As I transcribe my thoughts on how my blessed Africa took to receiving the Pandora box of quality management systems and ISO standardisation, it begs me to ask; was this a blessing or a curse or a mere stalwart wind of change to streamlining African business workplace culture to accomplish international quality eminence.
My heartfelt passion for working with quality management standards, prompted me to begin this article knowing that certain companies in my Botswana will always have that one challenge with regards to implementation, and maintenance of standards in a particular industry.
This thorn in the flesh can lead to severe drawbacks such as demoralisation of staff, which eventually leads to a deadwood quality management system. This anomaly dear reader must be avoided by all means necessary.
ISO, an acronym for International Organisation for Standardisation, exists independently with a membership of 164 National Standard Bodies (NSBs) based in Geneva. As of 2006, 120 NSBs were from developing countries with Africa representing 37 NSBs, equivalent to almost a third of the total for developing countries.
The main objective of this organisation was to create a common platform for Spearheading standardisation, consequently facilitating global trade.
The Botswana Bureau of Standards (BOBs) was recognised as an NSB by ISO, in 1995, opening them up to a medley of benefits, not limited to, participating and voting in technical and policy meetings, as well as to sell and advocate for ISO standards nationally.
To date, ISO has published over 20,000 international standards as well as guidelines and specifications that can be used without fail to ensure that materials, products, processes and services are on top form for their function. These published standards span various categories ranging from Safety and security, General management, health and medical, environment, Information technology and lastly, Quality.
One of the most popular standards bought and utilised to date is the ISO 9000 Quality Management series of standards which encompasses the ISO 9001:2015 standard, well known as a quality tool for establishing and running a sturdy quality management system in any industry.
What is so unique about this standard is that it’s the only standard in the 9000 series that requires certification and to date a total of 1.1 million certificates have been issued to various companies around the world. In Botswana alone, 44 companies have been certified by BOBs for the ISO 9001:2015 Management system certificate in 2017.
A lot of African countries have resorted to implementing the structure of ISO 9001 without certification. However, the certification status catapults your business to a higher notch as it demonstrates your commitment to pushing your organisation as operating according to internationally recognised standards.
Simply put, a quality management system is a systematic interface of business processes managed and executed to produce a quality product or service fit for a particular customer need. Most businesses in Botswana and SMEs for that matter follow processes and discuss their progress on a daily basis, but clear documentation of these processes is impaired.
As a result people working in these companies, will have different views on how the outcome of a particular product or service should be, giving rise to confusion and frustration, eventually leading to a total loss in quality. Hence this cataclysmic situation is often avoided by the implementation of a quality management system.
There is one main issue that dominates international trade under the World Trade Organisation (WTO) trade agreements. The relentless globalisation of markets, demands products and services that comply with continuously increasing quality requirements to meet expectations of the consumers and to integrate seamlessly to the manufacturing value chains that span many countries.
It is at this juncture that BOBs has been given the mandate to make certain that the safety and quality of products and services is established throughout Botswana. The Government of Botswana through the respective Ministries and BOBs use standards to endorse regulation, ensuring consumers’ lives are not at risk in any way.
In my view, the newly revised ISO 9001:2015
The second stage is then applying the newly instigated systematic risk-based thinking approach to all the processes, moving away from preventive action mindset that was a standalone function in the previous ISO 9001:2008 version.
This new rhetoric used in the newer ISO 9001:2015 version promotes a proactive work ethic rather than reactive with regards to risk mitigation, building in preventive action on to the overall quality management system.
Thirdly, after all has been said and done, the good old Deming’s Cycle comes into place; the pioneer for continuous improvement and fundamental in implementing ISO 9001 quality Management standards. The Deming’s cycle also known as the Plan – Do – Check – Act (PDCA) cycle is a four step model that never stops i.e. all steps are followed in a repetitive manner to bring forth continuous improvement.
In fact, the ISO 9001 requirements have an impartial clause related solely to continuous improvement and the entire standard section by section, is buttressed on the Deming Cycle.
Hence based on these three fundamental characteristics it is evident to see that the ISO 9001:2015 standard requirements are generic and easily adaptable by any industry in Botswana both service and/or product oriented.
Through my immeasurable experience on using and creating a plethora of international standards for the past 12 years, I have learnt two important things i.e. that the crux of the success of implementing this aforementioned standard lies in the commitment of all levels of management.
Secondly the management must be fully equipped to understand clearly what the requirements of the standards are and how to utilise them. There is no use having the keys but the wrong doors to open. Hence incessant training and awareness of ISO 9001 standards is of paramount significance.
Think of all members working in a company as a machine gear with teeth, also known as a cogwheel. As it turns, it transmits power, from one part of the machine to another in order to facilitate speed i.e. to make it faster or slower, or maybe change the direction of a machine. Now, for this cogwheel to operate, two separate cogwheels must have their teeth locked in to each other such that when one cogwheel turns, the other one locked in automatically turns.
The same is true when everyone is on board the QMS bandwagon moving towards creating a culture of quality excellence. The cogs in this case being the different departmental interfaces in a company and the turning motion being orchestrated by the desire of all employees to move forward in implementing the ISO 9001:2015 standard, therefore creating an almost pristine quality culture.
In conclusion, it is at this juncture that I can boldly state that YES, the increased globalisation of markets has blessed the pan–African business set up to align their company strategic goals to promote a culture of international quality status.
The ISO strategic direction manifesto 2016 – 2020 for Developing countries has been launched to assist developing member states to fully take advantage of the value of standards in support of their countries development.
The support ISO is willing to offer is tremendous as it ranges from training and awareness, guidance and collaborations all in the name of ensuring a geographical balance with regards to standardisation.
“Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success”. - Henry Ford *Sekgweng is a freelance qualified Total Quality Management consultant based in Botswana