Ultimate Guide to ISO 9001 Quality Objectives

What are quality objectives?

tablet with goals on it

Quality objectives are goals that are tied to the quality policy of an organization. They are key performance indicators used to measure items identified as being very important to the business. Generally, they are performance metrics tied to items such as delivery, quality, and/or safety.

Does ISO 9001 require quality objectives?

The 2015 revision of ISO 9001 requires that an organization has quality objectives. Section 6.2 of the standard describes the requirements.

Per the ISO standard, the quality objectives must coincide with the quality policy. They also must be measured, monitored and communicated. This means you must pick a criterion, set a goal, measure it over a certain timeframe and communicate the results.

 For example:

  • Criterion = number of customer returns
  • Goal = less than 10 returns
  • Timeframe = per quarter
  • Communication = report the results at management review and to all employees

The communication part can be misleading slightly. The most important people to communicate the results to are the members of the management who are responsible. In the example above, this would likely be someone in a quality control management role.

Communicating to all employees is often done through posting the results on a bulletin board somewhere so the employees can see the quality objective performance.

Who is responsible for the quality objectives?

Management is responsible for setting the quality objectives. Depending on the size of the organization, top management may be responsible or lower-level management may be involved. Smaller businesses are more likely to have heavy involvement from top management.

How do you write a good quality objective?

A good quality objective will follow the rules of SMART. Quality objectives should be specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time bound.

smart goal banner

Specific = customer returns

Measurable = # of customer returns

Attainable = 10 customer returns per quarter because we know our average is 11

Relevant = customer returns are relevant because it ties into our quality policy with regards to doing the job right

Time bound = per quarter

In summary, our SMART quality objective in this example is customer returns with a goal of 10 per quarter.

Setting a goal is important. Make sure your goals are not too easy or too hard. You want to reasonably be able to attain them, but they should be forcing you to continuously improve.

Not every quality objective needs to be related to customer satisfaction or continuous improvement but having quality objectives that are will link them to your quality policy, an ISO requirement.

How many quality objectives should you have?

The answer to this question will be specific to each organization. However, a good starting point would be to have approximately five quality objectives. See the examples below to get an idea of where to start.

Quality objective examples

The quality objective examples below could apply to both manufacturing companies along with service providers.

Quality Objective

Example Goal

On-time delivery to customer

> 95% on-time delivery

Customer returns

< 10 returns per quarter

Supplier on-time delivery

> 95% on-time delivery

Supplier returns

< 5 returns per quarter

Safety incidents

0 safety incidents per quarter

How often should you review your quality objectives?

Your quality objective performance should be reviewed minimally at every management review meeting. Organizations handle management review in different ways. If you are just getting started then think about starting with quarterly management reviews.

Performing reviews quarterly will allow the organization to address any issues that may arise in a timely manner.

What should you do if you don't meet your quality objectives?

If you don’t meet your quality objectives, you should think about starting corrective action activities. If you miss your quality objective by .1% it doesn’t necessarily require that you generate a corrective action. Continually missing the objective or missing the objective by a substantial margin would be more worrisome and cause for creating a corrective action.

Can you add, remove or change your quality objectives?

Yes, you are free to change your quality objectives as you see fit. You should make sure they are relevant to your organization and its goals (including quality policy). Remember the ISO requirements as listed above when making changes including adding or removing quality objectives.

Quality objectives vs key performance indicators (KPIs)

Every quality objective is a KPI but not every KPI is a quality objective.

Quality objectives are more of an overall picture of the organizational performance such as overall on-time delivery. KPIs can be something much smaller in scope such as customer support response time.

Ultimately, an organization will need to identify the KPIs that are the most important to them and track them as quality objectives. See the examples above to give yourself some ideas of what constitutes a quality objective.

Quality objectives vs quality policy

A quality policy is basically a mission statement. The quality objectives are the items that are measured, monitored and communicated within an organization to ensure that the business is meeting its quality policy.

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Ultimate Guide to ISO 9001 Quality Policies

To get ISO certified there are many requirements which must be met. One of these requirements is establishing a quality policy. A quality policy shouldn’t be complicated. It should be simple to understand and easy to communicate throughout your organization.

What is a quality policy?

A quality policy is similar to a mission statement. It describes how a business or organization will strive to provide the best products or services possible. At times it may include other components such as environmental concerns, but the core message still remains. Do it right. Do it on-time.

What is the purpose of a quality policy?

A quality policy is important because it communicates to the stakeholders such as your employees, suppliers, and customers what your goals are with regards to your business.

Does ISO 9001 require a quality policy?

The 2015 revision of ISO 9001 explicitly requires a quality policy. Per the ISO 9001 standard, the quality policy must include a commitment to meeting applicable requirements and continuous improvement.

Applicable requirements include items such as state and federal regulations, ITAR, OSHA and any other industry relevant requirement.

There are also requirements to make sure that the quality policy is documented, communicated, and understood within the organization.

Who will establish and maintain the quality policy?

org chart example

Top management is responsible for establishing and maintaining the quality policy. Physical and electronic documents are often created and updated by quality personnel or a management representative, but ultimately the members of management at the top of the org chart are the ones who must set the quality policy.

How often should the quality policy be reviewed?

The quality policy needs to be periodically reviewed to ensure its continued suitability for the organization. This can be done by reviewing the quality policy at every management review meeting.

Once established, it won’t need to be changed often unless there is a large organizational change.

Review of the quality policy can be something as simple as a check box like the one below.

quality policy review in management review

Leave a section below the checkbox where you can talk about changes to the quality policy when they do happen.

How to write a quality policy

Keep it simple and make sure to include a statement about continuously improving. Think about what your customers want.

If there is something else that is vitally important to your organization, then it may be worthwhile to include in your quality policy. Examples of this would be environmental or safety concerns.

If you are just getting started with ISO 9001, I recommend keeping it as basic as possible while still describing what is important to your business. If an auditor were to come in and take issue with your quality policy, it would be an easy fix.

How to communicate your quality policy

Communicating your quality policy to your customers and suppliers is easy. Include the quality policy on your company’s website.

Communicating your quality policy to your employees can be a little more challenging. Emails, group meetings, and one on one training sessions are all effective ways to communicate your quality policy.

group meeting
Group meetings are excellent training tools

Teaching employees about your quality policy should also be a component of your new hire onboarding process.

Once established, you will need to train existing employees to the newly created quality policy. Additionally, periodic retraining can be used to keep the quality policy fresh in their minds.

Think about implementing an annual training schedule to communicate the quality policy to your employees.

Quality policy vs quality manual

Your quality manual is the overall view of your quality system. The quality policy is one small component of that system. A vitally important part, but still a small part.

Quality policy vs quality objectives

The quality policy is your mission. The quality objectives are the measurable items you will monitor to make sure you meet that goal.

The “measurable” part is important.

Some common quality objectives are items such as on-time delivery percentage, number of customer returns, supplier on-time delivery percentage, supplier returns, non-conforming material statistics (scrap) and/or safety incidents.

Super simple quality policy example

The example below is as pared back as possible while still including the essential components of a quality policy.

“Company ABC will provide products which meet our customers’ expectations while satisfying applicable requirements and striving to continuously improve our quality performance.”

Quality policy example for manufacturing

We will supply products and services that meet or exceed our customers’ requirements on time, every time. By continually improving the effectiveness of our quality management system (QMS), we strive for excellence in everything we do.

Quality policy example for service business

It is the policy of Company ABC to provide a service that continually meets or exceeds all customer quality and delivery expectations while abiding by all regulatory requirements.

Company ABC will strive to continually improve its process quality and efficiency.

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