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Denise Robitaille


What’s in a Name?

The ISO management representative

Published: Tuesday, May 13, 2008 - 22:00

Unlike many other requirements in ISO 9001, the subclause dealing with the ISO management representative is rarely the subject of debate. In fact, it doesn’t get nearly as much consideration as it deserves.

Traditionally, it’s assumed that the quality manager gets the job by default. If the organization doesn’t have a quality manager, then it falls to the manager of quality control or someone else whose title has something to do with quality. The word “quality” appears to be the deciding modifier. The whole “management” concept doesn’t get even a perfunctory nod.

ISO 9001 doesn’t specify what department or function the representative should come from. It does, however, clearly state that the individual shall be “… a member of management …”

This isn’t only a semantical discourse. It gets to the heart of management’s effective, dynamic involvement in the quality management system. It determines whether the ISO registration is just a wall hanging or a living commitment to customer satisfaction and organizational sustainability. It decreases the likelihood that management review will sound like a postmortem and augments the possibility of dialog wherein fulfillment of the requirements of ISO 9001 relates directly to substantiated decision-making, improvement, mitigation of risk, and innovation.

I encourage executive management teams to deliberate over this appointment, weighing the pros and cons, as they would with any other important position. And, before they begin this deliberation, they should fully understand that they, the managers, are the process owners. ISO 9001 specifies “top management.” Therefore, responsibility for the effectiveness of the management review process rests squarely on the shoulders of top management.

In a smaller organization, this may be one of two individuals. In larger organizations, there may be several senior officers representing departments or divisions.

While having someone who heads up the quality department as the management representative isn’t a bad idea, it’s not always the optimum choice. Some quality managers are knowledgeable in all things ISO. Unfortunately, the same technical expertise that makes them good quality professionals often inclines them to a myopic view when it comes to strategic thinking. The “shalls” get in the way. The mechanics of subclause 5.6.2, dealing with the list of items for management review, supplant the intent, which is a holistic assessment of the entire organization. They can’t paint the picture in a fashion that is insightful and compelling.

Probably the worst scenario I’ve seen is having a consultant come in twice a year to conduct audits, tidy up the corrective action files, and put together the dog-and-pony show for management review. Not only is this a bad idea, it’s a nonconformance. (It’s allowable to appoint a person who is a full-time contractor provided that the contract position is at the managerial level).

So who should you choose?
Select an individual who can organize the relevant data from the ISO “shalls” into a meaningful distillation of information that can be used to assess progress toward goals, identification of needs, significance of key performance indicators, and return on investment.

Recently, I’ve had a client appoint its chief financial officer as ISO management representative. It’s a great decision. This person handles all the analysis of performance metrics, is intimately aware of the relationship between production’s performance and customer satisfaction, has the pulse on returns and scrap, chats with engineering regularly, gets updates on supplier issues, and can wrap it all up so that managers want to hear what he has to say. And, who better, when it comes to allocation of resources, than the person who knows what financial resources are available for training, new hires, updating equipment, upgrading software, or any other improvement initiative?

So, next time you need to appoint an ISO management representative, remember, it’s not just for quality anymore.


About The Author

Denise Robitaille’s picture

Denise Robitaille

Denise Robitaille is the author of thirteen books, including: ISO 9001:2015 Handbook for Small and Medium-Sized Businesses.

She is chair of PC302, the project committee responsible for the revision to ISO 19011, an active member of USTAG to ISO/TC 176 and technical expert on the working group that developed the current version of ISO 9004:2018. She has participated internationally in standards development for over 15 years. She is a globally recognized speaker and trainer. Denise is a Fellow of the American Society for Quality and an Exemplar Global certified lead assessor and an ASQ certified quality auditor.

As principal of Robitaille Associates, she has helped many companies achieve ISO 9001 registration and to improve their quality management systems. She has conducted training courses for thousands of individuals on such topics as auditing, corrective action, document control, root cause analysis, and implementing ISO 9001. Among Denise’s books are: 9 Keys to Successful Audits, The (Almost) Painless ISO 9001:2015 Transition and The Corrective Action Handbook. She is a frequent contributor to several quality periodicals.