How do you get your people to comply with your ISO9001-2008 quality system?

There’s a company I work with that has been registered to ISO9001-2008 for about a year. They’re a great bunch of people to work with, and I very much look forward to visiting them. They’ve got about 100 employees. This company is extremely concerned with quality, and they put out excellent products. In general they’re very enthusiastic about having ISO9001-2008 certification. Most of them, anyways.

There’s just one guy who I suspect considers their ISO9001-2008 quality management system to be a nuisance. But he knows how much it means to the top management to have the certification, so he grudgingly goes along with the program. Corrective action requests assigned to this man take a little longer to get back. But this curmudgeon is not my main concern here.

My biggest concern is the 30 or 40 people in the plant who just don’t really seem to care very much. They sit quietly in the training sessions, nodding their heads up and down. You ask if they understand what you’re talking about, and they say yes. They’ll even follow the program for a week or 2 after you’ve told them what needs to be done.

After that week or 2, though, apparently they forget the importance of things like identifying products and signing off inspection paperwork. Internal audits almost always catch a significant number of unidentified parts sitting on shelves or pallets. I also often catch inspection paperwork missing some of the stamps and signatures needed to provide evidence that the product has gone through each production process and has been approved to move on to the next process.

The company has tried to deal with these problems by politely asking for employee compliance at company meetings. And usually this results in compliance for the aforementioned week or 2, and then the cycle repeats.

Sure, there’s the old carrot versus stick argument here. Do we reward employees for compliance? Or punish them for non-compliance. I guess every situation is different and unique, and you can’t really make that call unless you know the people involved.

But I’m looking for more ideas here. How do you deal with employees who don’t really care to pay attention to details?

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3 Responses to “How do you get your people to comply with your ISO9001-2008 quality system?”

  1. Richard Pike says:

    Getting employees motivated is always a hard nut to crack. In most situations a combination of a stick and carrot is needed for success. If we get down to the route cause of most of the objections to having ISO implemented (or any change for that matter) they are usually the same.

    Remembering ISO is not perfect, but probably better than what the comapany has at the moment is important. Making jokes about parts of ISO’s more frustrating requirements normally goes down a treat with those who are opposing it, but make sure that you back the joke up with why that frustrating part of ISO is important

  2. Brian says:

    Surely this is a matter of performance management. If individuals who have been given adequate training, repeatedly fail to perform what is written in their work instructions, then it is their performance that needs to be addressed. Just another example of dis-engaged employees.

    After reasonable time for the individual to make improvements and fair notice of the disciplinary action that will be taken if improvements are not seen, then he/she maybe looking at the exit door. Ultimately, quality systems are about controlling your quality and that will occasionally require termination of an individual’s employment if he/she is unwilling or unable to produce quality.
    So I guess I favor the stick!

  3. Mette Wagenblast says:

    First – thank you for your site and blog. Very interesting.

    Based on my experience, management interest is important. Actually it can be impossible without. There is an element of request and stick ind this, for example – the requests should be integrated in approvals – so that the approving part only lets the proces continue if the procedures has been met. In that way the employee is requested for compliance, and the stick is a disapproval and a following re-do. Unfortunatly it is as hard for management and approvers to change habits as for the rest of us. But if they don’t, the rest for sure will not.

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