Top Management and the Quality Management Representative
The ISO 9001:2015 Standard is missing a key aspect of its previous revisions. The influential and integral role of the Quality Management Representative (QMR) has been removed. Initially, the 2000 revision required a QMR, and since then, the entire system has been posed to function primarily through this member. His/her absence has the potential to induce an upheaval of leadership and authority. What implications does this have for the top management?
Historically, the QMR has been the lone workhouse for the quality management system. This however, tended to leave management with a “hands-off” mindset especially with the responsibility clearly designated to someone else. This is the main concern and problem addressed in the removal of the QMR. Authority, responsibility, and accountability now rightfully rest upon the management as a whole rather than the individual QMR. However, as important as leading the quality management system (QMS) can be, top management must remain customer focused, meet external demands, and fulfil a host of other functions. What does this new order look like? How is it supposed to function? To answer this, we must look at the facts.
While management structure and organization is addressed in section 5.3 of the standard, the verbiage shows that management is only responsible for the assignment, communication, and reporting of these positions rather than the performance. In the analogy of an Olympic rowing team, the management team is the front member whose primary responsibility is to keep the other members rowing in harmony while communicating clearly and directly the strokes and techniques required to reach the goal.
Furthermore, responsibilities that once belonged the QMR now are designated to the system as a whole. While this seems like a step backwards, the vague aspect of the QMS is supposed to give an organization the flexibility to change roles and fit the standard to match their business rather than the converse. Once again, the power rests in the hands of the top management team with the idea that dividing responsibility among a group can lead to higher quality and a better product.
While the ISO seeks to be more performance based in their wording, management is still separated from the actual application by a degree. This allows management to focus on long term issues of risk and opportunity, while still reminding them of their responsibilities. This “phasing out” of the QMR is one of many changes to the ISO 9001:2015, but with dedication and commitment, these changes can yield measurable and significant results to an organization.
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