You have invested time and money in organizing the operations and quality management system of your company. You may have even been certified to an internationally recognized standard. However, the system is not providing the dividends you expected. Why?
You do not have more customers. The "quality" of your product or service has not improved, in fact, there may even be an increase in the number of reported failures. After all the time and effort, you may be wondering, "Was it worth it?" or "Where did we go wrong?"
I would like to suggest 3 reasons why your current system might not be meeting your expectations.
System Not Followed / Documented
Whether or not you have gone through the exercise of documenting your practices and procedures and developed a "quality manual", you have a system. It may not be documented but, you have a system. There is a way that you do what you do.
Many would suggest that a documented system is more efficient than one that is not, however, this is not always the case. While I am not encouraging you to have a free-wheeling no structure management system, I am suggesting that there is not much of a difference between this type of system and the system that was documented several years ago and has not been reviewed or updated since.
I guess there is one major difference... you probably paid a lot of money and spent a lot of time on that document you no longer use. If you have a binder containing all of the processes and procedures of your organization somewhere in your office collecting dust, you may have a problem.
If your employees do not have easy access to these procedures and the ability to make suggestions to make improvements when such improvements are found, you may be on the verge of a system failure.
Pass/Fail Approach to Audits
Quite often when an audit takes place, anxiety levels rise as everyone stresses over whether or not the auditor will "find out" what really goes on. Many are happy when the answers to questions on the audit are sent via mass email a day or two in advance, so they don't "get caught" not knowing something or answering the question incorrectly.
Nobody wants to be the reason that an organization "fails" the audit. I know of a company that would spend a week in advance of their audit falsifying months worth of test reports so that they would "pass" their audit.
This approach is all wrong.
While it is important to be in conformance with whatever standard is being audited, the goal of the audit (whether internal or external) should be to find opportunities for improvement. You should be open with your auditor about challenges that you are facing. Most auditors have a wealth of information and although they can't provide consulting services, they can certainly share best practices when applicable.
If you are trying to hide what is really going on from your auditor, chances are your customers will tell you. And if things get really bad they will stop telling you, and stop buying from you too.
NOTE: The only situation where you may want to "pass" an audit is when a customer is performing a site audit. In this scenario, if you are hiding things in order to pass, eventually you will be found out.
Belongs to Specific Department
Many organizations will assign a department or person the responsibility to maintain the quality system. This can be a very effective way to ensure the system is kept up to date and you don't have the problems described in section 1.
However, what can be dangerous, especially in larger organizations, is the erroneous mind set that because a department maintains the documentation for the quality system they are now responsible for the quality of the products and services offered by the organization, somehow absolving all other staff and associates of any responsibility.
The reality is, that quality is everyone's responsibility. If members of your organization believe that the responsibility for quality belongs to somebody else, you may have a problem.