlinked. The usual flow demands that every company policy should have some related procedures/processes. And every procedure/process should have related forms and checklists.

Numbering Conventions for ISO Certification Documentation

File numbering discussion for ISO Certification

Another important factor in these three sets of documentation is the numbering system and conventions which you will adopt. It ideally should be very coherent and relative.

Every policy should mention the names and numbers of the related procedures/processes.

Every procedure/process should mention the names and numbers of the related forms /checklists.

Similarly, in the reverse order, every form/checklist should mention the related procedure. 

Every procedure/process should mention the related policy from where it springs out.

A Simple Excel File Can Do The Magic!

Planning for ISO Certification

Now when you know about how to proceed for the company documentation, before you actually start writing you need to first develop a master documentation design in an MS Excel file.

For simplicity , I will provide here in table form

If you study the above sheet, it is interlinked with all the policies, procedures and forms. It has a coherent numbering system and which gives us the help to find anything from any document. If you just open the form, the header of the form will show you the number, and you can easily decipher, to which procedure the form belongs to and which policy it belongs to. There is absolutely no confusion for any company staff.

I will briefly share the actual ISO certification experience. The day when we received the ISO Auditors at our company premises, we greeted them in the conference room and fixed the next day meeting when they wanted to start the ISO certification Audit.

The next day, we met again in the conference room and we brought with us some important documents. After exchanging some notes about how we were doing our stuff in the company, we started explaining them about the structure of the company’s documentation. Though that is what they had come to audit, but what they did not expect was the grand MS Excel sheet which was showing a complete coherent picture of the company's documentation map. When they had a look, they were simply thrilled to see such a unique, useful and effective one snapshot piece of information which was showing everything in place.

ISO Certification Achieved

Achieving ISO Certification

On the first look they had some mixed expressions, some were just too thrilled to see it, and some probably looked a bit skeptical. Though they had to go ahead to start the audit, but they generally felt very positive and confident that if the company could think it through so well to have developed the company’s documentation chart in such a useful summarized form, then definitely they must have taken care to develop the related policies and procedures too. They took the Excel print with them and returned the next day and marked some random policies and procedures to show them. And we were fully ready and eventually produced whatever they asked for and every document was as it was showing in the MS Excel sheet with properly numbered and cross referenced up and below.

It was hardly a half day exercise and some management interviews in the other half, and finally, we got the ISO certification achieved.

In the end, please note that I am not providing the only one prescriptive route to ISO certification., I am only sharing what worked for us smartly. As you may know, there are hundreds of ways, you can number your documents and hundreds of ways to write your documents. There is no single prescriptive template. However, these experiences can certainly help you get the advantage and leverage in your next ISO certification planning.

If you are interested to get to know and understand the latest updates on ISO Certification Standards, you can click here for details.

Wishing you luck