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To ISO or not to ISO – that is the question…

To ISO or not to ISO - that is the questionIn a former life, my husband ran a catering company and the big drive was for ISO 9000 accreditation. Now of course 9002 has been here for some time, but I wonder if the same challenges have followed it?

He (my husband that is) recalls the time one of his clients was driving hard for ISO in everything in their own company and pressed my poor hubby to get his company accredited also. He argued that whilst one could establish systems for ordering, bookkeeping and perhaps complaints (which he felt would not be a bad thing) one really, really couldn’t accredit the cooking process or appearance of the finished product. His client though insisted and it was a big account.

The net result was that hubby did indeed get ISO accreditation and lost the account in the process as the standard of food had slipped, whilst everyone focused on ISO. After taking the account away, the client commented “yes, but ISO has nothing to do with the standard of food” – doh! You don’t say!

But on the same issue I know a small company who has struggled with output, continuity of product and service. To that end they have decided to “get” ISO 9002 and passed the responsibility for it to a secretary. Now very capable she may be, but unless someone out there can tell me differently, it’s my view that like “Investors in People”, unless its genuinely bought into by company principles and driven from the top, ISO or any other accreditation for that matter, simply won’t get off the ground.

So What’s the Alternative?

An alternative though, might be to take the approach I took in my last business, where check lists were brought in for specific departments and specific tasks. It didn’t matter how my sales people sold for example, although it very much mattered how we looked after our customers and measured progress and the quality of our finished work. Indeed, I didn’t allow myself to be persuaded when told that these check lists could be centralised on computer. I insisted they would sit on a clipboard and each responsible person would have to undertake the necessary quality checks and sign their own signature to say they had done so and standards were as required.

The process was constantly under review and improvement and without doubt resulted in less errors and a much higher standard of product, more consistently.

The other benefit of taking one product or area and introducing “ISO-like” processes is that its implementation addressed standards in the most important areas and step by step was much simpler to apply – well, it worked for me. I wonder what  your thoughts are?

avatar Name: Alexandra Eager
About: Alex has worked as a Financial Controller and Finance Director for many years for a variety of companies across a range of industries but more recently she has moved away from accounting working for an internet marketing agency as Finance and Operations director, primarily overseeing the finance functions and search engine optimisation (SEO) for clients. Follow Alex on G+ and on Twitter @Alex_BusDirUK
Alex runs her own company with two fellow owners developing a suite of e-commerce web sites and promoting them directly. “I found that SEO and finance were quite compatible both needing an eye for detail, research and analysis as well keeping up with new developments and changes.”

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