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How To Set Effective Quality Objectives

02 November 2021
Quality objectives are often misunderstood and this can lead to a tick the box exercise or year on year rolling objectives that never change and may become ineffective as little, if any useful information may be gleaned.

The following article aims to address issues often found during audits and looks to help businesses add value when considering objectives.

There is often confusion on setting commercially sensitive objectives and quality objectives, so, what is the difference?

Commercial sensitivity

This is something which may bias a commercial interest such as new ideas, profit margins or undisclosable trade secrets.

These are likely to be the foundations of the business growth or sustainability. The quality management system is there to support this commercial forum not expose it!

Quality objectives

The quality policy provides a framework for setting quality objectives (5.2.1(b)), thus the creation or reference to the policy is vital in setting objectives and provides a guide to the level of commercial information required.

Unlike commercially sensitive information, it must communicate the policy and objectives!

Back to basics of ISO 9001:2015

Risk – No customers = No business. So, customer focus must be primary consideration.

Objectives bringing value

For your customer focus you may consider this a simple task in creating your policy and objectives (e.g. no late delivery, zero customer complaints, controlling suppliers and maintain ISO 9001:2015 certification). These should be very specific, they might be Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Time Sensitive – how often do you review them?

The question is do they add value?

Looking at the diagram above it’s probable that your auditor will want to know what has prompted these objectives. E.g. has customer feedback/requirements indicated that deliveries are an issue thus providing a benchmark to measure against once you’ve reviewed complaint, supplier performance and/or production efficiency?

When looking at your objectives for the previous year will your auditor see that you have had no late deliveries for 3 years, no customer complaints, no supplier issues and you’ve maintained certification?

If this is the case, then the objectives set are not adding value to your system and are not SMART enough.

For your system to be effective and make the Standard work for you whilst finding value in your objectives you may consider the following statements and potential requirements to deal with them:


Now you've decided on the objectives, you need to let the team know what they are as they are the ones who will help you to achieve these and have input as an interested party on HOW!

Author: Jude Hargreaves - NQA Regional Assessor

NQA offers ISO 9001 Quality Management training, to find out more click here.