Principles Behind the ISO 9000 Series Standards
The ideas behind the quality management discipline are pretty much common sense.
The International Standards Organisation 9000 series has a good overview of basic principles.
And what they boil down to is this:
- Know who your customers are
- Understand what they value and
- Have a mechanism to deliver that value at the right price
The standards also define quality management.
" coordinated activities to direct and control an organisation with regard to quality"
"... establishment of the quality policy and quality objectives, quality planning, quality control, quality assurance and quality improvement."
Quality Policy Tells Your People You Care
If you're the boss you need to tell your people that you care about quality. You can't expect them just to assume it. So you publish a policy that emphasises your focus on customer satisfaction, the process approach to managing activities and the need for everyone to be involved.
Quality planning activities address what you’re going to do about quality for the overall organisation and for each individual project.
Quality Assurance is About Confidence
Quality assurance is really about confidence. Confidence that quality standards will actually be met in the end product.
We develop this confidence by assuring the development process, our work products and the quality management system itself.
Process assurance checks that our development procedures and practices are documented and being followed.
Product assurance demonstrates, as our product is being built, that it will meet the customer’s requirements. For example, in the case of software we confirm that:
- The software requirements address all user needs
- The preliminary design implements all the requirements
- The detailed design fleshes out all elements of the preliminary design
- And the code implements all components of the detailed design
Assuring the quality system means demonstrating that it complies with established best practice as per ISO 9001 and any other standards required by a contract.
Quality Control is About Verification
When we complete a work product we perform quality control; which means we determine if it complies with its specification and any designated standard for best practice. We conduct design reviews, inspections and tests. For example:
- Unit testing verifies that a component complies with its detailed design.
- Integration testing verifies that the integrated system complies with the overall design.
- System test verifies that the system satisfies all user requirements.
- And ultimately, when a system is put into operation, we validate its compliance with the needs of the customer's business.
Quality Improvement is a Never Ending Process
We also need a program of quality improvement. We improve by measuring the quality of our work products and optimising our development processes to eliminate the defects.
Nothing ever stays the same in a business, our customer needs change, we're always using new technologies and government regulation (of course) is a moving feast.
So quality improvement is a continuous process that cycles on forever.
The overall objective of quality management is to optimise our processes so we don’t get defective products. This cuts back on waste and rework and is particularly relevant to software development where we spend our lives reworking bad code.
So that's the quality management framework. It's implemented in unique ways by thousands of companies all over the world.
Each one's unique because you need to tailor your system for the special needs of your customers; and it leaves a lot of room for innovation. So I call it more a FORM than a formula.
Mastering the FORM
To make it work you need to master the FORM in the context of your industry. Just as a jazz musician needs to master the jazz form in his music.
And as you're mastering it, never lose sight of why; and that is: to build an ever growing community of happy and profitable customers.