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Demonstrating Leadership During Your Audit

15 September 2015
Dr Magaret Rooney (NQA) and Andrew Holt (CQI), explain how the CQI Competency Framework helps you evidence leadership during your ISO 9001:2015 audit.

Q) What constitutes good leadership?

A) Dr Magaret Rooney:

Julius Caesar, Napoleon, Winston Churchill, Margaret Thatcher – great and committed managers of history – hardly rings true! They, of course, go down in history as great leaders – but what makes a great leader? 

  • Charisma?
  • Single mindedness?
  • Clear vision?
  • Good communicator?
  • Great motivator?
  • Some of the above?
  • All of the above?

There is much talk of leadership in the quality profession at present. The CQI Competency Framework has leadership at its heart, as explained by Simon Feary, CEO of the CQI, in the August edition of InTouch. In addition, ISO/FDIS9001:2015, and all future management system standards, have common clauses, including Leadership. So what does the CQI Competency Framework and ISO 9001:2015 demand of leaders - and how do they interrelate?

Q) What is ‘Leadership’ in the context of the CQI Competency framework?

A) Dr Margaret Rooney:

Leadership, in the context of the CQI competency framework, is a necessary skill, to a greater or lesser extent, of the modern quality professional. As Feary says;

Arguably the most challenging part of the Competency Framework is the acceptance of responsibility to engage, to influence and to lead. Without demonstrating the leadership behaviours needed to convince, persuade and influence the risks, our potential to contribute will remain unrealised.

The quality leader will be: 

  • a quality advocate
  • a systems and fact based thinker
  • a planner
  • a coach
  • a motivator
  • a collaborator

This is summarised in the competency framework as;

“Uses leadership behaviours to maximise influence and develop a culture of evaluation and improvement.”

The leadership attributes of the competency framework align well with the leadership requirements of the ISO/FDIS9001:2015 requirements – but are we looking at the same leaders?

Q) What is ‘Leadership’ in Annex SL and ISO/FDIS9001:2015?

A) Andrew Holt:

In ISO 9001:2015 Clause 5, previously “Management Responsibility”, now becomes “Leadership”, which is perhaps the most significant change contained within the standard.  

This begins with leaders taking accountability for the effectiveness of the organisation’s quality management system. They must ensure that the organisation’s policy and quality objectives are consistent with the organisation’s overall strategic direction and the context in which the organisation is operating.

Top management must ensure quality management system requirements are integral to the organisation’s business processes – that is, the quality management system must not be just a “bolt on”. They must promote awareness and adoption of both the “process approach” and “risk-based thinking,” and ensure resources for the effective operation of the quality management system are made available.

Top management must stress the importance of effective quality management and of conforming to the requirements of the quality management system. They must make sure that the quality management system is: 

  • achieving the results intended
  • leading people to contribute to the effective operation of the system
  • driving continual improvement
  • developing leadership in managers.

Q) What are the likely implications for quality managers?

A) Andrew Holt:

For those organisations where the most senior members currently play an active role in driving its quality management system forward, the changes will simply be a formalisation of what is happening now.

However, for those organisations where top management have effectively developed responsibility for their quality management system to their Management Representative, the ramifications of the ISO 9001:2015 changes will be significantly greater.

ISO 9001:2015 requires top management to be much more “hands on” with respect to their quality management system than ISO 9001: 2008 does. 

  • Where the word “ensuring” is used in sub-clauses 5.1.1, top management may still assign this task to others for completion, i.e. delegation plus confirmation. 
  • Where the below words appear, activities cannot be delegated or assigned, but must be undertaken by top management themselves:
  • Implementers will need to make top management aware of the new requirements, and the fact that they will now be audited as a matter of course.

When ISO 9001:2015 uses the terms “top management”, it’s referring to a person, or a group of people at the highest level within an organisation, ie, the people who coordinate, direct, and control the organisation.

Q) How will ‘Leadership’ requirements influence your ISO 9001:2015 audit?

A) Andrew Holt:

Auditors will need to seek evidence that top management has a “hands on” approach to the management of their quality management system.

Auditors will challenge top management in respect of their commitment to their quality management systems. Auditing at this level is likely to be a new experience for all concerned. 

Q) What will your Auditor be looking for?

A) Andrew Holt:

To be effective and gain the respect of top management, auditors will need to;

  • have a good understanding of management activities
  • be able to engage with top management on a range of subjects
  • speak the language of top management. 

For many auditors, this will involve developing new enhanced competencies.  

Sub-clause 5.1.2 requires top management to:

  • lead in demonstrating the organisation’s commitment to its customers
  • ensure customer and applicable statutory and regulatory requirements are identified, understood and consistently met 
  • consider and address risks that threaten the ability of the organisation
  • provide conforming products and/or services, or which may negatively impact customer satisfaction.

Sub-clause 5.1.2 expands on ISO 9001:2008 clause 5.2 by requiring top management to: 

  • enhance customer satisfaction by ensuring risks and opportunities that could affect the organisation’s ability to supply conforming products and services are properly managed.

Top management are now explicitly required to:

  • “maintain” a focus on consistently providing products and services that conform to customer requirements 
  • meet applicable statutory and regulatory requirements
  • maintain a focus on enhancing customer satisfaction. 

Your auditor will seek evidence that the above is not a ‘one-off’ activity.

Q) How will corporate & quality professional leaders mutually benefit?

A) Dr. Margaret Rooney:

Perversely, perhaps, within the FDIS Leadership clause, there is a fairly detailed set of requirements, organisational roles, responsibilities and authorities, but no longer an explicit requirement for a management representative. Just at a time when the much-needed CQI competency framework, with leadership at its heart, is taking root.

Leadership can be demonstrated at all levels through:

  • the corporate leader
  • the department leader
  • the team leader
  • the quality leader

To be truly effective, the quality leader needs the support of the most senior leaders.

Corporate and quality leaders need to work hand in glove – supporting each other in their endeavours to show good leadership and achieve true value add from the 2015 standard.

The very fact that a corporate leadership team puts resource into a quality professional who can demonstrate not just leadership competence, but also the 5 elements of the CQI framework, is demonstration of commitment at the top of an organisation.

The five elements of the CQI Competency Framework:


‘Corporate and quality leaders need to work hand in glove – supporting each other in their endeavours to show good leadership and achieve true value add from the 2015 standard.’