Warning: I know that other quality management professionals may say that there is a lot more to QMS’s than what I describe here. But I am all about simplicity, so this post does use simple, and I hope, accessible language to try and explain something that can be complex.
Let’s say you have to, or you choose to, comply to a set of standards. You read through the standards and then create a policy to address each indicator / clause / expected outcome, then procedures too, based on whatever process the management team thinks everyone follows. You put all of those into your network or
intranet, call it your quality management system, and you’re done! Right?! Ready for your external audit?
You’ve probably guessed that I’m already going to say an emphatic ‘no’.
Summing up what a quality management system is in a really simplistic way is difficult, but I’ll give it a go. It’s basically: the resources and the things you do to ensure that your (the organisation’s) objectives are met and that you continually improve what you’re doing. An extra for human services organisation: that you (the
organisation) deliver what you’re actually meant to deliver.
So as you can see from the above definition, a QMS is really not just about a set of documents. It’s about how everything is coordinated to produce a service. This is especially important for human services organisations to understand, because it’s about your human resources, your suppliers / contracted services,
equipment, how you work with your clients—all coming together to deliver a service that your clients will deem to be “quality”.
In order to coordinate all of those humans and tasks, it really helps to define what your processes are, and then to document them. Do you see how in the second paragraph the documentation came first? In reality, the documentation should be the product of management assessing risks and putting in place measures—most commonly done in the way of policies, procedures and forms—to ensure those risks are controlled. The organisation then has something to assess themselves against, and to help them improve.
The most popular “management systems certification” standards are the ISO 9001:2008. They’re about how your organisation organises everything in order to produce whatever it is you produce (including services). Standards like the Human Services Quality Framework are what is called “product certification” standards—basically they’re about how organisation deliver their services, and they are based on a continual improvement framework. While the HSQF and other standards like it don't specifically ask organisations to create a Quality Management System, a system is helpful in order to control, monitor and improve your activities.
If you need to set up a QMS and don't know where to start, don't despair. Start small by defining your core processes. A self-assessment may also help; there are usually self-assessment tools connected with the various human services quality standards in Australia, but if you need further help, please don't hesitate to send me an email.
Thanks for reading,
The Quality Nerd loves all things Quality Management and Internal Audit...too much is never enough!