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The Importance of Communication

15 April 2016
ISO 9001:2015 introduces the requirement to communicate internally and externally. The importance of effective communication cannot be underestimated as demonstrated in this article.

Authored by Bob Howard, Wolseley Industrial Group

ISO 9001:2015 introduces the requirement to communicate internally and externally. The importance of effective communication cannot be underestimated as demonstrated in this article.

My younger brother loves to fish.  When in college, his idea of a dream “spring break” wasn’t Florida or the Bahamas, it was the trout streams of southern Minnesota.  He and his buddy worked hard, saved their money and put together an itinerary. 

First stop – a trout farm on the way down - to get the “feel” of things again.  They wouldn’t keep any fish - just get them to strike and move on to the next one.   As the day neared, his buddy informed him he would have to take his younger brother.  Not ideal, but they decided it could work.  The younger brother would have to pay his own way and fish in another part of the stream.  They wouldn’t even know he was there.

They arrived at the trout farm and sent the younger brother to a distant pool so he wouldn’t bother them.  What a great time they had.  They had their confidence back – it was time to go.  They hollered for the brother and started for the parking lot.  As they came around the corner, there was the brother with a big grin on his face.  “Hey you guys, look what I got.” – proudly holding out his string of fish.

The trout farm charged by the inch; they were broke immediately.  That night they slept in the truck - on the way back home.

This story illustrates the necessity of communication – not only internal to your organization, but external to your organization – up and down the stream.

Communication Sectors

The oil and gas industry uses the stream analogy when describing their structure.  It is typically divided into three major sectors: upstream, midstream and downstream.

  • The upstream sector includes searching for potential underground or underwater crude oil and natural gas fields. [i]

  • The midstream sector involves the transportation (by pipeline, rail, barge, oil tanker or truck) and storage of crude oil and gas.[ii]

  • The downstream sector commonly refers to the refining of petroleum crude oil and the processing and purifying of raw natural gas. [iii]

Now that the ISO 9001:2015 standard introduces us to “internal and external parties” (Section 1.1) and “Relevant Interested Parties” (Section 4.3, 5.2.2, 8.3.2, 9.3.2), we could look at a quality organization in much the same way:

  • upstream (external - communicating effectively with our suppliers)

    • 9001:2015 Section 8.4.1 – Information for external providers.

    • Strategies for successful supplier communication may include:

      • Supplier Training session
      • Supplier Evaluations
      • Incident Reporting
      • Issuing / Following up on CARs
  • midstream (communicating effectively internally)

    • Annex B - ISO 9001 (this International Standard) specifies requirements aimed primarily at giving confidence in the products and services provided by an organization and thereby enhancing customer satisfaction. Its proper implementation can also be expected to bring other organizational benefits, such as improved internal communication, better understanding and control of the organization’s processes.

    • Strategies  for successful internal communication may include:

      • Establishing a “communication center” to post appropriate information
        • Certificate
        • Quality policy
        • Minutes of Management Review
        • KPIs
        • Measurable Objectives
      • Team meetings/briefings
      • Company newsletter
      • Associate surveys
  • downstream (external - communicating effectively with our customers)

    • 9001:2015 Section 8.2.1 – Customer communication

    • Strategies for successful customer communication may include:

      • Product Training sessions
      • Customer Surveys
      • Customer Appreciation Day
      • Open Houses
  • The whole stream (overall effective communication)

    • 9001:2015 Section 7.2 – Communication

    • The organization shall determine the internal and external communications relevant to the quality management system, including:

  1. on what it will communicate;
  2. when to communicate;
  3. with whom to communicate;
  4. how to communicate;
  5. who communicates.

Success awaits those organizations who effectively communicate in all directions, in other words to all “Relevant Interested Parties”.  Communicating well, in just one part of the stream, leaves a lot of room for error in other parts of the stream.

Interesting Quotes on Communication:

“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” - George Bernard Shaw

“Communication - the human connection - is the key to personal and career success.” - Paul J. Meyer

 "Any problem, big or small, within <an organization>, always seems to start with bad communication." - Emma Thompson

[i] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Upstream_(petroleum_industry)

[ii] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Midstream

[iii] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Downstream_(petroleum_industry)