Mike Micklewright

Kaizen Approach to ISO 9001:2015
Do it right this time!

— Article by Mike Micklewright. Published on 26th September 2015


Finally… the new version of ISO 9001:2015 has been released. I can hear many of you screaming, “Hurray!” Or not. More realistically, I’m sure many of you living in the kaizen world are thinking, “Yeah, so what? This stuff has nothing to do with real kaizen, and in fact, it often creates bureaucracy and more waste.”

I would argue that this might only be true because of the way an organization created and deployed its quality management system (QMS) and has nothing to do with living the spirit behind the requirements, which are just good business practices.


ISO 9001:2015 requirements don’t run counter to kaizen thinking

I say again: There are absolutely no requirements in the ISO 9001:2015 standard that run counter to kaizen thinking. (The registration process is another story that will not be addressed here.) Both ISO 9001:2015 and kaizen practices are built and based on the plan-do-check-act (PDCA) model as well as solid, proven business practices developed over the years; unfortunately, rarely have they been integrated together.

With the revised ISO 9001:2015 standard, your organization now has the opportunity to overhaul its overly documented, nonvalue-adding, wasteful QMS and create a system that supports all kaizen practices, helps sustain all kaizen efforts, and adds true value to your organization.

I challenge all kaizen-oriented individuals to get involved in developing your QMS (or kaizen management system or business management system) to make it lean, purposeful, respected, value-adding, and capable of providing sustenance to kaizen improvements, just as it should do and can.

Why? Is there an open door for a kaizen-oriented person to get involved in the restructuring of the QMS to allow it to become more valuable to all of our kaizen efforts? Well, yes, because one of the new requirements (5.1.1c) is that top managers must “demonstrate leadership and commitment with respect to the quality management system (QMS) . . . by c) ensuring the integration of the QMS requirements into the organization’s business processes.” This is a huge new requirement. It’s telling us that we should integrate all kaizen processes (e.g., standard work, communication cells, visual management, gembawalks, 5S, work cells, total productive maintenance) into the QMS, because these are our business processes.

Furthermore, the documentation requirements have been decreased quite a bit from the previous revision. For example, there are no requirements for documented procedures or a documented quality manual. A company must still have “documented information,” but this can come in whatever form (e.g., standard work, standard work combination sheets, leader standard work, one-point lessons, job breakdown sheets, 5S assessment sheets, gemba-walk forms, 3C, A3) is considered necessary by an organization’s leaders to achieve planned results.


It’s time for kaizen to be a major part of the QMS

It’s time to integrate kaizen documents into the QMS and for kaizen to become a major part of the QMS. This is an opportunity to get rid of the many wasteful documents in your organization that no one uses, or the many wasteful sections within documents that no one ever reads.

In fact, it is highly recommended to use the 5S approach on the current documentation system to create a leaner system. In many cases, I have helped reduce documentation systems by 50 to 80 percent, without eliminating any valuable content.

Another new key requirement (although it has always been implied) is the need to address risk management at all levels within the organization. Of course, one of the best ways to mitigate risks within an organization is through constant focus on eliminating waste. The revised ISO 9001 is practically begging us to use the principles, practices, cultural elements, and tools of kaizen to reduce risk.

Practices such as SWOT analysis; using the suppliers, inputs, process, outputs, and customers (SIPOC) diagram; PDCA; and hoshinkanri are ripe for use in organizations where there’s truly an effort to reduce risks at the strategic level. At the same time, practices such as root cause analysis, poke yoke, nemawashi, failure mode and effects analysis (FMEA), jidoka, and training within industry (TWI) work instructions lead us on the path to reduce risk at the granular level.

We as kaizeners strive for continuous improvement in all that we do. Quality personnel, in “charge of” the QMS, strive for the same. In having two systems—a traditional QMS and a kaizen/lean management system—with both attempting to accomplish the same goal in different ways, we are all actually being wasteful as we departmentalize the improvement process and avoid integration. It’s time to rid all of the continuous improvement practices of their waste and integrate all systems into one system. This is your challenge!


About the Author, Mike Micklewright

Mike Micklewright has been teaching and facilitating quality and lean principles worldwide for more than 25 years. He specializes in creating lean and continuous improvement cultures, and has implemented improvement systems in hundreds of organizations in the aerospace, automotive, entertainment, food, healthcare, and warehousing industries. Micklewright is the founder of Chicago-basedQualityQuest Inc., as well as director and senior consultant for Kaizen Institute. He has an engineering degree from the University of Illinois, and he is an ASQ-certified Six Sigma Black Belt, as well as an ASQ-certified quality auditor, quality engineer, manager of quality/operational excellence, and supply chain analyst.

Mike Micklewright and 360 Performance Circle have partnered to create a video training series on combining lean and ISO 9001-based quality management systems.