Definition of High Level Structure
The Harmonized Structure (HS), or High Level Structure (HLS), is a guideline for the development of new ISO management system standards that harmonizes their structure and requirements to a large extent. ISO's goal with the HS (HLS) is to ensure uniform use of core texts, terms, and definitions. Above all, the common basic requirements promote the integration of different systems in an organization.
This keeps the management system lean and efficient, while still effectively meeting all the expectations of interested parties. Other keywords include: Context of the organization, leadership and commitment, process orientation, and the risk-based approach.
The structure of the HLS
The High Level Structure has a strong focus on top management and the context of the organization (Clause 4 and Clause 5). The basic structure always consists of ten Chapters (called Clauses):
2 Normative references: both sections contain standard-specific wording and define the objectives
3 Terms and definitions: Reference to the general terms presented in Appendix SL and any terms specific to the standard.
4 Context of the organization: understanding of internal and external matters, the needs and expectations of relevant interested parties
5 Leadership: top management responsibility and commitment, policies, organizational functions, roles, responsibilities, and authorities
6 Planning: measures to manage risks and opportunities, quality objectives, and plans to achieve them
7 Support: necessary resources, competence, awareness, communication, and documented information
8 Operations: operational planning and governance
9 Performance evaluation: monitoring, measurement, analysis and evaluation, internal audit, management review
10 Improvement: nonconformity, corrective action, and continuous improvement.
The subclauses of individual standards vary by topic around the subject-specific content of a standard. For example, the ISO 9001 quality management standard has more subclauses under Clause 5 than the ISO 14001 standard for environmental management.
Clauses 4 to 10 are of particular relevance for the certification of management systems, not least because the PDCA cycle and thus the continuous improvement process can also be found here.