29. Oct 2015

ISO 9001 Revision explained in simple terms


This section is not new as a requirement. As, however, it is presented as a Clause of its own, it has been upgraded, supplemented and extended. An organization shall ensure that employees that can make a contribution to the effectiveness of the quality management system (and whose failure to conform with the requirements can have implications) are aware of (bear in mind) what may “happen”, i.e. what impacts may be due to the fact that requirements are met badly or are not met at all. 

In a series of technical lectures, Quality Austria provides information on the revision of ISO 9001:2015. Each month, a key concept of the revision will be explained more profoundly. This month, Friedrich Smida, BA MA, explains the requirements relating to the topic of awareness and the way to implement them.

Requirements relating to the topic of “awareness”

Friedrich Smida, BA MA


In linguistic usage, the term of “awareness” has many different meanings, which are partly congruent with the meanings in terms of the psyche, soul and mind. Therefore, there also are very different definitions of awareness, which vary depending on the point of view. Following, please find the presentation of one of the definitions corresponding to the intent of the requirements of the Standard.

“Awareness is the state in which a person is aware of a thing and acts accordingly”. Being fully aware of his big responsibility, he took over the leadership of the project; making people aware of the consequences of forest dieback; being aware of = having a sense of, e.g. having a sense of duty, sense of guilt, sense of responsibility”. 1

Being aware of a thing and acting accordingly refers to the relevant persons doing work under the organization’s control. The organization has the task to make those persons think in order to become aware of their task and thus their possible contribution to the effectiveness of the quality management system, including the benefits of improved performance (become aware of what may possibly happen if nonconformities with requirements are put up with, no matter how minor they may be).

This way to act accordingly refers to the behaviour of employees. On the one hand, this behaviour needs to be checked (reviewed). On the other hand, people will have to be trained accordingly if reviews or other signs indicate that there are nonconformities with requirements.

Bringing about a stable behavioural change among an organization’s employees (or possibly a cultural change) is not always easy. This behavioural change, which may be necessary, can rarely be brought about by simply training a person in carrying out an activity. Only sitting in the classroom and listening will seldom be sufficient to bring about a behavioural change that may be necessary (“in one ear and out the other”). Therefore, it is important for the organization to steer the learning process as a process of a change of the way of acting, thinking or feeling based on experience or insights newly won, this change being relatively stable. Attitudes cannot simply be changed in one seminar. They often are deeply anchored because of people’s own experiences. Quite frequently they even mean personal patterns of success (example: You must be quick - this can be to the detriment of precision). It also is required to take the context of the organization into account. For translating new behavioural modes into action, employees need to be supported by their superiors, falling back into old behavioural patterns being quite normal (a person’s readiness to bear deficiencies is higher than that to abolish them).

In order to make it more probable that learning success accomplished at trainings can be maintained, the following principles developed by Dave Meier should be taken into consideration just as much as the principles of constructivist didactics, which have been used in teaching and learning psychology for many years2:


Learning encompasses body and mind as a whole.

Learning is not only a matter of the intellect but covers all the senses.


Learning is acting creatively, not consuming.

Learning is not “taking up something” but actively incorporating new things into the structure of one’s self. New correlations will be created.


You will learn by your own way of acting in a realistic context and based on feedback.

You will learn how to swim by swimming. You will rapidly forget learning without context.


The pictographic brain will take up information immediately and automatically.

What is pictographic will be grasped more rapidly and preserved better than abstract language.


Learning should be problem oriented.

While concrete and realistic tasks are being worked at, a “construction process” will be launched. Feedback about the consequences of one’s action will create experience (competence).

If the principles of modern learning, for which examples have been given, are taken into account, adequate measures helping to raise awareness of the contribution to quality performance or the implications of not conforming with the requirements can be taken.

Many of the tools and methods that can be used to raise awareness already exist within the organization. Often it will “only” be necessary to adequately involve the employees concerned.

Figure 1: Raising awareness by means of "learning"

By way of example, we would like to state the following method from quality management, which is well known.

Carrying out an FMEA (Failure Mode and Effects Analysis) by using risk analysis

In this respect, a concrete process or product will be looked at by a team in order to jointly identify the possible cause of a possible failure and the commensurate failure effect (what may happen) (when doing so, all the principles of modern didactics, which have been described above, will be used).

The measures taken to raise awareness should be planned on the basis of problems, new processes, incidents or the like and possibly laid down in the training plan.

1 The free dictionary: Definition "Bewusstseinsbildung" (raising awareness), internet address:de.thefreedictionary.com/Bewusstseinsbildung, inquired on July, 19, 2015.
2 cf. Weidenmann, B. (2011). pp. 16ff.


Friedrich Smida, BA MA
Network partner
Auditor, Trainer

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Ms. Dr. Anni Koubek

Executive Vice President Innovation, Business Development Certification Quality

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