Being clear about an organization’s purpose, context, strategic direction, policies and intentions is the first step toward effectiveness and positive results. Understanding and planning these fundamental subjects forms the basis for directed progress and success.

The quality policy (ISO 9001:2015 Ref 5.2 update) is one of several high-level planning topics for an organization:

Purpose: the fundamental reason an organization exists

Context: the internal and external issues that affect the company, and the parties involved

Strategic Direction: the desired path of progress for the organization as a whole

Quality Policy: a general statement of the organization’s commitment to quality

Quality Objectives: a desired, measurable result regarding quality

The quality policy is a statement made by top management which expresses their commitment to achieve quality as a result of the company’s operation. The quality policy is more than a slogan, it is the output of careful consideration of the organization’s purpose, context, strategic direction and the basis for quality objectives.

By developing, communicating and maintaining a documented quality policy, the organization is held accountable to achieve the expectations stated in the policy.

Third-party auditors will look for objective evidence that the policy is effectively communicated and implemented throughout the organization. It is common for an auditor to ask several employees to describe the company’s quality policy. While the response does not have to be a recitation of the policy, every employee must be able to 1) demonstrate an understanding of the policy and 2) explain how it applies to their day-to-day activities. Thus, any preparation plan for an ISO 9001 certification audit should include the quality policy and how it can be applied to each employee’s work.

Quality Policy Requirements

Top management must create, implement and document a quality policy that:

is appropriate to the purpose and context of the organization

supports the company’s strategic direction

is the basis for establishing quality objectives

includes a commitment to fulfill all applicable requirements

includes a commitment to continually improve the quality management system

The quality policy must be:

documented and available to all interested parties

understood and applied by employees

These requirements make it clear that it is the top management team of the company who must determine its quality policy. They have the knowledge of the subjects that must be taken into consideration during the development of the policy. Let’s look at an example.

Quality Policy Example

Review some very basic information about XYZ Products and then see how the quality policy reflects the purpose, context and strategic direction.

Purpose: manufacture precision products

Context: small workforce, new fierce competitors entering the market

Strategic Direction: maintain and expand market share and offer new, innovative products

XYZ Products Quality Policy
XYZ Products is committed to manufacturing cutting edge products of an extremely
high quality to our existing and growing customer base in an accurate and timely manner.
We satisfy all customer and ISO 9001:2015 requirements and continually improve
our processes to enhance customer satisfaction and loyalty.

Take a minute and trace the language from the policy to the information above it.

Can you see the connections?

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From the quality policy language, the quality objectives can be set. See the table below for some topics for quality objectives that would make sense for XYZ Products.

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The point of the quality policy is that it should be tailored to YOUR company, it should be a basis for YOUR quality objectives.

Quality Policy Review

Once your quality policy is created and released as a controlled document, it is not something you can check off your to do list and never return to it. As part of the quality management system, it must be reviewed for its continued suitability. This review commonly occurs during the management review meetings to ensure that it is still relevant for the organization’s current purpose, context and strategic direction. If there has been a significant change in those, then it is likely that the quality policy (and objectives) would need to change too.

A well-articulated, thoughtful and managed quality policy is one of the fundamental building blocks of an effective quality management system. It should incorporate your company’s purpose, intentions and be a driving force for setting your quality objectives.