Responding to the Expectations of Society through Management System Certification -Takeshi Nakajyo, Management System Accreditation Committee Chair-

Takeshi Nakajyo
Management System Accreditation Committee Chair

Japanese companies first obtained management system (MS) certification to the international standard, ISO 9001, in 1990.  Over the ensuing twenty years, the number of certificates issued increased rapidly.  The size and nature of certified companies also expanded, from predominantly large corporations to small and medium companies, and from manufacturing to service industries.  The objectives of certification that started with quality management also expanded to cover aspects such as environmental management, safety, security and energy.  With the increase in the number of certificates issued, however, it became apparent that some organizations seeking certification, and the activities for which they sought certification, were failing to respond sufficiently to social expectations.  One of the probable causes of this was the absence of a common perception of social expectations among the persons and organizations involved with the certification process and the difficulties of responding to expectations within the limitations of MS certification.

What society expects is that certified products, services or activities affecting people will meet their needs.  On the other hand, in order to ensure, confirm and verify the level of satisfaction, it is necessary to establish a procedure and implementation process and to undertake activities in accordance with this.  It is also necessary to obtain and utilize effectively and efficiently knowledge about the cause-and-effect relationship between the process of certification and outcomes in a complex society where people have varying ideas, knowledge and skills.  Management systems can provide a framework to support this.   While a certified MS can assist in responding to social expectations, it is not an end in itself.    Having a certified MS does not mean that the MS is functioning well.  It does not guarantee either that the MS is operating in a way that meets the actual situation of individual organizations, or whether the organization is making good use of knowledge about the cause-and-effect relationship between process and outcomes, or whether the products and services expected by society have been provided.  All these are combined together to make Management Systems certification more difficult than Product Certification.

For those of us engaged in MS certification, it is necessary to find a means of resolving the difficulties of MS certification.  One of the answers might be to limit the scope to what can be achieved for certain.  Another might be to take into the scope all aspects necessary to ensure that social expectations are met.  If, however, a company limits its scope to what it knows it can achieve, processes will become a formality, the business will stagnate and customers will turn their backs.  On the other hand, if a company decides to include all aspects it considers to be expected by society, it will fail to contribute to a common social infrastructure.  This is a dilemma that all people and organizations engaged in MS certification confront when trying to find a better way through these two conflicting aspects. It may also be the major reason why the outcome from MS certification activities has been variable.

The role of the MS Accreditation Committee is to ensure that MS certification maintains its significance in society.  Based on the recognition of the dilemma among people and organizations engaged in MS certification, we intend to continue in future our efforts to achieve this objective, in concert with other parties involved.

 

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