Munich. The new ISO 9001, scheduled for publication in late 2015, introduces the term “knowledge”. As knowledge was not addressed by the previous ISO 9001 standard, the depth of this topic and the approach to it are new. The ISO 9001:2015 standard defines requirements for the handling of organisational knowledge in the following four phases, which are analogous to the PDCA cycle: 1. determine the knowledge necessary for the operation of processes and for achieving conformity of products and services; 2. maintain knowledge and make it available to the extent necessary; 3. consider the current organisational knowledge and compare it to changing needs and trends; and 4. acquire the necessary additional knowledge. TÜV SÜD’s experts explain how organisations can implement these requirements and what aspects they have to consider in this context.
By introducing the term “knowledge”, the new ISO 9001 aims to raise organisations’ awareness of the management and linking of know-how in order to position them for the future. “As knowledge is a very broad subjective area with individual definitions, each organisation must define the term for itself”, explains Ulrich Wegner, Technical Head of the Certification Body of TÜV SÜD Management Service GmbH. “Depending on the size and type of organisations, their approaches to the topic of knowledge can be completely different.” A large-scale car manufacturer, for example, will define other focus areas than a legal firm or tax consultancy.“ The new requirements do not aim at establishing bureaucratic information or documentation management, but at ensuring a systematic process for handling organisational knowledge in conformity with the QM framework conditions.
The four phases that define the requirements for handling organisational knowledge include various focal and starting points that provide guidance for organisations. Establishing knowledge and competence goals at the start of the process, for example, makes good sense. To do so, organisations should, for instance, determine knowledge of customer expectations and requirements and of particular production and service-provision processes. Subsequently, they can plan how they can achieve the identified goals and objectives by means of training, learning on the job or e-learning.
In phase 2, the organisations should determine specific methods to exchange knowledge in-house and to maintain this knowledge. Possibilities include employees passing on their experience from completed projects or failures to their colleagues in the style of “lessons learned”. Employees leaving the company or refusing to share their experience and know-how represent a major risk of loss of knowledge. Organisations wishing to avoid these risks can collect and maintain the available know-how, e.g. in wikis or ensure dedicated exchange of knowledge.
In phase 3 the organisation must evaluate new knowledge, such as that communicated in training, interview employees on their status of knowledge where appropriate, and identify opportunities for improvement. Another major challenge involves monitoring changes in the market or in technology and analysing the extent to which they influence the knowledge that the organisation requires.
Once the organisation identifies opportunities for improvement in certain areas, targeted measures should be taken in phase four. Depending on the individual situation, companies may further enhance their relations with clients, suppliers and service providers or improve their mechanisms for keeping their knowledge secure. It may prove a good idea, for example, to renew the validity of functions critical for knowledge or to improve the protection of existing know-how by filing patents. In addition to continued in-house training, organisations can also use external sources including newsletters, specialist magazines, memberships in associations or important partnerships to expand their knowledge. By introducing the subject of "knowledge", the new ISO 9001 raises organisations’ awareness of sustainable and future-oriented success factors.