ISO 9001:2015 Organisational Context

The word is that ISO 9001:2015 will make an attempt (by way of some front end guidance or a normative reference) to emphasise that the management system should take account of ORGANISATIONAL CONTEXT – but what does that mean?

Well, it means that the management system should be fit for purpose. Fair enough you might think, but why the need to emphasise something so obvious? Because many aren’t, is the short answer to that. Many documented management systems consist of cut and paste policies, cut and paste procedures and, frankly, are anything but fit for purpose. Auditors should be picking this up, of course, but the sad fact is that for some auditors, unless something is explicitly spelled out as a requirement, they will not go near it. The implied general requirements and intents that are summarised in clause 4.1 for example, are often roundly ignored.

Anyway, if the next revision is indeed going to make a greater attempt to reduce the incidence of these cut and paste, off the shelf management systems, what words will be used to hammer this home? What words will put a stop to this particular bad practice?

Anyone who has been involved contributing to standards review will know that there is hardly a word that cannot mean at least two things, and as soon as you try to develop a combination of words, you multiply the chances of multiple interpretations considerably. For a clue as to how this COULD pan out we could take a look at the recently published PSC-1 standard, Like most specific management system standards (this one relates to the provision of private security) it is based on ISO 9001. PSC-1 actually includes REQUIREMENTS that the management system takes account of internal and external context.

It has to be a good thing that the attempt to outline the need to apply context, as it acknowledges the proliferation of a very common bad practice that often brings the discipline of quality management and assessment into disrepute, but what are the chances it will be dealt with effectively? The first step is getting the words right and reducing the chances of wriggle room, as those that want to wriggle will look for a way to do it

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2 Responses to “ISO 9001:2015 Organisational Context”


  1. Ashok Deobhakta says:

    Dear Mr. Shaun, You have initiated a very interesting debate. In my opinion, as long as ISO 9001 will continue to be certifiable standard-which it will- it will be difficult to avoid the cut and paste methodology for writing policies and procedures. If the present methodology of presenting a standard, particularly for certification purposes, is changed, some improvement is possible. The requirements in the standard are already spelt-best understood by those who have developed it. What is the harm if the intent of the writers' are also spelt out? We don't get this feeling while we read the criteria for Quality Awards. Yes, the standard would become bulky, but it will be still manageable. Immediate fall out will be: we can incorporate ISO 9004, within the new ISO 9001. The present ISO 9004 can be peacefully withdrawn.

  2. Shaun says:

    I find it infuriating, Ashok. You'll notice the ridiculous arguments you get about interpretations of, say, Design, or Process Validation or Process Measurement. These arguments just go round and round as it's all just a matter of opinion now. Before 2009 we could always say "let's check 9004 and see if that helps" and often it did! Now it's a totally pointless, self indulgent and expensive document.

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