How ISO9001:2008 can make you a better motorcycle rider

OK, that’s a series of words that probably hasn’t been written before. What does an ISO9001:2008 quality management system have to do with motorcycle riding? Read on, brother.

A friend of mine, Don, is a very wise and experienced ISO auditor as well as a fellow motorcycle rider. When talking about ISO9001:2008 (or, in the past, ISO9001:2000) Don often describes ISO as nothing more complicated than good business practices. I totally agree with Don, of course. It’s funny how so many people I talk to seem intimidated about ISO, thinking its some mysterious, complex system involving lots of paperwork and records. When you tell people ISO is essentially an organized system of good business practices, people start to listen.

As you might have seen from some of my previous posts, I like to take this line of reasoning one step further and apply the principles of ISO9001 to daily life. Since I’m self-employed, its often difficult to distinguish where my work life ends and my personal life begins, so I like to think about quality system principles can improve all facets of daily life.

Probably my biggest passion in life (other than my darling wife and my family) is riding motorcycles.
Sportbikes…crotch rockets…Ninja’s….race replicas. Trust me, I have the speeding tickets that attest to my desire for two-wheeled speed. Years ago track days started to become available, where riders could show up at a bona-fide race track, pay their fee, and hone their skills with laps on the track. Many of the same sensations as road racing, but without the commitment and expense of real racing.

Many modern race-replica motorcycles feature built-in lap timers, using various switches and buttons on the handlebar so you can have a record of each lap time. Being a somewhat competitive male, I naturally want to improve my lap times each day I’m at the track.

My “quality policy” in this case is to have fun and improve my riding skills. The customer here is me.

Now that I’ve had 50 birthdays, my goals for improvement are modest, but they do exist. From the start of the day to the end, my goal is to shave 8 seconds per lap off my time. Sound familiar? Measurable goals for improvement?

While at the track I don’t keep written records, I do keep mental notes of times at various tracks, and try to improve my riding each day. Do I ever screw up? You bet! Turn 6 at Willow Springs is an area where I might mess up my line, which screws up my drive for the back straight. I give myself a mental corrective action request, with a plan to fix the problem and ensure it doesn’t happen again. In this case, I might follow a better rider around the track, or sign up for additional training from one of the instructors at the track. Or I could attack the problem from a different angle, perhaps adjusting the preload or compression damping in the forks to make the bike work better at a particular track. The bike’s setup at California Speedway is a little different than the Streets of Willow, for example. At the end of a good track day, I feel on top of the world, knowing I’ve improved my skills ever-so-slightly that day. Even at my “advanced” age, learning new things to improve myself is immensely rewarding.

In business, of course, continually improving your processes, and your customer satisfaction, will result in personal rewards, and, of course, financial rewards.

ISO9001:2008 is not necessarily just good business practices. It’s good life practices. Have a general quality policy on how you want to live your life and pursue your passions. Set goals…reasonable, measurable goals…and constantly be trying to improve yourself. When you make a mistake (we all do) learn from it. Give yourself a corrective action request. Give some thought to how you’re going to fix the problem. And how are you going to keep it from recurring?

Organized, thoughtful, meaningful and continuous improvement. Couldn’t we all benefit from a little more of that?

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