The 9001:2008 standard is based on 8 quality management principles: i) Customer focus, ii) Leadership, iii) Involvement of people, iv) Process approach, v) System approach to management, vi) Continual improvement, vii) Factual approach to decision making and viii) Mutually beneficial supplier relationships. It is not required to memorize these principles for parrot to an auditor; instead every VSE employee should understand how their daily work assignments integrate with these 8 principles in order to more easily apply the VSE Quality Management System (QMS) on a daily basis. NOTE: The sections below were found on the Internet and copied here for training purposes. The author of all these sections is Jim Moran of “The Learning Alliance” (


Quality Management Principle #1:Customer Focus

It is quite obvious why we need to stay focused on our customers. We depend on them. In order to earn their business, we must understand their needs and meet their requirements. This management principle also points us to the importance of anticipating what our customers’ needs will be in the future. By doing this, we improve the chances that we will have a future with them.

This ISO “customer focus” principle also highlights the importance of understanding customer expectations, too. Think about your last trip to the dry cleaners. Even though you didn’t say so, you expected your clothes to be covered with a thin poly bag. Anything else would not have met your expectations, would it? Our customers are exactly the same. They can buy our product or service from a competitor of ours, but they have chosen us because we provide the staff, the environment, the support resources, the assurances and the convenience that they want. If we lose sight of customer expectations, we’ll start to lose customers. And our employees all through the organization need to know our approach – communicate this customer focus all the way through the organization.


Quality Management Principle #2: Leadership

Leaders set the tone in every organization. The role of the leader includes setting priorities, planning, organizing, providing resources and assessing the results of the activities that have occurred. A leader gets results based on trust, involvement and participation of employees.

Ken Blanchard, The One Minute Manager co-author, reminds us that people will listen to our words, but they watch our feet. We have no right to expect that our employees will act in a totally ethical manner if we, as leaders, cheat on overtime, pad our expense accounts and misrepresent our own performance. We lead by example whether we want to or not.

Proactive leaders will foster proactive employees. And we all know that a proactive environment (tweaking a process before it causes a problem) saves money. A reactive environment, (fixing something after it has gone wrong) is absolutely vital, too, but is not as efficient or cost effective. Any time we can enlist the talents of our staff to make improvements, everybody wins. A culture of “proactivity” is a culture of winners who will strive toward challenging goals and targets.

J. Edwards Demming in Out of the Crisis talked about driving out fear. This certainly fosters trust and encourages people to bring ideas forward. One way to drive out fear is to establish a clear vision of the organization’s future and present ethical role models for employees to emulate. Will Rogers said, “If you tell the truth often enough, you’ll be found out”. Investing in our most valuable resource, our staff, will pay huge dividends.


Quality Management Principle #3:Involvement of People.

“People at all levels are the essence of an organization and their full involvement enables their abilities to be used for the organization’s benefit.”

Involvement of people has been accepted as a “good thing to do” by management for decades. Why are we so reluctant to actually do it? We hear lots of statements made about empowerment, listening to employees, asking for input and all the rest, but when we interview people on the floor, we often find mushroom management – keeping them in the dark and feeding them manure. This is not a recipe for quality or good Human Resource Development.

When we really think about it, there’s not much we do in our respective businesses that our competitors can’t do. There’s not much technology they can’t buy or duplicate. So what’s left that can give us an advantage? Our people! By investing in our people we make them more competent, more confident, more valuable to our customers and more valuable, in turn, to our organization.

It’s true that having more staff or opening more hours costs money, but if the staff we are presenting to our clients and prospective clients are competent, we will reap the rewards, and so will our staff. People don’t intentionally try to do badly at their jobs. Often we find that people “work around” poorly designed management systems or company policies to satisfy customers. Why shouldn’t we ask our employees (or our customers!) how to do it better? Don’t they know the most about their area of expertise? Yes, or they wouldn’t be there.


Quality Management Principle #4: Process Approach

“A desired result is achieved more efficiently when related resources and activities are managed as a process.”

In order to apply the principle of “Process Approach”, we must actually do something! The actions that TC 176 talks about include defining the process we need to have in place to get to our goal. A “process” as such gives us a higher level of confidence that we can deliver what our customer wants. Most of us can hit the target most of the time (or we wouldn’t still be in business) but don’t we want to hit it all the time? A process approach will help.

Another action that is part of this approach is identifying and measuring inputs and outputs of the process we are looking at. This helps us make better management decisions, too, because measurements allow us to replace “opinion” with “data”. Better data, better business decisions.
At the same time, we need to look at how this process affects other processes in our organization and look at how this process is affected by other processes.

We can’t forget our customers either. How do our processes impact on our customers? And what about suppliers? You can imagine the futility of trying to deal with an organization that only looks at itself when making process changes. If it makes it harder to do business, either as a customer or supplier, then we need to reconsider the change. Risk evaluation is critical in these cases.

One thing that is fairly simple to do and pays huge dividends is the assigning of responsibility, authority and accountability. It’s amazing how often this action is overlooked! Everyone knows what needs to be done, but if the fingers are pointing at everyone else, that shows the lines of responsibility are not clear. Easy to document, but not always easy to implement.

Finally, it’s vital to figure out the critical steps to this important process. The activities must be clearly identified and the flow of resources has to be planned and managed. The need for control measures must be identified as well as resulting training needs. Will there be new equipment required? How about materials?

Why go to all this trouble? Well, if we can get our processes under control, it will lead to more predictable results, better use of resources, shorter cycle times and lower costs.


Quality Management Principle #5: System Approach to Management

In order to take advantage of the, “System Approach” to management, we need to start with an exercise called: Identify the System. To do this, we have to identify those activities or processes that affect the objective we’re aiming for. This might be a quality objective, an improvement objective, a sales objective, customer satisfaction objective, and so on. Once we have a target in sight, we take aim.

We identify the activities in our organizations that will lead us to our objective and make sure that these processes are under control and consistent. It doesn’t hurt to have competent people doing these activities, either! If we find that a critical activity isn’t under control, it’s a sign that we have to develop a systematic approach to this step or process.

Once this analysis is complete and we’re confident that we’ve covered all the bases (identified all the steps necessary to reach our objective), we have to take a look at efficiency. Are we doing the steps in the best order to reach our goal? Do we have all the necessary resources arranged to work efficiently together? Are all personnel involved fully competent? Do we have enough time to implement the process? If not, we can benefit by structuring our system better to reach the target we’re aiming at.

Once we’ve identified the necessary steps we have to take a look at all of the pieces and figure out how they all interact with each other. This gives us an opportunity to find improvement opportunities in our processes and lead to more efficiencies and better quality. Would our customers like that? You bet!

Now we can get to the real payback part of the investment we’ve made in analysis. By taking an objective look at our total system and by making accurate measurements of its’ performance, we can figure out a way to improve it. But until we’ve done the analysis, we can’t be sure of where to best spend our hard earned profits. Without the objective approach described here, we could be throwing money at areas that won’t necessarily give us the best return on our investment.

The analysis will also guide us to the best use of resources other than just dollars. We need to be aware of any other resource constraints before we commit to action. There’s nothing worse than starting a project with a bang and ending with a fizzle just because we didn't plan well.


Quality Management Principle # 6: Continual Improvement


For starters, not everyone in our organizations will see Continual Improvement the same way we do. In order to encourage those around us to strive for C.I., the first step is to answer that all-important question, “What’s in it for me?” Many will see Continual Improvement as “change” and not everyone likes change. However, if we’re not getting better, we’re going to look like we’re getting worse. And if we can’t find a better way to deliver our goods or services, our competitors might. So the “What’s in it for me?” might turn out to be “a future!”

Here are some ways to get the ball rolling:
1. Improving processes with the help of individuals in our organization – people who do the activities in our companies are the best ones to show us how to do it better.
2. Improving products and services– no one wants to work for a company that tries to “get by” with poor quality offerings to customers.
3. Making small changes in a whole bunch of areas instead of a huge change in one area – it’s possible that one gigantic blast might be lost on most of our customers. Small changes in many areas stand a better chance of getting noticed.
4. Good measurement methods will tell us where we really are and give us milestones to hit along the way. Good data, good decisions. Bad data, bad decisions. Measurement is s key tool along with broadcasting the small steps to keep them coming.
5. Examining processes to see if they really are the best way to do something. We have to be on guard for the attitude of “We’ve always done it this way” – it can stifle creativity and hold us back from exciting new frontiers.
6. Creating a focus on “prevention”. This will help move an organization toward the Continual Improvement” mindset, too. Be being proactive instead of reactive, we can make positive strides toward improved operations and save resources (time, people, money) along the way.
7. Training members of our organizations in good problem solving techniques. This really sets the stage for positive re-designing of processes and operations. By fixing the wrong problem, we only de-motivate employees and waste our valuable assets.

Just like planning a budget or planning resource requirements, Continual Improvement has to be built in to the fabric of our business along with everything else. If it hasn’t been planned for, organized and properly supported, Continual Improvement just won't happen!


Quality Management Principle #7: Factual approach to decision making

We all know the old adage about computers: “Garbage in, garbage out”. The same reality applies to decision making in our organizations. If we’re making decisions with poor information we are bound to make poor decisions. So a great part of our decision making efforts needs to be focused on finding good information. This means accurate information and useful information. Without good data we can’t expect good decisions.

Our “data gathering” activities have to be consistent and have to improve all the time. There’s nothing more frustrating (and costly) than jumping to the wrong conclusion based on bad data or no data. But how do we get better at gathering data if we’re running 90 miles an hour just to try to reach Friday at 5:30? Good question. The answer lies (partly) in focusing on value-added activities and measuring those. And the best place to find out what really is valuable? Our customers. Once we know what they really care about, we can focus on their expectations better and start using customer centered data to make decisions based on relevant facts.

Another key point in the “decision making” process is transparency. Our decisions must make sense to those around us or we will lose credibility. If we can demonstrate how we arrived at a particular conclusion and if we can show that our “decision making” process is sound, we can then rely on the outcomes more often.

This is not to suggest that there is no room for “instinct” or “experience”. Quite the contrary. It is the seasoned veteran using accurate data and a healthy dose of varied experiences who comes to useful conclusions and provides good leadership for our organizations. However, decisions made by “gut feel” alone are hard to duplicate if they are successful and hard to fix if they break.

A decision making “process” is not only easier to dissect later if it misses the mark, it provides a platform for continual improvement of the process itself. Better decisions, better business results. Obvious, isn’t it? I’m sure you’re as surprised as I am at how it’s not that obvious to many decision makers and planners.


Quality Management Principle #8: Mutually beneficial supplier relationships

We all know that in the “process model” that ISO 9001:2008 is based on, three stages exist: Input, Process and Output. This model demonstrates that every output is a result of someone applying a process to some input. Also, we plan for some increase in value to happen to the inputs after the process is applied.

Obviously, the process has to be under control, people performing the process have to be competent and adequate resources need to be in place. However, given all of that, if the inputs aren’t suitable, the outputs won’t meet customer needs and expectations. If we plant corn, we won’t harvest tomatoes, no matter how good our farming practices are. Without the right inputs, we have no right to expect the right outputs.

For the inputs that come from the outside, we need to choose suppliers carefully. This is such an important aspect of business that most organizations have someone “in charge” of purchasing, even in small companies. The aims for good purchasing start with balanced relationships that include short term goals and long term goals for both parties. By creating a positive, supportive relationship with suppliers, we can benefit from their expertise and they can benefit from our industry experiences as well.

By building these mutually beneficial relationships, we can also improve communications with our suppliers and reap all the benefits that come from increasing information flow in both directions. This way, we can move into the future with a bit of extra help, or at least another point of view about where the market is moving.

By encouraging our suppliers and recognizing their improvements, we might get some feedback from them about opportunities we could share. Together everyone achieves more and our relationships with suppliers can be an asset to help us improve our processes.