An effective quality management system is a suitable tool for companies to meet the daily challenges and to continuously develop their own performance. The structure and scope of the quality management system depend on the specific objectives of the company in question. In addition, there are internal and external framework conditions that must be taken into account, as well as different products and services, different organizational structures or special organizational processes. For the effectiveness of the quality management system, however, a number of criteria must be taken into account.

Why seven principles of quality management?

In addition to terms and fundamental concepts, the international standard ISO 9000:2015 also describes seven principles for the effective implementation of quality management (QM). The concepts and principles apply equally to all companies - regardless of their type, size, complexity or business model.

The seven quality management principles aim to raise awareness of corporate obligations. They create a suitable framework in which your company can consistently focus on its entrepreneurial activities, but above all on

  • Corporate goals and intended results
  • Systematic management
  • Expectations of customers and relevant interested parties (stakeholders), and on
  • Continuous improvement of its own performance

In applying the seven principles of quality management, it is important to strike the right balance at all times. All concepts, principles and their interrelationships should always be considered as a whole and not in isolation from each other. No single principle is more important than another in quality management.

Structure of the seven quality management principles

Each of the seven quality management principles is made up of four aspects:

  • Core statement that describes the principle
  • Brief rationale explaining why the principle is important to the company or organization
  • Key benefits attributed to the principles
  • Possible actions that management can take when applying a principle.

 

What are the seven principles of quality management?

 

Principle 1: Customer orientation

Customer satisfaction is the reflection of a company's performance and the most important prerequisite for sustainable success. Therefore, the first of the seven principles of quality management (QM) calls for consistent customer orientation. After all, anticipating and exceeding customer expectations is what distinguishes the best in class. And this is precisely the core of quality management. The entire organization of your company must be geared to this. Only those who enjoy the lasting trust of their customers and interested parties can be successful in the long term. Every customer contact offers you the opportunity to create tangible added value by meeting your customers' current expectations and understanding their future ones. This contributes significantly to building trust and customer loyalty.

Important to know: Interested parties

Do you know who you are dealing with?
According to ISO 9001:2015, your company must have the ability to consistently provide products or services that meet your customers' needs as well as legal and regulatory requirements. In this context, it is required that your company must identify and monitor its relevant interested parties and their expectations and needs. External interested parties include customers and suppliers (external vendors) as well as government agencies, banks, insurance companies, competitors, the neighborhood, and so on. Internal interested parties primarily include employees and owners.

What opportunities are there to anchor customer orientation more firmly in the company?

  • Capture customer experiences, for example surveys, feedbacks and customer reactions
  • Use complaint management and customer relationship management
  • Involve customers in the development of products or services

What can you achieve with consistent customer orientation?

  • Improved customer loyalty and retention - customers become fans
  • Fewer complaints and reclamations
  • Shortener time-to-market
  • increased competitiveness

Principle 2: Leadership

How well your company's purpose, direction and internal environment align is a matter of leadership. That's why the second of the seven principles of quality management addresses leaders. They ensure that purpose and alignment are one in your organization. Decisions about resources are made at the top management level, and responsibility may be delegated here. In most companies and organizations, these characteristics go hand in hand with a business management function and the corresponding authority to act. The task of top management is equally to create a working environment in which every employee can develop his or her abilities and use them for the good of the company. Only in this way can strategies, policies, processes and resources be adapted at any time to ensure that the intended goals are achieved. And: This applies equally to quality management. It only works if it is understood by the responsible and committed people in your organization and integrated into everyday processes.

In addition to active and personal leadership, the following leadership tools are suitable:

  • Strategic planning - values, goals, leading with goals
  • Binding definition of responsibilities and authorities of affected persons
  • Targeted handling of risks and opportunities
  • Effective rules for internal and external communication
  • Regular evaluation and trend analysis

What can be achieved with tangible leadership?

  • Clear visions and targeted action
  • Improved effectiveness of decisions
  • Optimized and efficient processes and use of resources
  • Higher employee satisfaction

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Principle 3: People's commitment  

Every company is as good as its employees, including its managers. Thus, committed individuals shape the nature and actions of your organization at all levels. Therefore, it is important that all acting individuals are competent, empowered and committed to living your organization's activities and values. This, in turn, improves the ability to create value. Involving them in decision-making, recognizing their individual achievements and promoting their skills and knowledge are therefore signs of leadership focused on effectiveness and efficiency. To achieve this, it is necessary to encourage the commitment and involvement of committed individuals at all levels.

So give special consideration to

  • Human resources planning
  • Recruitment procedures and the induction of new employees
  • Competencies and systematic training and development
  • Active participation, for example at idea exchanges 

What can you achieve?

  • Greater responsibility of your employees and teamwork
  • Higher employee satisfaction and retention
  • Direct and indirect effect on customer retention and loyalty of your customers

Principle 4: Process-oriented approach

The fourth of the seven principles of quality management is about the process-oriented approach. The QM standard thus calls for comprehensively documented process management, for all relevant processes of your company or organization. This is because only a good understanding of relevant processes, as well as their control and interactions, enables a company to optimize its performance and achieve its intended goals. To this end, the individual process steps must be defined, inputs and outputs determined, and interfaces with the company's functions identified. Finally, potential sources of error must be identified and responsibilities defined to ensure that processes run smoothly. The identification of "performance indicators" for process control (including suitable key performance indicators) is also another significant requirement. In this way, desired results can be achieved more effectively and efficiently.

Note: A process is a chain of interrelated and mutually influencing activities that transforms inputs into outputs. 

What does the process-oriented approach to quality management encompass?

For companies and organizations, this means that processes, their sequence and interactions, including the associated boundary conditions, such as resources, must be clearly defined. This may involve:

  • Customers and external providers (suppliers)
  • Input sources, for example from upstream processes
  • Input, what is being worked with
  • Process flow and necessary resources
  • Process owners
  • Planned results and recipients
  • Risks and opportunities
  • Measurement and performance indicators 

Principle 5: Improvement

"If you stop getting better, you have stopped being good." Behind this simple statement is the realization that competence and quality are not static but dynamic variables. Thus, the challenge is always to maintain and improve performance levels. In doing so, it is crucial to keep abreast of internal and external changes and to react to them in order to create new opportunities. This applies equally to the company and to the people working there. Therefore, it is important for sustainable business success to focus on continuous improvement. In this way, a company stabilizes its performance, can respond appropriately to changes in both internal and external conditions, and creates the best conditions for itself to identify new opportunities.

Actively use these opportunities to identify risks and opportunities and initiate continuous improvements in the QM system:

  • Pool sources of improvement, including customer feedback, audits, and process evaluations.
  • Use employee feedback, including ideas, workplace improvements
  • Market monitoring, especially other industries and technological changes
  • Targeted programs for improvement and innovation
  • Maintaining and further expanding knowledge within your organization

What can you achieve with the QM principle "Improvement"?

  • Improved profitability
  • Sustainable increase in performance and innovation
  • Sustainable competitive advantages 

Principle 6: Fact-based decision-making

Efficient decisions are based on analyses and the evaluation of data and information. Only if this data and information is constantly collected and reviewed can fact-based decisions be made. In this context, it is important to understand and interpret the relationships between cause and effect as well as the possible unintended consequences.

To support fact-based decisions, use the following:

  • Measuring quantitative and qualitative data and information
  • Regular assessment of intended goals, metrics, and other performance indicators, for example, trends and benchmarking. 

What can you achieve with fact-based decision making?

With valid numbers, data and facts, you ideally create

  • A higher degree of objectivity
  • More confidence in the decisions made
  • Optimized target setting and target control
  • The avoidance of wrong decisions
  • Improved use of resources 

Principle 7: Relationship management

Lastingly successful companies maintain intensive relationships with their interested parties, for example investors or external suppliers, because they influence the performance of a company. To optimize the impact of this influence, it is necessary to establish relationship management as a tool for guiding the relationships. To do this, transparent communication, agreement on common goals in terms of customer interest, and cooperation with relevant interested parties in the development and continuous improvement of products are essential.

Take advantage of your relationships and foster them by

  • Planning regular exchanges
  • Building (partner) networks to maintain mutual relationships
  • Regular feedback mechanisms
  • (in-house) trade fairs, customer and employee days
  • Joint projects and developments 

What can you achieve?

With a good relationship management you achieve multiple benefits through

  • Up-to-date knowledge about the needs and demands of your interested parties
  • Early recognition of future trends
  • Creation of synergy effects and new joint opportunities
  • Better communication, also at the process interfaces
  • Good opportunities for mutual recommendation

ISO 9000ff - the basis for effective quality management

The ISO 9000 series of standards for quality management, which was created in 1987, is today undisputedly one of the most successful ISO management system standards in the world. The currently applied standards ISO 9000 and ISO 9001 were revised in 2015, ISO 9004 in 2018.

1. ISO 9000:2015 - Quality management systems - Fundamentals and vocabulary
2. ISO 9001:2015 - Quality management systems - Requirements
3. ISO 9004:2018 - Quality management - Quality of an organization - Guidance to achieve sustained success

The standards are available from the ISO website.

With the revision of ISO 9000, the number of quality management (QM) principles was reduced from eight to seven. The "process-oriented approach" and the "system-oriented management approach" were combined into one principle "process-oriented approach". In addition to basic concepts and the 7 principles, the standard specifies the terms that apply to all quality management and quality management system standards. In addition, Chapter 2.4.1 contains a description of the model underlying the QM system and how quality management can be developed in accordance with the PDCA cycle.

 

Conclusion on the seven QM principles

A quality management system is a dynamic system that evolves over time through continuous improvement. The main focus of quality management (QM) is to meet customer requirements and strive to exceed customer expectations. In addition to this first principle of "customer orientation", the international standard ISO 9000 lists a total of seven principles for sustainably successful corporate management.

All quality management concepts, principles and their interactions must always be considered as a whole and not isolated from one another. No principle is more important than another. The decisive factor in applying the seven principles of quality management is to strike the right balance at all times.

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Author
Ute Droege

DQS expert for quality management systems, long-time auditor and experienced trainer for ISO 9001.

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<p>DQS Expert for ISO 9001 Quality Management</p>