About this time of year, a lot of us start thinking about setting some objectives for the new year. You know, losing weight, reading more, or quitting bad habits. Sometimes we achieve these objectives, and sometimes they are swept into the dustbin with the new year's eve confetti. What can we do to help us succeed on this quest for improvement? After all, if these objectives are important enough for us to articulate, surely they are worth working towards, as well. The new requirements for quality objectives in the ISO 9001:2015 standard are good advice not only for organizations, but for anyone seeking to set and achieve meaningful objectives in their personal life, as well.
The 2015 version of the ISO 9001 standard sets out requirements for quality objectives in section 6.2. This section of the standard is greatly expanded over the equivalent section of the 2008 version, section 5.4.1, with about twice as much to say about objectives. Let's take a look at the elements of section 6.2 to see how they might be applied to a common new year's resolution: losing weight.
Section 6.2.1 of the ISO 9001:2015 standard states that quality objectives shall be:
- consistent with the quality policy
- take into consideration the applicable requirements
- relevant to conformity of products and services and enhancement of customer satisfaction
- updated as appropriate
1. "Consistent with the quality policy". OK, if you're a normal human being, you probably don't have a quality policy. But, you probably do know what your personal values and priorities are. How does losing weight fit in with these? If you value family time, losing weight could mean having more energy to play with your children, or take up dancing with your spouse. On the other hand, going to the gym could mean spending less time with loved ones - so perhaps your weight loss plan could include going to the park with the kids and using the 7 minute workout on your smartphone. If you value spending time outdoors, you might choose walking, running or biking over a treadmill or rowing machine. The important thing here is to consider how to align your weight loss objectives with your values, and identify any plans that are in conflict with your priorities.
2. The second requirement, "measurable" is fairly self-evident: figure out how you will measure your progress, using numbers, towards your objective. Maybe it's weight, perhaps your waistline measurement, or a dress size.
3. "Take into consideration the applicable requirements" could mean considering the constraints in your personal life. Is it feasible to get to the gym 4 times a week if you have a full time job and quintuplets? Probably not. Is it reasonable to cut your calorie intake to less than 1200 calories per day if you are breastfeeding these quintuplets? Definitely not.
4. "Relevant to conformity of products and services and enhancement of customer satisfaction". What they are saying here is that you should determine how your objective is relevant to your daily activities, and to your customers. How will losing weight impact your daily activities? For example, you may need to consider how you will accommodate meal planning and grocery shopping into your daily schedule. Maybe you can fit in an extra 20 minutes for meal preparation every day, or maybe you can carve out an hour once per week. If you are suffering from lower back or knee pain, consider how losing weight might help with the situation. And we all have customers - our children, spouse, friends, coworkers and extended family who all want things from us, even if just our time. So it is important to consider how this objective will impact them, and your relationship with them. Will going to the gym cut into family time? Is that acceptable to you (and your family)? Will dieting mean you start skipping the muffin meeting at work? And how will your coworkers feel about that? These are all things to consider when setting your objective.
5. "Monitored" means keeping track of your progress using that handy measure you established in "measurable". There's nothing like stepping on the scale every week and tracking that number to keep you accountable to your goal. But sometimes, progress is slow and despite your efforts, that scale won't budge. So also keep track of the healthy things you are doing to achieve your objectives, like working out, eating more vegetables, and skipping dessert. When the going gets tough, you can look at all the small things you're doing to reach your goal, and feel confident you are on the right path.
6. "Communicated". My Fitness Pal likes to tell me that people who lose weight with friends are 50% more likely to acheive their weight loss goal than those who go it alone. So tell people. Enlist your friends' help. Sometimes all it takes is a friendly text asking how the diet is going to make you put down the Doritos.
7. "Updated as Appropriate" means you should re-evaluate your weight loss goal if circumstances change. An obvious example would be getting pregnant. But even then, you don't need to abandon your weight loss goal completely - perhaps you target a weight gain of 15 pounds rather than 25. Another example is losing your job and having to give up the gym membership or Jenny Craig plan. Again, it doesn't mean you have to give up - just re-evaluate and set a new path.
In part two, we'll take a look at section 6.2.2 - planning to acheive the quality objectives.