Blog: Monday, 26 January 2015

More than one million businesses worldwide are ISO 9001 certified. ISO 9001 helps businesses to better serve their customers and simultaneously comply with product-related regulatory requirements. But does the standard live up to its expectations? Is it really worth investing time and money in an ISO 9001-based quality management system and its certification? New research by PhD candidate Başak Manders of Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University (RSM) reveals there is no one-size-fits-all implementation of the system for all companies – and in some sectors and countries companies will experience fewer increases of marketing and operational benefits than they were hoping for.

In her dissertation Implementation and Impact of ISO 9001, RSM’s PhD candidate Başak Manders examines the effectiveness of ISO 9001 adoption from its creation in 1987. Literature provides mixed results regarding the operational and market benefits of ISO 9001 adoption. Manders confirms that national differences, such as culture and level of economic development, have an impact on the effectiveness of ISO 9001 adoption, and reveals further predictive variables at both the organisational and employee level.
 

Standards per country

According to Manders’ research, developing countries are likely to gain higher operational performance improvements from ISO 9001. Implementing ISO 9001 helps firms in developing countries develop more sophisticated approaches to quality management. This in turn has an impact on operational performance. Also, societies that have higher institutional collectivism and performance orientation cultures, and those with lower power distance and future orientation cultures, gain more performance benefits.

So should there be one standard worldwide? The International Organization for Standardization might consider whether to adapt aspects of the standard to different cultures. However, each country has its own need and having different versions of the standard per country would mean that ISO 9001 is not a unique, international standard anymore. So a more feasible alternative is for consultants to help companies to create the best possible cultural environment for ISO 9001 implementation. In other words, ISO 9001 consultants should be aware of the national cultures manifesting in a company and help to implement ISO 9001 based on cultural conditions.


Long-term performance benefits

Manders also shows that initially the impact of the ISO 9001 system might not be positive, but most companies manage to reap benefits over the medium to long term. These benefits arise from the signal the certificate provides in the market and from operational benefits generated by the quality management system itself. Manders’ research also shows that some national, organisational and behavioural factors affect the benefits gained from ISO 9001.


Different per company

The research also reveals that manufacturing companies benefit more than service companies, and large companies benefit more than small and medium-sized companies. The benefits from the system itself might depend on the motivation to implement. Manders’ research discusses that companies with an intrinsic motivation strive to develop an effective quality system instead of just getting a certificate, and are therefore more likely to correctly implement the standard and gain more benefits. The system’s benefits depend on managerial commitment and support. Managers should follow practices related to their ISO-9001-based quality management system, teach employees to trust the system, and provide the necessary resources to support employees in using the quality management system.

Manders’ research also discusses that companies might have systems that really meet the standard’s requirements, more rigid systems, superficial systems, or a combination of these extremes. Auditors must be aware of this situation and identify companies that do not have an established quality management system. She also discusses that even if companies want to have a good working system, some employees may not jump on the bandwagon. Consultants should pay attention to employee involvement when helping companies to implement ISO 9001. Certification bodies should also pay attention to employee involvement and make sure that the employees are using the quality management system. Auditors should not only audit employees chosen by the company to be audited, but should also audit people who might not be involved in ISO 9001 directly. 

Başak Manders will defend her dissertation in the Senate Hall at Erasmus University Rotterdam on Friday, 30 January 2015 at 9:30. Her supervisor is Professor Dr Knut Blind and her co-supervisor is Dr Ir Henk de Vries. Other members of the Doctoral Committee are Dr Daan Stam (Erasmus Research Institute of Management), Professor Dr Kevin Linderman (Carlson School of Management), and Professor Dr Mohan Tatikonda (Kelley School of Business).

Dr. Basak Manders

Group Leader

Vanderlande

Prof. Knut Blind

Senior Researcher

Fraunhofer ISI

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