ISO 9001: 2015 requires that “the organization shall determine the internal and external communications relevant to the quality management system.”
Communication is a fundamental principle of good business practice. However, would you be surprised if I told you that, in my experience, organisations struggle with the concept? Plus, communication, or the lack of, is often the root cause of fire-fighting?
Ask yourself: ‘What do I consider relevant communications for my QMS?’
To help answer this, refer to your QMS scope, which is the statement of what your QMS covers within your organisation (the boundaries).
Included in this determination of relevant QMS communication, according to the requirements, are the following five items that need to be included in your communication plan, process or activities:
- What will be communicated – What communications will you have for your QMS? Do you have legal requirements to report on certain elements of your QMS? Will you report to the media, shareholders, or other stakeholders on some topics but not others? What do you need to share with your customers? Suppliers?
- When you will communicate – If you are reporting on nonconforming product, how long will you wait until you report? When will you communicate on a change in your company’s location? Do you have contractual or legal requirements that dictate these items? When do you need to let shareholders and stakeholders know of important developments in your Quality Management System?
- With whom you will communicate – You may need to communicate with a person, group, or department, internally and/or externally. Will your list of people to communicate with include employees, shareholders, suppliers, customers, business partners, or members of the public? Will you report to the media or shareholders depending on the communication topic? Do you have legal requirements to let a government agency know of certain QMS-related information?
- How you will communicate – There are many ways to communicate, and some will work better than others for different information and for different stakeholders. You could use email, phone, text, press release, or even in-person discussions depending on what you need to communicate and to whom. For key decisions, keep a record of the communication.
- Who will do the communication – This may change depending on the information to be relayed or the severity of the information. Critical failures may need to be communicated by the MD, while smaller nonconformances may be communicated by a department. Day to day information may be shared by individuals.
The key to this is to standardise communication. Create consistency. ‘I wasn’t aware of that’ should be a statement from the past.
Consider formalising communication activities into a Comms Plan. Alternatively, define a Communication Process. Better still, define your communication activities, and build them into the processes in your management system.
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