ISO 9001 Revision explained in simple terms
Knowledge of the Organization
It is with great suspense that the international ISO 9001 Community is awaiting the publication of FDIS of ISO 9001:2015. The revised texts already are at the translators’ so that nothing should be in the way of a publication in July. For organizations that already change over to the new Standard in autumn, the intensive phase of work will start: In what areas does the present procedure conform to the new Standard, where are there still deficits? For your support, Quality Austria offers “Status reviews of implementation of ISO 9001:2015”. These reviews are to help to assess the new requirements in a compact manner and to identify the areas where additional endeavours still are required. For those that would like to master the changeover to the new Standard without any stress, this is an ideal form of preparation.
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, Dr. Werner Schachner explains the requirements relating to the topic of “knowledge of the organization”.
Knowledge in ISO 9001
Dr. Werner Schachner
The high speed, dynamism and complexity of today’s business world cause knowledge to increasingly become a central competitive factor for organizations. This is also reflected in the development of ISO 9001. For the first time, adequate handling of knowledge is explicitly required for fulfilling ISO 9001:2015. This requirement is still another evidence of the fact that the ongoing change of our economic and social environment towards knowledge economy increasingly also is reflected in the behavioural modes, rules and now even standards of organizations.
The requirements ISO 9001 places on handling of knowledge concretely refer to “knowledge of the organization”. According to the Standard, this is the knowledge necessary for adequately carrying out the processes of the organization and guaranteeing conformity of the organization’s products and services.
According to ISO 9001, adequate handling of knowledge is not only required at a certain moment but, in particular, also over time. Organizations will have to consider requirements and trends changing in the course of time and adequately respond by means of their knowledge.
The Standard does not require the introduction of comprehensive knowledge management as a management discipline of its own. However, the comparison of the concrete requirements the new ISO places on handling of knowledge with those placed by the wide-spread model of knowledge modules acc. to Probst clearly shows that the requirements of the Standard cover a majority of the elements of comprehensive knowledge management:
The requirements for identifying the knowledgenecessary and determining the knowledgestock can clearly be allocated to the knowledge module of Probst’s knowledge identificationand, in the second case, partly also to the knowledge module of knowledge assessment. Basically these requirements refer to the following questions: “What knowledge is needed within/by the organization?” “What knowledge is available within the organization and/or accessible to the organization?”
In future, ISO requires organizations to be capable of closing knowledge gaps. This is congruent with the contents of Probst’s knowledge modules of knowledge acquisition and knowledge development. In order to meet this requirement, the questions to be answered by the organizations include the following questions: “How is knowledge existing within the organization built up and extended?” “What knowledge that is necessary and does not exist internally is obtained from outside how and where?”
The requirement for sufficiently imparting knowledgeclearly addresses the contents of Probst’s knowledge module of knowledge distribution. In this respect, the question “How do I get the required knowledge to the right point at the right time?” is in the centre of interest.
The fulfilment of the requirement for maintaining knowledge, which refers to Probst’s knowledge module knowledge preservation, makes it necessary to answer such questions as “How can I save the organization’s knowledge as well as possible?” “How can I prevent knowledge losses?” “How can I keep the organization’s knowledge stock updated?”
In view of the deliberations above, only three modules of knowledge management acc. to Probst are not addressed in Clause 7.1.6 of ISO 9001 or are only addressed rudimentally: knowledge goals, knowledge assessment and use of knowledge.
Even though setting of knowledge goals and use of knowledge are not explicitly mentioned as requirements in ISO 9001, measures in connection with these two topics will be absolutely necessary for successfully handling knowledge. Without knowledge goals, neither a clear alignment nor a measurement of success of handling knowledge will be possible. The same is true for the topic of use of knowledge: If knowledge were not used in a well-aimed manner, systematic handling of knowledge would completely miss its purpose as such.
Whoever will, in future, face the requirements ISO places on adequate handling of knowledge of the organization, should neither tackle this undertaking as a nonrecurring action nor as a project: Management of knowledge must be understood as being an autonomous management discipline. As a discipline that is a significant enabler and a central “tool” for all the other management disciplines within an organization.
Like in any other management discipline, the central prerequisites for guaranteeing success in handling of knowledge are detailed planning and a systematic procedure. For concrete implementation of the plans, there are many different methods and tools, (which frequently already are in use): knowledge maps, maps of sources of knowledge or knowledge carriers, knowledge café, analysis of the flow of information, knowledge portfolio, micro-article, project debriefing, lessons learned, knowledge platforms, semantic software systems and many more.
The great art in successfully handling knowledge consists in selecting the knowledge management methods and tools that best fit the respective situation and the special needs. Non-transparency of knowledge of an organization, knowledge lacking quite obviously, too high a share of implicit knowledge, knowledge that is not topical, too low a dissemination of knowledge within an organization, etc., can be triggers of the need for knowledge management measures. Depending on the central trigger and the commensurate needs, other knowledge management methods and tools will be suitable for covering the needs.