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Understanding ISO

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Understanding ISO

General awareness or GK  is a must for cracking MBA entrance exams and for updating you on this MBARendezvous.com -India's content lead MBA website  has started series of articles to equip MBA aspirants with general awareness with the hope that you would get success in various MBA entrance exams

Following article on ”Understanding ISO" is part of our series on general awareness: 

ISO (International Organization for Standardization) is the world's largest developer and publisher of International Standards. ISO is a network of the national standards institutes of 163 countries, one member per country, with a Central Secretariat in Geneva, Switzerland, that coordinates the system. 
ISO enables a consensus to be reached on solutions that meet both the requirements of business and the broader needs of society. Since "International Organization for Standardization" would have different acronyms in different languages (like "IOS" in English, "OIN" in French for Organization internationale de normalisation), its founders decided to give it also a short, all-purpose name and chose "ISO", derived from the Greek word ‘isos’, meaning "equal". 
Whatever the country, whatever the language, the short form of the organization's name is always ISO. Standards are meant to ensure desirable characteristics of products and services such as quality, environmental friendliness, safety, reliability, efficiency and interchangeability - and at an economical cost.
ISO has developed over 19,000 International Standards on a variety of subjects and more than 1000 new ISO standards are published every year. They include ISO 9001 for quality management, ISO 14001 for environmental management system, ISO 27001 for information security system etc. 
The ISO 9000 family of standards represents an international consensus on good quality management practices. It consists of standards and guidelines relating to quality management systems and related supporting standards. ISO 9001 is the standard that provides a set of standardized requirements for a quality management system, regardless of what the user organization does, its size, or whether it is in the private, or public sector. The ISO 9001 standard provides a framework for taking a systematic approach to managing the organization's processes so that they consistently turn out the product that satisfies customers' expectations. 
Certification of ISO9001 standards requires two types of auditing to get registered to the standard - auditing by an external certification body (external audit) and audits by internal staff trained for this process (internal audits). The aim is a continual process of review and assessment to verify that the system is working as it is supposed to; to find out where it can improve; and to correct or prevent problems identified. Companies seeking ISO certificate usually follow following steps –
•Appoint someone as project manager as 'Getting ISO' is a project, so someone must have the responsibility and the authority to manage it internally.
•If required, they can hire a consultant to suggest the improvements required.
•Do a 'gap analysis' to establish where you are now, against where you need to be, and identify the tasks to be done. 
•An organization may have some sort of quality system in place already, but other requirements of the Standard may be only partially done or not done at all. Use the gap analysis results helps in planning about what to do, who will do it and when to do.  
•After planning work on the plan starts. Organization improves and develops its system by filling the gaps from the Gap Analysis, revising, adding or improving where it needs to be. 
•This includes identifying processes, documenting its systems, and making all the improvements necessary to meet the requirements of the Standard.  It will use the 'PDCA' (Plan Do Check Act) cycle or continuous improvement cycle to do this. This stage that takes the most time & effort. It needs to get people involved throughout, so that people help build it, and so they understand and use the system and have opportunities to participate and contribute.  A system developed by one person and imposed on others is rarely a good one.
•Review and audit system internally.
•Choose a certifier, and schedule the external audit.
•Undergo the external audit. During this, the certifier (external auditor) audits the quality system against all of the specific requirements of ISO 9001.
•ISO certificate granted which makes company or organization enter the official world-ride register of certified organizations.
The widespread adoption of International Standards means that suppliers can develop and offer products and services meeting specifications that have wide international acceptance in their sectors. Therefore, businesses using International Standards can compete on many more markets around the world. It is widely acknowledged that proper quality management improves business, often having a positive effect on investment, market share, sales growth, sales margins, competitive advantage, and avoidance of litigation.
 Moreover, ISO 9000 guidelines provide a comprehensive model for quality management systems that can make any company competitive. Other benefits incurring through ISO standards includes-
•More efficient, effective operation
•Increases customer satisfaction and retention
•Improves employee motivation, awareness, and morale
•Promotes international trade
•Reduces waste and increases productivity
•Makes employees process dependent rather than person dependent
Though ISO 9001 lays down the requirements any quality system must meet, but does not dictate how they should be met in any particular organization. This leaves great scope and flexibility for implementation in different business sectors and business cultures, as well as in different national cultures.
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