ISO/DIS 9001 - SUPPORT - Competence, Awareness and Communication
Keshav Ram Singhal
Competence is defined as the ability to apply knowledge (available collection of information, i.e. meaningful data being a justified belief and having a high certainty to be true) and skills to achieve desired outputs or intended results. When competence is demonstrated, it sometimes referred to as qualification. Competence is a standardized requirement for an individual to properly perform a specific job. It encompasses a combination of knowledge, skills and behaviour to improve performance. Competence can be measured by the achievement of results.
Clause 7.2 of ISO/DIS 9001 deals with the requirements for competence. As per requirements, the organization is required to: (i) determine the necessary competence of people, who work under organization's control and whose work affects quality performance of the organization, (ii) ensure that the people working in the organization are competent on the basis of appropriate education, training or experience, and (iii) retain documented information as evidence of competence. Where there is need to acquire the necessary competence, the organization is required to take actions (such as providing training, mentoring of people, reassignment of people, hiring, contracting of competent persons) to acquire the necessary competence and evaluate the effectiveness of actions taken. It should be noted that the documented information should provide information on (i) determined necessary competence, and (ii) competence of people.
Awareness is common knowledge or understanding about any issue and training is a way to foster awareness and competence. Organizations need to check their employees' competence, awareness and training regularly.
Clause 7.3 of ISO/DIS deals with the requirements of awareness. As per the requirements, people working in organization (for example - employees, contract workers, contractors) must be aware of the (i) quality policy of the organization, (ii) relevant quality objectives established at relevant functions, levels and processes, (iii) their individual contribution to the effectiveness (i.e. successful in achieving the desired results) of the quality management system, (iv) benefits of improved quality performance (action or process of performing a task). and (v) implications (conclusions that can be drawn) of non-conformance (non fulfillment) of requirements.
How to improve competence and awareness?
Organizations can compare the current competence of the people, working in the organization, against what they require. This may be termed as 'awareness and competence gap analysis'. The gaps determined should be filled through training or by acquiring additional awareness and competence. Training may be at the actual workplace (as on the job training), in-house or at some external location. It is not sufficient to just provide (and record) training, the organization must evaluate it.
Effective communication is significant in an organization to perform its planning and functioning in a systematic way. Communication helps employees to perform their jobs and responsibilities. It serves as a foundation for planning. Communication promotes motivation. It is a source of information and information is very essential for every organization. In brief, we can say that communication (i) establishes effective leadership, (ii) helps toward motivation and morale development, (iii) helps in smooth working, (iv) promotes cooperation among people and teams, (v) acts as a basis of coordination and cooperation, (vi) acts as a basis for decision making, and (vii) increases managerial and employees efficiency.
Clause 7.4 of ISO/DIS 9001 deals with the requirements of communication. As per ISO/DIS 9001, the organization needs to determine appropriate (suitable and proper) internal and external communication processes relevant to the quality management system of the organization by determining the following:
- Contents of the communication
- Time of the communication
- Receivers of the communication
- Mechanisms of the communication
Although ISO/DIS 9001 states to determine 3Ws1H (What, When, Whom and How) with regard to communication, however we suggest to determine the following 2Ws (where to communicate and why to communicate) also, so that your communication becomes significant, effective and purposeful.
ISO 9001:2008 QMS standard has two clauses relevant to communication:
Clause 5.5.3 - Internal communication
Clause 7.2.3 - Customer communication
Customer communication is a part of external communication, and now ISO/DIS 9001 has one clause (titled communication) instead of two (titled internal communication and customer communication) as in ISO 9001:2008 QMS standard.
Mechanism of communication may include periodic meetings, email,, bulletin boards, suggestion boxes, circulars, product information brochures, catalogues, specifications, information etc.
To be continued ....