Whether your organization has 5 or 500 employees, development and implementation of an ISO 9001 management system is a significant endeavor and as you initiate such a project, some level of project planning should be considered and completed. Developing an ISO 9001 project management plan will provide significant value and help ensure your ISO management system is completed in a timely manner.
Before we go too far, let’s clarify that project planning or project management activities and records are not required by ISO 9001 and you are not required to complete any formal project planning during your ISO 9001 implementation. However, our experience has been that having some level of planning and structure certainly can help facilitate a successful ISO implementation project.
Please note that “Project Management” is a discipline and methodology in which many individuals carve an entire career out of and dedicate years of time and effort mastering the disciple as a project management professional. Larger organizations establish and maintain entire departments focused on facilitating project management personnel, policies, processes, and activities throughout the organization. These PMOs (Project Management Offices) are staffed by PMPs (Project Management Professionals) who have spent months and years developing their craft, gaining knowledge and experience, and completing required certifications.
We certainly don’t expect you to invest the time, effort, and money developing or maintaining professional project management personnel within your organization, unless there is a larger need for such resources within your company. If your organization’s products or services involve significant project-oriented activities, then you may want to consider adding or developing this discipline and establishing related resources going forward.
Project Management Methodology
If your organization already has an established project management process, we suggest that you tap into those resources and follow your existing methods for your ISO 9001 project implementation plan. If you don’t have any established methods or resources, we can suggest some basic tools that might work for your organization.
There are numerous tools and resources to help with project planning. The best known is probably the Microsoft Project software application. If you already have this tool or something similar, use it. If you don’t have it, most smaller organizations will find MS Project to be overkill (and expensive) for their basic ISO 9001 project planning needs. Many small organizations can get by with simpler tools which utilize MS Word to establish a project plan and MS Excel to create a project timeline / schedule. You can go a step further with low cost online / cloud solutions such as those offered by Smartsheet (www.smartsheet.com) or other similar tools. Do your research and find or develop the tools that best serve your needs.
The amount of effort and detail put into your project plan should reflect the size and complexity of the project and your organization. The planning needs for a small 5-person machine shop will probably be much less than those for a manufacturing company with 150 employees and relatively complex products and processes. In the end, the project plan should address the following:
Why – Why has this project been initiated? What are the problems or issues to be addressed?
What – What is the overall scope and premise of the project? What are the goals and objectives? What are the major milestones, deliverables and tasks to be completed?
Who – Who are the key players in the project and what are their assigned project roles and responsibilities?
When – When will the project start and when does it need to be completed? When do milestones, deliverables, and tasks need to be completed? How much time and effort is required to complete various tasks?
Project Resources, Roles, & Responsibilities
Before you begin developing your ISO 9001 management system, it might be wise to first consider and define the resources needed to complete the work at hand and in the time allowed. For small companies that only have a handful of employees and many hats to wear, one person might bear most of the work to develop, implement, and manage the system. Often that person has other duties to fulfill along with developing the management system, limiting the time allocated to ISO 9001 efforts. In these situations, the organization must realize that establishing and gaining certification for the ISO management system is going to take some time. This might be a year or more depending on the amount of time which can be dedicated to the project and the amount of work to be completed.
Larger companies may have the option to delegate some of the work load and spread it out throughout the organization. This is ideal for many reasons:
- It engages and involves numerous people throughout the company,
- It more effectively establishes and embeds the new management system philosophy and processes into the company culture,
- It allows the company to establish process ownership within the right organizational functions,
- It allows those that do the work to define, establish, and control the processes within their functional area,
- Employees better understand, appreciate, and support the management system.
Determine the key resources to support your ISO project, define their roles and responsibilities, and incorporate these resources into your overall project plan and schedule. Since an ISO 9001 management system touches and impacts just about every organizational function, a best practice would be to include and engage a resource from each function to participate in and provide input to the ISO 9001 implementation project.
Project Communication Plan
You are implementing a management system that will touch and impact just about every function and employee within the organization and perhaps a few others outside the company. This is a huge transformational undertaking and if not rolled-out and communicated correctly, could have significant negative impacts on your employees, organizational culture, and company performance.
Most people resist change, especially when they don’t understand the changes and it isn’t clear how the changes might impact them. People in general are also pessimistic and negative by nature and will most often consider the negative aspects of a situation over the positive ones. The way to avoid the churning of the rumor mill along with negative and even detrimental talk and actions throughout the company is the let everyone know what is going on and why it’s happening.
As you begin the work to implement ISO 9001, it is critical that you communicate clearly and often about the initiative to all levels of the organization. The chief executive along with the executive team should take ownership of the message to the masses ensuring that everyone understands what is happening, why it is happening, how it impacts everyone, and how employees can be involved with the project and actually effect the results and outcome. It’s never too early to communicate and you can’t over communicate.
As you communicate about ISO 9001 be sure to keep the message positive with a focus on how the changes will bring value and improvement to the company. One of the concerns that often permeates a company when major changes are implemented is that jobs may be lost and people laid off. Make sure that your message reinforces that a good management system strengthens the company and opens opportunities for additional business and revenues which should translate into more work, job security, and maybe even opportunities for advancement.
As you roll out the initial messages, let people know that there are opportunities to be involved in the project and that the more input, feedback, and support received from all levels of the organization, the more effective the management system will be in the end. Offer opportunities for employees to be a part of the project team and be sure they know how to enlist their services. There are almost always opportunities for even the lowest people on the org chart to provide valuable input and information during the development of processes and documentation, especially within their own functional area. After all, they are usually the ones that know the most about how work is executed and what can be done to improve existing processes.
Developing and implementing a management system is no simple or quick undertaking. This is a project that impacts and involves people throughout the organization and requires completion of literally hundreds of tasks over a period of several months. To put this in perspective, the EBS eCoach ISO 9001 system has approximately eighty lessons and each of these lessons will involve completion of several tasks and deliverables. Projects with this level of complexity and duration are best managed with some type of ISO 9001 project management plan and project schedule which clearly defines and communicates the work to be done, who does it, when it needs to be done, and what deliverables are required.
The basic purpose of the project management plan is to identify key resources, define roles and responsibilities, assign tasks and deliverables, and define the general sequence of work activities, and timing (start dates, due dates, duration, dependencies) for tasks. Information discussed earlier, such as resources, roles & responsibilities, and your communication plan, provides much of the input to develop your project schedule. Combine the resource and communication information with all of the tasks to be completed and your plan is pretty much done.
For many smaller organizations a basic Gantt chart could easily provide a simple project schedule. There are many options for completing a simple Gantt chart including online / cloud applications (free and paid versions), high-end tools (Microsoft Project), or even plans created using a spreadsheet such as MS Excel. We recommend sticking to free or low-cost solutions rather than spending money on the more complex software solutions, unless you need this additional horsepower. Access a free downloadable example ISO 9001 implementation schedule by clicking here.
Don’t get too caught up in completing this task but try to create a simple value-adding tool to help facilitate and manage your ISO 9001 project. Also, the project schedule should be reviewed and updated periodically, especially when the new information becomes available or project schedule elements change (dates, tasks, deliverables, etc.). Be sure to communicate these revisions to all personnel who are impacted by the changes.
While not required by ISO 9001, developing a project plan and utilizing an appropriate project management methodology is certainly recommended during your ISO 9001 development and implementation project. Just make sure the methods and tools used are appropriate for your organization and the complexity of the project.
An online search for “project management” will return an overwhelming amount of information concerning various methods, tools, training, and certification. One of the best-known project management resources is the Project Management Institute (www.pmi.org).
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