Friday 9 October 2015

What the new ISO 9001really says about KM

I have mentioned here and here the inclusion of Knowledge within the 2015 revision of ISO 9001. The new version of this international quality standard has been published, and we can see the final wording of the Knowledge clause.

The inclusion of Knowledge Management within ISO 9001, 2015 edition marks a huge change within the world of KM. For the first time one of the global business standards makes an explicit mention of Knowledge as a resource, and specifies expectations for the management of that resource.

We can now see the final version of the standard, and the final wording of the relevant clauses.

The new clause (in the English Language version of the European standard) reads as follows:

 Clause 7.1.6. Knowledge 
  • Determine the knowledge necessary for the operation of its processes and to achieve conformity of products and services. 
  • This knowledge shall be maintained and made available to the extent necessary. 
  • When addressing changing needs and trends, the organization shall consider its current knowledge and determine how to acquire or access any necessary additional knowledge and required updates. 
  • NOTE 1: Organizational knowledge is knowledge specific to the organization; it is generally gained by experience. It is information that is used and shared to achieve the organization's objectives. 
  • NOTE 2: Organisational knowledge can be based on: a) Internal Sources (e.g., intellectual property, knowledge gained from experience, lessons learned from failures and successful projects, capturing and sharing undocumented knowledge and experience; the results of improvements in processes, products and services); b) External Sources (e.g., standards, academia, conferences, gathering knowledge from customers or external providers). 

 The new standard offers the following commentary, which gives a little more guidance on the sort of things that an auditor might be looking for:

In 7.1.6 the international standard addresses the need to determine and manage the knowledge maintained by the organization, to ensure the operation of its processes and that it can acheive conformity of products and services. Requirements regarding organizational knowledge were introduced for the purposes of:
a) safeguarding the organization from the loss of knowledge, e.g. - through staff turnover - failure to capture and share information
b) encouraging the organization to acquire knowledge, e.g. - learning from experience - mentoring - benchmarking". 

We can see from the text above and in the previous section, that many of the common elements of Knowledge Management are implied or specifically mentioned. These include:

  • an appropriate system for learning from experience, including the use of lesson learning; 
  • an appropriate approach to knowledge retention and reducing the risk of loss of knowledge, including mentoring, tacit knowledge capture, and knowledge sharing; 
  • some form of KM audit, benchmarking and/or KM strategy, sufficient to identify the critical knowledge needed to deliver quality products and services, and the main knowledge gaps which need to be filled; 
  • a framework (roles, processes and supporting technology) for maintaining knowledge and making it available to the extent necessary.

You can find more commentary on the implications of ISO 9001 for Knowledge Management in our most recent newsletter, available for free here.

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