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CQI Competency Framework: Context

13 October 2015
Assessing the ‘context of your organization’ is a key requirement of ISO 9001:2015. Simon Feary explains how the CQI Competency Framework can help you to properly determine and understand the context of the organization you work in. 

By Simon Feary, Chief Executive Chartered Quality Institute

This month we’re looking at the big picture ­­– the context element of the CQI’s Competency Framework. Context means understanding the environment you are working in. 

Primarily, context is determined by identifying your stakeholders and all of their requirements and, as a result, understanding what success will look like for the work you are part of.

Context is crucial to understanding the other four sections of the framework. The Governance
Assurance and Improvement (GAI) requirements, responsibilities and how well they are established are clearly very different, depending on the sector that you are working in.

Competitive edge

The stakeholders associated with the aerospace and defense sector are different to those associated with the retail or IT sectors. If the stakeholders are different, then the requirements for governance will also be different. Furthermore, since the activities undertaken will be hugely dependent on context, it also follows that the approach to assurance and improvement must also be dependent on context.
Traditionally, quality professionals are not primarily engaged in business development. However, winning business and staying ahead of the competition is always dependent on ensuring customers (and indeed all of the organization’s stakeholders) are delighted.
The chosen approaches to GAI are clearly a key differentiator in establishing the required levels of quality while offering valuing for money and timely service.
It is clear that they have a real role to play in understanding best practice, keeping up to date with the methodologies and approaches of others and doing their best to ensure competitive advantage.
One way members can develop their knowledge in this area is by participating in industry focused groups. For example, CQI members can attend events and meetings of special interest groups (SIGs) or informal working groups. These groups provide excellent networking opportunities with peers working in the same ‘context’ and offer opportunities to develop sector-specific competencies, share best practice and address common issues.

Displaying the right skills

The role of a quality professional might vary depending on the context they work in. They are generally working in support of a particular product/ service delivery team or at the organization level. In the former case, they are likely to be concerned with the adequacy of the associated delivery plans, performance metrics and how work is undertaken with respect to the policies and processes.
However, at organisation level, the external stakeholder community is concerned with all aspects of the organization’s performance, and so the quality professional’s remit is likely to include considerations of  governance, strategy, delivery and development. As a result, the quality professional is required to work in partnership with all of the organization’s function leadership team, since they have a collective responsibility to ensure all stakeholder requirements are met.
By displaying the necessary leadership behaviors and spending more time thinking about the stakeholder community, a quality professional can effectively communicate stakeholders’ needs throughout their organization, delivering more successful results.
Be proactive and act as an advocate for these stakeholders: be an effective collaborator. Because not understanding context equals not understanding requirements – it’s like going to a wedding dressed in fancy dress or playing cricket in a tutu.
Context of the organization in ISO 9001:2015
Assessing the context of your organization is a key requirement of ISO 9001:2015 (the latest version of the international standard for Quality Management Systems). 
Learn more about the CQI Competency Framework and community networks.