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Certification Is Not the Most Important Aspect of ISO

· 6 min read
Israel Munguia

In a previous article, I highlighted all the advantages of implementing a quality management system based on the ISO 9001 standard. However, it surprises me to see how many companies settle for meeting the minimum requirements to maintain a valid certification.

I am convinced that certification should not be the primary concern for your company, and below you will understand why.

In many cases, companies implement a quality management system only because a customer or an institution requires certification to maintain or initiate a contractual relationship. For example, a customer may require the company to be certified to continue as their supplier.

The problem with these companies is that they view certification as a means to continue selling to the customer or to enter a market that demands such certification. The mistake is not expanding their perspective and realizing what the customer really seeks when requesting certification. The customer is not interested only in the "piece of paper" that certifies but in the company's development as a supplier, improvement in deliveries, better service, and increased efficiency. Therefore, the right way to perceive a customer's certification request is to consider it as an opportunity for business growth.


Don't get me wrong; certification is undoubtedly essential for any company. In fact, I always recommend seeking it as much as possible because it validates that the quality management system complies with the established requirements. However, it is crucial to understand that certification is only a validation of compliance with the quality management system. It does not guarantee your company's success.

Now that you understand the context, here are my recommendations.

The ISO 9001 standard sets several requirements that you must meet, but it does not tell you how to achieve them. This is where my recommendation lies: instead of settling for the minimum necessary to meet these requirements, look for advanced tools that allow you to apply and leverage the value that each concept of the standard intends to convey.

Let's take quality objectives as an example. It is very common to find companies with two or three almost generic quality objectives, with the sole intention of meeting the standard's requirement.


Rather than just meeting the requirement, why not define strategic objectives? Based on strategic planning, set short, medium, and long-term objectives for your company, not only focusing on customer satisfaction, supporting continuous improvement, and quality but also providing real value to your company.

This way, the quality management system will work in your favor, providing you with results in the short, medium, and long term. When your company reaches the desired levels through proper planning, you will realize the true value of your quality management system.

The Lifecycle of a Quality Management System

Generally, all companies have to go through three clear stages in the lifecycle of their quality management system:

1. The first stage I call "Implementation and Adaptation":

In this stage, everything is new, and usually, everything is done in a basic way because the company is just getting used to working with the requirements of the quality management system. It is most common for companies to seek certification during this stage because they have gone through a design and implementation process, and when they are somewhat accustomed and have everything implemented, they seek certification. However, they are still in the adaptation stage. I believe this stage should not last more than two years in any company. Of course, it can vary depending on various factors, but two years is enough time for any company to move on to the next stage.

2. The second stage I call "The Mastery":

After those two years of the previous stage, in this stage, companies already master their quality management system. There are no compliance issues anymore; during this stage, there are no common situations where some people did not follow the procedures, or we forgot to comply with something that was a standard requirement. In fact, at a certain point during this stage, the quality management system no longer poses a challenge for the company because the level of mastery is complete, and all requirements are being met automatically. Depending on the speed of response or the eagerness of the company to seek something more, this stage could last one or two years. The danger of this stage is that there is a strong temptation to stay as they are because things are already comfortable, and results are being achieved. However, as the quality management system no longer represents a significant challenge in many cases, companies tend to remain in their comfort zone. Therefore, I recommend moving to the next stage as soon as possible.

3. The last stage is "Growth":

Here, the company enters a dynamic of growth and continuous improvement. Process owners seek and apply tools to evolve their processes continuously, strategic indicators are defined to provide greater value for decision-making, and short, medium, and long-term planning for the company's future is carried out. Products, services, and value-added to customers are evolved. Understanding that offering quality is not an added value nowadays; quality should be taken for granted, so any company that aims to differentiate itself from its competition solely on the basis of quality is seriously mistaken. Products and services must be continually evolved to stay in trend and provide the added value that allows us to be the best option in the market.

If you understand the lifecycle in stages, it should be clear that the level of adaptation of your quality management system depends on the stage your company is in. However, you should be concerned if, for example, more than four years have passed, and your quality management system still behaves as if you were in the implementation and adaptation stage, facing difficulties in meeting standard requirements or having problems during audits due to non-compliance with procedures by individuals or in certain processes.

In future posts, I will share some recommendations to help you move from one stage to another and reach the growth stage as quickly as possible, which is where all companies should be once they have their quality management system implemented.