ISO 9001:2015 Explained: Demonstrating Leadership

A major change from ISO 9001:2008 set to appear in the ISO 9001:2015 revision is that ‘Management Commitment’ will be replaced with  ‘Leadership and Commitment’. For most organisations who already demonstrate effective leadership, this should come naturally. However, in organisations where Management may have viewed Quality as the sole responsibility of the Quality department, some feathers may be ruffled.

Leadership and Commitment aims to ensure Management are actively ‘taking accountability of the effectiveness of the organisation’s QMS’ and promoting a culture of quality throughout their organisation. So how exactly does Management go about demonstrating Leadership under ISO 9001:2015?

ISO 9001:2015 Revision


Understand The Context of Your Organisation

As stated in ISO/DIS 9001:2014, Top Management must demonstrate Leadership and Commitment with respect to the quality system by ‘ensuring that the quality policy and quality objectives are established for the quality management system and are compatible with the strategic direction and the Context of the Organization.’

Context of the Organisation becomes an important consideration and helps to ensure that the management system is designed and suitably adapted for a specific organisation and not a ‘one size fits all’ approach. Before Management can demonstrate Leadership, they first must have a clear vision of their organisation’s strategic direction, objectives and culture. They also must consider how both internal and external issues can impact on the organisation’s strategic objectives and the planning of the QMS. Once context is understood, the QMS can be developed around the Context of the Organisation and Quality KPIs can be set.


ISO 9001:2015 revision


Consider Risk and Opportunities

An important aspect of Management showing commitment and demonstrating Leadership under ISO 9001:2015 is that they are able to demonstrate ‘Risk Based Thinking’. As stated in ISO/DIS 9001:2014, Top Management shall demonstrate Leadership and Commitment with respect to customer focus by ensuring that ‘customer requirements and applicable statutory and regulatory requirements are determined and met,’ and ‘the risks and opportunities that can affect conformity on products and services and the ability to enhance customer satisfaction and determined and addressed.’

Management must first determine the risks and opportunities in their organisation, analyse and prioritise risks and opportunities, then implement actions to address risk. Finally, they must check the effectiveness of these actions. Risks will be determined by looking at the Context of the Organisation and how they might affect the organisation’s strategic direction.

While Management will not necessary have to conduct a formal risk assessment or maintain a risk register under ISO 9001:2015, they will need to monitor, measure, analyse and evaluate the risks and opportunities. Again, the method employed will depend on the Context of the Organisation.


 Changes to ISO 9001:2015  

Track Quality Metrics

As stated in ISO/DIS 9001:2014, Top Management shall demonstrate Leadership and Commitment with respect to the quality management system by ‘taking accountability of the effectiveness of the organisation’s QMS’. Top Management will also assign responsibility for ‘reporting on the performance of quality management system, on opportunities for improvement and on the need for change and innovation’.

By defining quality metrics, Management encourage the Quality Department to report on essential KPIs and assist in determining improvements to the QMS. This covers both of the above clauses. Management make metrics visible and regularly review these in meetings and check-ins with the Quality team.

Many organisations are now utilising reporting software such as EQMS Dashboard to provide instant access to real-time management information.  With graphical widgets that display KPIs determined by Management, this enables Management to improve understanding and communication with all staff, improve GRC process efficiency and drive continuous performance improvement.

By playing such an active and informed role in the continual improvement of the QMS, Management can effectively demonstrate Leadership under ISO 900:2015.


EQMS Dashboard


Moving Forward

As Bill Aulet, managing director of the Martin Trust Center for MIT Entrepreneurship, argues, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” His thoughts are reflected in the objectives of the ISO 9001:2015 revision, encouraging Management to not only define strategy, but also drive the organisation forward by demonstrating true leadership.  

While Leadership was always an aspect of ISO 9001:2008, ISO 9001:2015 reinforces and highlights the value that effective leadership and commitment is essential for organisational growth. Great leaders provide a clear vision, inspiration and motivation and improve staff relations. ISO 9001:2015 will ensure Top Management steps forward and takes charge, instilling a culture of quality in their organisation.



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Topics: ISO 9001, GRC Leadership, Success Stories, Tools

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