This series of features on ISO standards—the quality methodology developed and endorsed by the International Standards Organisation—has been developed by Jim Moran. For more information on how to benefit from adopting the various ISO methodology in your business, visit or contact Jim Moran directly: [email protected] or call (519)  859-4574. This page will be periodically updated to reflect new content. Updated: Saturday, October 6, 2018.

By Jim Moran

I’ve been a big fan of Edward de Bono for about 30 years. Over that period of time he has given us hundreds of ideas about Creative Thinking. In fact, if you’ve ever heard the term ‘lateral thinking’, according to Wikipedia, “The term was coined in 1967 by Edward de Bono”.

In my role as a catalyst to help organizations simplify their ISO 9001 Management Systems since 1992, I have used numerous ideas from De Bono. One of his books, ‘Simplicity’ has 10 rules of Simplicity. I realized that they translate perfectly to ISO Management Systems. This article is on a Quality Culture, but it would work just as well for Environmental, Energy, Health and Safety, Information Security or any Management System you are using.

This approach will also guide Top Management onto the path to meet the requirements for the ISO 9001:2015 Standard, clause 5.1.1 Leadership. 

The Ten Building Blocks for a Quality Culture

Building Block #1—You need to put a very high value on Quality

Employees have to see Management walking the talk on Quality. To say that we value quality then implement a reward program for cutting costs is not consistent with putting a high value on quality. That’s not to say that we don’t have to pay attention to costs – we need to control and manage costs for sure, especially cash flow. It’s to say that what we reward is what employees pay attention to. And not just cash rewards – rewards of acknowledgment, pats on the back, announcements, promotions and all the other subtle ways we signal ‘what is important’. On the bottom line, quality pays in so many ways, not the least of which is doing it right the first time, especially in the world of services.

If leaders say they are focused on customers or quality, but give folks a nod when they cut costs or cut corners to boost profit margin it creates confusion. So people hear the message ‘customer first’ or ‘quality is important’ but they see co-workers receiving a ‘thumbs up’ for saving money. When we have conflicting messages, we usually believe what we see before we believe what we hear – “I’ll believe it when I see it!” Right – so Leaders have to be really careful about what they support and reward – not easy if we’re not paying attention.

Putting useful measures on customer satisfaction (not just a survey, by the way!) and revealing the true cost of poor quality can help. Most employees pay attention to what’s being measured. If ‘improvements’ are the focus of Internal Audits and are promoted as a good thing, and Opportunities For Improvement are carried through, we can make some strides – foundation blocks for a Quality Culture!

Improving quality will cut costs, so by rewarding quality improvement, the bottom line will benefit.

Building Block #2—We must be determined to seek Quality

Any organization can say they are quality focused, but what activities would we see in our organizations if we were ‘actively seeking quality’? What would we point to if a potential customer asked how will we fill their orders? If we are focused on cutting costs or finding new clients or getting a late order shipped by a very expensive expediter, we’ve already missed the boat and are only paying lip service to the concept of being determined to seek quality.

“Nothing in the world”, said Calvin Coolidge, “can take the place of persistence.” We must pursue quality with persistence and always promote a consistent message. Quality is worth seeking.

Know Quality, Know profit – No Quality, No Profit.

This links to ISO 9001:2015  clause 5.1.1 h): ‘…engaging, directing and supporting persons to contribute to the effectiveness of the quality management system…’

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