How to Meet the Leadership Requirements in ISO 9001:2015 – Part 3

Well, here we are; part 3 of a 4-part post. So far we have looks at the roles of top management, the ISO expectations and some of the things that might demonstrate management commitment. Now in this part we will explore customer focus and direction top management should be leading.

5.1.2 Customer focus

Top management needs to demonstrate leadership and commitment to customer focus. This can be done by ensuring that all applicable statutory, regulatory and customer requirements are determined, understood and are consistently met. Top management should determine all the threats and opportunities that can affect the conformity of the product and services or have the ability to affect the satisfaction of customer requirements. The associated risk and opportunities must be adequately addressed and at all times the focus of enhancing customer satisfaction should be maintained.


Your organization depends on your customers, so it is important that customer relationships be effectively managed. Accordingly, you must understand current and future needs of customers; you must meet their requirements and strive to exceed their expectations because without them there is no point in you getting up in the morning.

A simple adage – No Customer, No Work!

Customer satisfaction should be the aim for everyone in the organization. They should strive to achieve the same, but in a number of cases may fail because of unforeseen problems. There are risks associated with achieving customer satisfaction. Top management needs to educate staff in identifying these risks in advance and help them to develop alternate solutions to meet the customer expectations.

To ensure satisfaction, you must understand your customer’s specific needs and requirements in terms of products, price, delivery, communication, service and support. You must have an effective communication process; for discussion, review, timing, action and responsibility on the above issues. You must have an effective process for review of the above requirements by relevant personnel or departments within your own organization. It is top management’s responsibility to provide the leadership and commitment of time and resources to ensure this happens. Auditors will look for evidence of this. Clause 8.2.1 provides the details of Customer communication and Clause 8.2.2 the details of understanding and processing customer requirements. Clause 9.1.2 sets forth the requirements for monitoring and measuring customer satisfaction. Clause 5.1.2 provides the top management’s overall responsibility for customer relationship management, while clause 8.2.1 & 8.2.2 provides the ‘alpha’ of the If you take care of them, they’ll take care of you!sales process and clause 9.1.2 provides the ‘omega’ of the underlying and detailed activities of customer relationship management. The requirements of clause 5.1.2 – customer focus, can be included in the following processes – business planning; communications; sales and marketing; and customer satisfaction feedback; etc. You must also identify what specific documents may be needed for effective planning, operation and control of these processes. Examples of such documents may include a business plan, statement of customer related policies and objectives etc.

The success of a business organization lies in effectively meeting the customer requirements. Hence. it is the responsibility of the top management to ensure that customer requirements are understood clearly by all in the who are involved in providing the products and services to the customer.

Another adage – Everyone is in Sales. If you are not in Sales, You’d better be supporting Sales.

5.2 Policy
5.2.1 Establishing the Quality Policy

Top management is required to establish, implement and maintain a Quality Policy that is in line with the purpose and context of the organization while at the same time supporting its strategic direction. It should provide a framework for the organization’s quality objectives and must include a commitment to satisfy applicable requirements and must be the basis on which the continual improvements in the quality management system can be achieved.

5.2.2 Communicating the Quality Policy

The Quality Policy should be applied within the organization by ensuring that it communicated and understood within the organization. The Quality Policy must be maintained as a documented information and as appropriate should be made available to relevant Interested parties.

Developing a QMS is a strategic business decision and therefore top management must provide the necessary direction and leadership, starting with establishing the Quality Policy and objectives. The Quality Policy must be consistent with the scope of the QMS and other business, management and organizational strategies within the organization. Clause 5.2.2 (a) requires that you document your quality policy, clause 5.2.1(c) requires that you specify your commitment to ‘satisfy applicable requirements’ and clause 5.2.1(d) ‘continually improve the effectiveness of your QMS.’ What you state in your Quality Policy must lead to establishing quality objectives (e.g. if you state in your quality policy that you will “meet customer requirements”, then you might develop customer focused objectives for – product defects; customer complaints and returns; on time delivery, etc.) Similarly, for the phrase, “meet ISO 9001 requirements,” you might develop process objectives for effectively using ISO 9001 requirements to manage, control and improve your QMS processes. Stating that you will continually improve the effectiveness of your QMS in your Quality Policy can lead to a number of objectives, as your QMS is composed of many processes and you could have one or more objectives for each process. Each statement in your Quality Policy may result in one or more quality objectives. These quality objectives do not need to be stated in your Quality Policy, but top management must clearly be involved in providing direction, establishing and reviewing these objectives. Leadership needs to establish, review and maintain a policy, but also needs to ensure that it is applied within the organization.

The establishment of the Quality Policy should be part of the business planning or QMS planning processes. A review of the Quality Policy for continuing suitability should be part of your management review process. As a quality document, the Quality Policy is also controlled by 7.5.3 control of documented Information.

In part 4, we will conclude this series with a look at the organizational roles, responsibilities and authorities.

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