ISO 9001 and C3
Written by Bruce Laviolette
I am an ISO 9001 practitioner and implement that standard in organizations. I am also very enthused by C3. I believe in its concepts and fully recognize that C3 is implemented in organizations as a stand-alone system. My purpose in this Chapter is to discuss the interface of these two systems. Since this is a chapter on ISO 9001, I chose to look at how C3 can support ISO 9001.
The heart and the brain work in tandem. The heart beats to a regular and predictable rhythm sustaining life by delivering oxygen, nutrients, and fuel wherever needed within the entire system. The brain orchestrates movement that propels the entire body to take direction, compensate for uneven terrain, consume calories, and perform the endless series of tasks and motions that accompany life. A nurtured heart will beat efficiently and effectively, maintaining the system and thereby feeding the health of the brain. A brain attuned to the needs of the body will make choices that benefit the system and support the life span of the heart. These powers of a healthy body are what C3 and ISO 9001 bring to an organization.
Dr. Bruce Laviolette
ISO 9001 Expert and Adjunct Professor, New Bern, North Carolina
ISO 9001:2015 (ISO 9001) is arguably the world’s most used management system standard. ISO 9001 is a standard specifically designed for a quality management system (QMS). Its precise title is “Quality Management Systems—Requirements.” The parent organization of the ISO 9001 Standard is the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) in Geneva, Switzerland. ISO 9001 applies only to a QMS and is only one of thousands of internationally accepted standards that ISO has published. It is currently the world’s most required registration to demonstrate maintenance of a QMS that assures adherence to quality requirements for customers. It is used heavily in the supply-chain world of manufacturing.
The United States DOD MIL-Q-9858 standard and the British standard BS5179 are the roots of ISO 9001. Today ISO 9001 is applied to all types of businesses, government, educational institutions, the health-care industry, and nonprofit organizations, with over a million organizations maintaining the ISO 9001 Registration. At the very foundation of consideration, a primary difference between C3 and ISO 9001 is that C3 is not a QMS. ISO 9001’s primary focus is quality management, while C3 distinguishes itself by providing a system of cultural change that ensures an organization’s strategy aligns customer priorities with the design of its products and services and its day-to-day operations. The portfolio of ISO quality management standards has two kinds of quality management.
The portfolio of ISO quality management standards has two kinds of quality management standards: requirements and guidelines. Together these two kinds of quality standards make up what is known as the ISO portfolio of quality management standards. Requirements are the formal expectations that an organization must meet if it wishes to be officially certified or registered. ISO 9001 is compulsory. ISO’s current quality guidelines include ISO 9000 2015, ISO 9004 2009, and ISO 19011. They are supportive in nature and are not compulsory. Together they provide a QMS on adrenaline!
The first publication of the ISO 9001 standard was in 1987. The first revision followed in 1994. The standard has been revised numerous times since then, and the current version is ISO 9001:2015. Current users of ISO 9001 must update their systems to the ISO 9001:2015 version by September 2018. New revisions designed to address the changing needs of the users are loosely scheduled for publication every seven years. Teams of quality experts from nearly two hundred countries recommend and select the included changes for the next publication. This process brings me to a distinction between ISO 9001 and C3. The ISO 9001 is a system that is largely a compromise among those members who contribute to it. Even the wording is often a compromise, since the standard must be translated into about 150 languages and mean the same in all of them.
C3 is the well-conceived creation of Mr. Lawton, and revisions occur as he develops the system over time. As regards the changes to ISO 9001, I fear that supply-chain management represented by mid- to large-sized manufacturers often have more influence on the ISO 9001 system than smaller organizations. That could skew the future changes. As it stands now, I believe it can be applied to any organization, large or small, as intended by ISO.
ISO 9001 purports to align itself closely with the concepts of TQM. Strangely though, Dr. Edwards Deming, the father of TQM, never recognized ISO 9001 nor other systems or awards as a system that followed his philosophies and principles. Those systems did not embrace Dr. Deming’s fourteen points of management or meet the needs of the Deming philosophy. ISO 9001 has changed significantly since that time. However, knowing Dr. Deming as I did, I feel it is likely that he would not change his mind even today. Nevertheless, there is much association with TQM by many systems. C3 was not around during Dr. Deming’s lifetime, so of course, there were no Deming comments regarding C3.
By design, the ISO 9001 standard is descriptive in nature and does not prescribe solutions or methods of application. ISO 9001 recognizes that every organization operates in a different fashion. All organizations have different environments and core competencies that they feel are related to addressing their challenges. So the tools that support implementation are not specified, though ISO does provide some complementary noncompulsory support documents for ISO 9001. The decision for appropriate implementation tool selection is left solely up to the individual organization’s leadership. The basic concept is that the organization should identify which method of implementation would best benefit its needs. In my experience, that is where the responsibility should reside, but improper tool selection might hamper the ISO 9001 implementation process.
Contrasts between ISO 9001 and C3: One of the differences is between the general and descriptive nature of ISO 9001 and the fact C3 is highly prescriptive. C3 starts with the assumption that all organizations have customers and all producers must understand and align customer priorities with the organization’s strategic direction and practices. C3 does not suggest what must be done to satisfy customer priorities. It provides clear instruction on how to do that, from creating the strategic plan down through deployment at the line-work level. A specific road map and tools are provided to accomplish this, applicable to all organizations.
Comparison of ISO 9001 AND C3 Methodology
|Establish and/or improve the quality management system used by the enterprise to improve its success, minimize risk, and satisfy its customers
|Transform the culture of the enterprise, aligning strategic direction and operational practices to satisfy customer priorities and engage employees to excel
Create convergence of the VOL (intent and direction) with the VOC (expectations about outcomes, products, and processes) to guide excellence desired by both parties
|Achieve certification based on meeting ten criteria minimums, spelled out in numbered clauses
Satisfy customers internal and external to the enterprise
Principle application by industries that manufacture goods or process materials
|Achieve optimum performance throughout the enterprise as defined by 8DX
Satisfy the outcome, performance, and perception expectations of end users (primarily), brokers, and fixers for every product produced for use within or external to the enterprise
Outcome definition and measurement followed by product characterization and measurement, followed by process description and measurement, with all performance aimed at optimums driving innovation
Application to all knowledge-intensive enterprises, commercial, private, and nonprofit
Reduction or elimination of ambiguity in leadership practices regarding language, values, measures, power, assumptions, and modeling
|No prescription or methodology specified to enable the enterprise to satisfy certification criteria
Correction of deficiencies (things gone wrong)
Provides guidelines for a process-driven approach that seeks to manage or reduce risk
|Provides a specific road map and tools set to align strategic objectives, culture, measures, and daily work with customer priorities
Pursuit of aspirational objectives (ways to excel)
Requires all work to be defined as products, meeting five criteria
Requires definition of customer-desired outcomes first and then works backward from that purpose to product and process performance
|ISO-certified enterprise meets internationally agreed-upon standards
Third-party audits and identification of needed corrective actions tied to guidelines of a QMS to reduce enterprise risk
Creation of a continual improvement culture
|Verification of excellence directly linked to customer priorities for all products produced for external or internal use
Robust methodology relevant to all industries, especially knowledge-intensive organizations in fields such as government, nonprofits, education, health care, and other nonmanufacturers.
Scalable C3 system, applicable from the individual person to the largest of global enterprises
Creates organizational culture based on universal and articulated moral principles, deployed with emphasis on easy, rapid deployment
Process and risk management focus with special attention to correcting deficiencies
Assumed customer identification
Satisfaction assessment occurs after product delivery
|Customer-centered culture determined by the degree to which the organization practices a set of articulated principles and deployment practices
Desired-outcome focus with the recognition that its achievement reduces undesired outcomes and risk and the reduction of undesired outcomes does not assure desired outcomes are met, not that excellence is achieved
Customer identity unambiguously defined regarding the three roles they can play with specific products
Emphasis on leadership’s role to reduce ambiguity as it projects the VOL using six levers for transformation
Description of an easy-to-use, universally applicable method for uncovering, translating, and satisfying the VOC through design and innovation
Outcome, performance, and perception expectations uncovered before design and development
|Meeting standards’ practices is based on ten principles or clauses in the standard
Success requires active leadership
|Rapid and sustainable culture transformation directed by over sixty principles under the topics of leadership, product, customer, satisfaction, culture, measurement, innovation, and process
Success requires active leadership
Any organization can use the ISO 9001 standard and not seek registration. If not seeking registration, the organization is free to use the standard as desired. In this case, the organization may not claim ISO 9001 registration, and they must refrain from using the ISO 9001 designation in any organizational literature, communications, or product marketing. If the organization is seeking a registration, a certified third-party auditor must review the organization. Any errors in the implementation process identified by that third party auditor might result in failure to attain that coveted registration. Resolutions of those errors, meeting the satisfaction of the registration agency, must occur before final registration can occur. The successful completion of the ISO 9001 results in registration, which allows the organization to feature ISO 9001 in its marketing information and to claim itself as ISO 9001 registered. A final note is that an organization can freely decide to implement ISO 9001, although many organizations require ISO 9001 registration of suppliers and support organizations as a prerequisite to establishing a business relationship. There is no registration process for C3, and no third-party audit process oversees the C3 deployment. The structured understanding of customer wants provides the target to be hit. There is, however, a program of certification for C3 Masters of Excellence. So the focus is on individual competency of C3 practitioners. Any organization can choose to implement C3. The ISO 9001 registration purportedly guarantees the ability of an organization to meet customer needs, much the same as the successful attainment of a driver’s license implies satisfactory driving skills. Recognize that the driver can be dangerous even with a license.
This analogy brings us to another difference between C3 and ISO 9001. Consider the case of the driver’s license analogy. Think of the Indy 500 in this comparison. The skills and tools needed to win the Indy 500 are related but significantly different from the driver’s license requirements. An Indy driver who wins the race does not need a driver’s license. ISO 9001 and C3 would be in sync thus far. The intention of the C3 and ISO 9001 systems, if correctly used by the practitioner of the principles and practices, will win the
Indy 500. However, the difference lies with the checkered flag.
With C3, the customer always holds the checkered flag. With the ISO 9001 standard, the producer organization itself could hold the checkered flag. The organization could also choose to allow the customer to hold the flag. There is always a danger and added risk when the producer is the sole arbiter of who wins. This latter concept is an important distinction and provides a good reason to use C3 as a guiding light during the implementation process of ISO 9001. I would pose the question, “If you control the flag, do you control the race?” If the organization itself waves the flag, will it truly be the winner? Furthermore, is it possible for the organization to conclude it is the winner while its customers think otherwise? Those implementing C3 prevent such conflicts.
The ISO 9001 standard provides a road map to a QMS, which must align itself with the established strategic plan and direction of the organization. In the ISO 9001 system, objectives are established that enhance the strategic plan and ensure customer satisfaction. Also ISO 9001 is very concerned with meeting the needs and priorities of the customer, though often the organization strategy does not apply
to any customer. This is a very important point.
In comparison, C3 begins with the strategic plan. The existing strategic plan must be evaluated and modified if found to be inadequate, to ensure the organization heads in the right direction. C3’s 8DX provides the framework for that assessment, requiring the organization to articulate, measure, and set numerical improvement goals for desired outcomes wanted by both customers and the enterprise. The resulting strategic plan heavily engages leadership and customer requirements in the final development of the strategic plan. I like that! The effort regarding the strategic plan is an area where C3 gives a big boost to ISO 9001. After all, if the strategic plan is not right, how can the organization expect to head in the right direction?
The purpose of C3 is to change the culture of an organization to ensure alignment with customer priorities, which, contrary to popular belief, is not an easy undertaking. I have read and observed that most organizations believe customer priorities drive them. My experience has been that this belief is incorrect as most organizations place their own needs ahead of the customer’s. The truth is that they may have the best intentions, but best intentions frequently do not align with customer needs and priorities. By introducing C3 into the mix, the organization becomes customer-centered. That is where the ISO 9001 system desires to go, though no good method is provided.
C3 and ISO 9001 share the goal of customer satisfaction. ISO requires that customer satisfaction is measured and that customer perceptions be understood. Customer needs come first, but other stakeholder needs must also be considered. Further, ISO requires that customer complaints must be corrected appropriately. ISO 9001 requires that solutions be derived that prevent the recurrence of the complaint. C3 and ISO 9001 realize that no two customers are created equal and customers have different needs, priorities, roles, and behaviors.
ISO 9001 introduces the concept of recognizing that customers can be direct or indirect, anyone who receives value from the organization. A customer could be internal or external to the organization. The organization is expected and assumed to understand customers’ current and future needs and expectations. The organization’s goals and objectives must be linked to customer needs and expectations. Those customers’ needs and expectations must be clearly communicated throughout the organization. Customer needs and expectations must be used in all phases of planning, designing, development, production, delivery, and support of the products and services. The organization must measure and monitor customer satisfaction and take appropriate actions. Finally, ISO 9001 requires organizations to actively manage relationships with customers as a basis to achieve sustained success.
C3 agrees with those requirements but enhances those functions and considerations by eliminating ambiguity about the concept and identity of the customer. C3 provides that an organization should think regarding end user, broker, and fixer and should always first try to satisfy end user customers. Though ISO 9001 recognizes the many customers that exist at all levels, giving consideration to them all becomes very complicated while trying to meet their needs. ISO also recognizes that there are numerous interested parties related to any given product. C3, on the other hand, says that end users use the product to achieve the desired outcome. There is also a distinction made between brokers and fixers.
These distinctions are helpful while considering how to segment customers and prioritize customer importance. This C3 concept adds to ISO 9001 interpretation and would help any organization to overcome confusion caused by the misinterpretation of those roles. Every organization struggles with the competing interest of different customers. C3 provides the means by which those distinct customers and stakeholders, with their differing roles with a specific product and their differing interests, can be appropriately balanced.
C3 and ISO 9001 share the concepts of quality assurance that quality must be designed into a product or service. C3 and ISO 9001 agree that customer requirements should drive product, service, and process requirements. Both systems declare that organizations should have measures to ensure that products and services are meeting those requirements. The primary difference is that C3 starts the process with the customer. ISO 9001 begins by using the established strategy plan. In the C3 system, the focus is on desired outcomes for the customer from the onset. The C3 approach is a consideration that I believe should be used by all systems and would enhance any customer experience. Looking at customer satisfaction after the product is built is tantamount to asking the question “Is the road safe?” after the road is built, in use, and an accident has occurred. Certainly the question is important, and the accident that has occurred should be investigated, but waiting for a customer to satisfy action results is way too late. In C3, those are serious questions that are asked and resolved right up front. Customers are incorporated into the process from the very beginning. In the ISO 9001 world, those important questions should be asked when considering risk. However, the jury is still out on this and the effectiveness of ISO 9001 in this area. The C3 system has a means to ensure customer satisfaction before going into production. I like that certainty.
The ISO 9001 methodology emphasizes a process approach as the way to get to outcome focus. C3 uses a systems approach that starts with outcomes. I find that a systems approach is far more effective. Dr. Russell Ackoff, one of my personal mentors but, more importantly, a pioneer in systems theory thinking, advocated that systems thinking will open the door to more effective problem-solving techniques. Ackoff validated that a purposeful system is formed by linking work, people, and things and examining their social, cultural, and psychological implications. In a purposeful system, participants become dedicated to intentionally and collectively formulate objectives that are supportive of the larger system. They seek to achieve a specific ideal and objectives. In comparison with the process approach, the belief is that, when all individual processes operate well, the total system will operate well. In reality, however, that actually doesn’t work well. By using the systematic approach of C3, we can act more decisively and more effectively deal with the organization’s issues.
C3 and ISO 9001 understand the importance of leadership in meeting the commitments and needs of the customer. While this is a new change to the ISO 9001 standard, C3 takes it a step further. At its most elementary roots, C3 recognizes that an organization must assess itself through the lens of its customers. The use of the customer lens brings us to the importance of starting the C3 process by establishing strategic direction through the perspective of the customer. ISO 9001 does not do that. To be fair, ISO 9001 now recognizes that it is the leadership’s responsibility to set the course of the organization, and its strategy is of major concern. ISO 9001 drives this through the establishment of a quality policy, goals, and objectives. C3 clearly focuses on the strategy and various policies established with the expressed intent of addressing customer needs. The intention of the ISO 9001 standard is for those issues to be covered.
However, the school is still out since the standard is still very new and implementation is just starting. Not being more specific in the ISO 9001 clauses to ensure that leadership takes the lead in ensuring that core values are achieved could be a significant flaw. Some leaders will not lead unless required or compelled to do so. ISO 9001 provides that hammer if the leadership is not demonstrating it is using ISO 9001. Understand though that most organizations work in cooperation with the registrar and find comments from the registrar as valuable. So, as the registrar observes that the leadership is not an effective partner in the process, nonconformances will be identified. C3, in contrast, uses an entirely different mechanism to entice, not coerce, leaders to lead.
Perhaps a contrast, in this respect, is compliance versus aspiration. Both have their place, but they are clearly different. ISO 9001 requires that the leadership enhance customer satisfaction by identifying and addressing risks and opportunities that may impact customers and satisfaction. No direction or details are offered for how to do this, nor which essentials must be included to carry out that responsibility. C3 provides a highly articulated approach, insisting that outcome definition is the most important customer expectation to determine before beginning anything. It is the leadership’s responsibility to ensure these outcomes are identified, and here again, C3 will strengthen the ISO 9001 QMS and provide direction. Identifying customer outcomes is a distinctive characteristic of a true leader. I recall a company with whom I worked that had not sold a product in years. Workers were being laid off, and resources were being drained. Leadership blamed the economy, yet competitors were selling the product. They were quick to let me know that they knew how to run the business. As I observed the operations, I found numerous operational problems were ignored. Leadership perceived that these problems were inconsequential. Hundreds of customer complaints were unanswered. The company was a cutting-edge manufacturer in the field, and the leaders thought they knew what customers needed. Therefore it was not necessary to respond to errant customers. Besides, there wasn’t enough time.
Is this a demonstration of leadership? These leadership “Vital Lies” made the leadership feel good, which was the only value the lies served. In the end, the customers, the employees, and the owners were hurt. The leadership of the organization could not perceive the Vital Lies that seemed to soothe their wounds. These lies, though not maliciously applied, resulted in a series of poor decisions and misdirections. The self-deceptions were very costly and became a permanent part of the culture. Those Vital Lies set the tone for the future.
A properly implemented QMS would tend to pick this circumstance apart through detection of the individual problems. However, each of those problems is merely a symptom. Though correcting the symptom will help, the problem will not be cured. Only by thoughtful use of C3 can the organization come to understand their Vital Lies and hope to save the business. Vital lies is an area of supreme importance, and every company needs to address those. Recognizing the organization’s Vital Lies and dealing with them is critical for an effective QMS.
Leadership must ensure that the organization is perfectly suited to do what is required of it. That is, the organization should be aligned with the outcomes that best support the customer needs. Of course,understand that this is where Vital Lies come into play, as an organization is perfectly suited to do precisely what that organization is currently doing. Meeting customer needs and doing what the organization does best are two very different situations. The burden of success lies clearly and firmly on the shoulders of the leadership and cannot be placed anywhere else. Though the individual efforts are often delegated, the responsibility for ensuring proper functioning of the organization remains with top leadership. C3 clearly stresses the importance of that formula, and there is great effort to drive out what I will call “leadership ambiguity” within the system by proper use of the C3 instruments. C3’s focus on and methods for strengthening what Lawton refers to as the VOL makes a significant contribution to ISO 9001, capable of producing a healthy and vigorous organization that ensures a customer remains or becomes enthusiastic.
Though the intention of the standard is to create an organization that fully supports the customer, organization operational policies often do not represent those needs in spite of best efforts. Here is where Mark Twain’s statement, “It’s not what we don’t know that gets us into trouble. It’s what we know for sure that just ain’t so” becomes so enlightening. Organizations develop these various policies in isolation from customer involvement, using their best efforts. As Dr. Edwards Deming said, “We are being ruined by best efforts.” Mr. Lawton suggests it is necessary to have a customer satisfaction policy. The ISO 9001 quality policy is intended to ensure customer satisfaction, though in practice it may not. Remember, in the ISO 9001 world these policies are often determined in isolation by the producer through best efforts. The C3 insistence that additional policies are needed is supported by observable fact.
Planning is a major focus within the ISO 9001 standard and C3. Planning, in general, should be thought of like the big P: planning of product, planning of production, planning of delivery, planning of customer satisfaction, planning of support after sales, and planning of all points in between those vital planning areas. Both risks and opportunities should be identified and planned. From an ISO 9001 perspective, planning should ensure that an organization focuses its energy on matters that impact quality and customer satisfaction. Successful planning ensures that stakeholders of the organization are working toward the same goals, to assess and adjust the organization’s direction in response to changing environments. The outcome of planning should produce decisions and actions that shape and guide the organization’s future. Planning will define what an organization does and why it does it. Planning should be effective and bring value to the system and customers, and good planning will keep the organization relevant. Who can argue with that? These are concepts that ISO 9001 and C3 share.
C3 provides specific methods to ensure thorough planning. While ISO 9001 requires good planning and points to the use of PDCA, it does not specify what or how. Few would argue with the importance of planning. The complication comes in the execution. Most ISO 9001 organizations that I work with spend a great deal of time planning. As I observe an organization’s planning, I always ask, “Are the right things being planned?” The answer is, sadly, not always yes! To be sure, most organizations are using their best efforts. You can understand the problems that best efforts can bring.
My wife and I like to travel. When we decide to go on a trip, we determine where we want to go, our mode of transportation, and budget. Typically that results in a road trip to a specific location. A good map or a GPS are very beneficial in defining the route we must take. Thanks to these technological advancements, we are normally very successful in arriving at our travel spot. On the other hand, had we not determined our desired outcome in the first place, any route would have gotten us there. My concern is that organizations approach planning in a similar fashion, without identifying where they want to go. Often planning begins with what they know or perceive, which might not be the desired destination. If organizations do not know where they want to go, then it is simple. Any road will get them there.
C3 and ISO 9001 agree that organizations must make continuous improvements to its products, services, and processes. C3 names those improvements as “breakthrough improvements.” This is the intention of the ISO 9001 concept of continual improvement. C3 refers to this as the pursuit of excellence. Both systems recognize the necessity that going beyond what is required is imperative. ISO 9001 implies it, but C3 is explicit. For example, C3 meaningfully advocates that organizations should strive to significantly reduce time in its processes by as much as 80 percent. The ISO 9001 model strives to reduce process variability, cost, and defects, and time can be a part of that. C3 adds time to that mix. Time is a universal customer requirement that is often overlooked. The idea of time is a C3 distinction.
ISO 9001 requires that an organization determine and identify opportunities for improvement by actively soliciting opportunities to improve processes, products, and services and through the scrutiny of the QMS and its customer evaluations, complaints, and suggestions. Nonconformities—including those arising from customer, government, and stakeholder complaints; faulty production or execution of processes; or negative internal audit findings—require actions to deal with the consequences and prevent recurrence.
Often these actions are taken in isolation, solely from the producer’s view. The proper execution of corrective actions are another point in the system where C3 can ensure that the nonconformances are properly corrected. Further, C3 provides the system and methods that ensure that corrective and continual improvement actions remain connected to the customer. Remaining connected to the customer is a point that cannot be overstated.
C3 and ISO 9001 emphasize that all areas of the organization should be understood, managed, and properly aligned to assure the greatest value for customers. Each part of the organization should be cognizant of its impact on the entire organization and the customers’ needs. Dr. Ackoff observed that a system is more than the sum of its parts; it is an indivisible whole. It loses its essential properties when it is taken apart. The elements of a system may themselves be systems, and every system may be part of a larger system.
ISO 9001 and C3 share the intent of enterprise success. Among the ways the approaches differ is in how they define success and seek to achieve it. While it is true that any enterprise could use the standard, only about 15 to 20 percent of the registered companies are service-type organizations. Today there are approximately five thousand hospitals; schools; local, state, and federal government; and nonprofit organizations that are ISO 9001 registered in the United States. There are another six thousand companies related to the logistics industry, including trucking, shipping, warehousing, transportation, and wholesale providers.
The fact that there are fewer service organizations registered to ISO 9001 is greatly attributed to the fact that the original standard was derived from a manufacturing standard and therefore was more difficult to apply in a service environment. A service provided by a service organization was considered the product of the organization. This language proved to be a difficult concept to understand. The last several revisions have worked to make the language more appropriate for service organizations, but the ISO 9001:2015 version was in part rewritten to ensure inclusion of service organization needs. The jury is still out as to whether efforts in this version to make services more inclusive will be successful. On the other hand, more than half of all C3 users are made up of nonmanufacturers. There is no question that the C3 focus is on customers and the redefinition of all work as products that meet five specific criteria. Without a product, there can be no customer. There is no service to be addressed because C3 specifically identifies this as an ambiguous term that cannot be meaningfully defined.
ISO 9001 and C3 agree that the goal is to satisfy customer requirements. Customer requirements are often assumed to be stated specifically and completely. This assumption typically is not the reality. C3 makes a reverse assumption. Customer-defined excellence is hidden, and it is the duty of the producer to uncover the customer’s definition of excellence along four dimensions (the global view) and along three classes of characteristics at the product level. This assumption necessitates the use of divergent thinking,
in addition to convergent thinking focused on outcomes and aspirations. C3 assumes it is necessary but insufficient to hit the customer’s voluntarily stated target. ISO 9001 requires that the organization determine and satisfy customer requirements, but the method of determining that important information is left up to leadership. We must also hit the target not stated, and that is usually of equal or greater importance.
A C3 requirement that ISO 9001 doesn’t address is the fundamental concept that there is a difference between being producer-focused and being customer-focused. This difference is a significant point and, I believe, of great value. The consideration of the differences between producer-focused and customer -focused is one of those issues that I believe is intended between the lines in ISO 9001 but gets lost in the process approach.
A significant consideration that ISO 9001 brings to the table in its latest version is the requirement for risk-based thinking, something we all do automatically in everyday life. For example, when I start my electric lawnmower, I look to make sure my toes are not under the mower body. I do not desire to suffer the potential consequences. ISO 9001 requires the use of risk-based thinking in all aspects of the system. Risk-based thinking establishes a systematic approach to considering risk rather than treating prevention as a separate component of a QMS, as was the case in previous versions of the standard.
From an ISO 9001 perspective, risk-based thinking is essential for achieving an effective QMS. The risk is inherent in all aspects of a QMS. There are risks in all systems, processes, and functions. Risk-based thinking ensures these risks are identified, considered, and controlled throughout the design and use of the QMS. Though the concept of risk-based thinking has been unspoken in previous editions, it had some basis within the system through processes such as carrying out preventive actions to eliminate potential nonconformities, analyzing nonconformities, and taking action to prevent recurrence ofmcustomer complaints and other effects of nonconformities.
An organization needs to plan and implement actions to address risks and opportunities. The addressing of risk is an area that does not receive specific attention from within C3, yet I would suggest that any properly implemented C3 system reduces risk. For example, is risk reduced when an organization understands what matters most to customers and has achieved their satisfaction? Absolutely. C3 assumes that achieving desired outcomes means the organization automatically reduces or eliminates undesired outcomes. The reverse is not true. Just reducing undesired outcomes does not assure desired outcomes have been achieved. This focus on the positive is one of C3’s hallmarks and differentiators.
ISO 9001 includes requirements for monitoring, measurement, analysis, and evaluation. Organizations must consider what needs to be measured, which methods need to be employed, when data should be analyzed and reported on, and at what intervals it should happen. Performance evaluation includes all work processes, technical and operational systems, organizational activities that can affect quality in any way, and the QMS. ISO 9001 requires that organizations must actively seek out and analyze information on customer perception. An organization is required to ensure improvement occurs on customer perceptions. ISO 9001 does not provide the method to accomplish any of this. That decision is left to leadership to determine. C3 provides a highly accessible and robust means to capture and deal with those perceptions.
Internal audits and management reviews must be conducted. The audits must be conducted in a manner such that no part of the organization is auditing itself. The standard requires correction of any deficiencies identified during those audits. The correction of audit findings provides an avenue to ensure that there is continued concentration on the requirements of the standard. The registrar reviews the audits during its annual review to ensure they are properly conducted and that appropriate actions are being taken to correct the findings. Audits are expected to evaluate performance in the context of the customer or customer perspective. Auditing performance regarding dealing with customer perspective is new to the standard, so it is not clear how this will be accomplished. However, this is an area where C3 offers exceedingly powerful tools to aid and ensure performance.
C3 is an excellent system that does offer many benefits, as you have learned, and is very worthy of implementation within any organization. It is a stand-alone system, but it can be applied along with numerous other systems. An organization will benefit greatly by applying the concepts of C3 either with or without ISO 9001. As regards to ISO 9001 specifically, I fully support the implementation of C3 in any organization that has already applied ISO 9001. C3 will add new dimensions to any ISO 9001 system. A system that is not fully implemented is not the system that was intended by its originators. So when you choose to implement a system, in this case ISO 9001 or C3, one cannot cherry-pick parts of the system and still have the system. Doing it all is doing it properly. Cherry-picking might be appropriate if you are looking for auto parts in a junkyard. However, what happens when data in a survey is cherry-picked? The data’s resulting integrity becomes questionable, and the resulting report becomes skewed and valueless other than to mislead. What happens when a doctor cherry-picks patients based on the ability to pay?
Some form and level of human suffering will result. Certainly, the Hippocratic Oath might be violated. What would happen if the telephone company cherry-picked who you are allowed to call? Individual rights would certainly be violated. You as the customer could not conduct your business as needed. Each of these scenarios results in very serious problems that impact the customers when one chooses or neglects aspects of either of these systems. Partial implementation of a system, though some gain might be realized, will result in something other than the system had intended. Serious problems will result, and customers will be adversely impacted. Especially in the case of ISO 9001, partial implementation could create considerable chaos. In the case of C3, partial implementation of its important features will produce something less than C3.
I would be less than honest if I did not state that, if not properly implemented, ISO 9001 will not bring its potential improvement and positive change to the organization, product, or customer. I believe strongly in the value of a properly implemented ISO 9001 system. In my mind, the term “properly implemented ISO 9001 system” is a very different scenario than a system acquired from a minimally applied use of the standard. Proper implementation requires that the implementer goes beyond the written words of the standard. C3 is one of those systems that I strongly recommend for that support. Other methods are very helpful for specific aspects of the organization’s systems such as TOC, 5S, Six Sigma, calibration management systems, Lean, and so forth.
Customers expect and deserve a higher level of quality than ever before. All of this demand is at a time when resources are being stretched, competition is escalating, technology is changing at a rapid pace, and the business world is changing daily. Companies that meet those challenges will be the winners.
Many executives will step up and say they believe providing quality products will secure loyal customers. They say that loyal customers are a key to business success. But what are those executives doing about it? Some will point to their monthly newsletter, perhaps a discount program, or the eight hours of customer-support training the employees had to demonstrate their efforts. I wish the answer were so simple, but those responses are not the needed ones.
The abyss between minimally satisfied and completely satisfied customers grows ever deeper and can totally overcome a business. The complexity of today’s world requires significant support that can help an organization survive and thrive. ISO 9001 is a QMS that an organization strategically selects to deliver that assistance. ISO 9001 helps improve an organization’s overall performance and provides a sound basis for sustainable development initiatives. Organizations that apply ISO 9001 develop the ability to consistently provide products and services that meet customer and legal and regulatory requirements.
The ISO 9001 standard is intended to enable opportunities to enhance customer satisfaction and address risks. Finally, ISO 9001 increases the ability to demonstrate conformity to specified quality requirements.
C3 transforms an organization’s culture to focus on customer needs and requirements at every level. Transformation for the customer is a key that will unlock the door to today’s true success. After all, an organization earns very little from its past. A lasting organization is only as good as it makes of itself in the future. C3 and ISO 9001 can be major contributors to that future!