5.1 Leadership and Commitment [ISO 9001]

What is Leadership and Commitment for ISO 9001?

ISO certification requires that Top Management is required to emphasize the importance of conforming to the ISO 9001 requirements. Additionally, leadership must also ensure that the QMS is achieving its intended results, and that continual improvement is driven within the organization.



5.1.1 Leadership And Commitment For The Quality Management System

You should seek and record evidence that Top Management is taking a ‘hands-on’ approach to the management of the QMS. Be prepared to constructively challenge Top Management’s commitment to quality management principles and show their commitment in ISO.

Auditing this tier of management is likely to be a new experience for many people, so it is important that you have a good understanding of management activities in order to effectively engage with them.

If it is evident that the Top Management is not involved with the quality system and ISO standards, a major non-conformance is likely.

management commitment

Auditors Will Look For Evidence of Management Commitment

During certification audits, Auditors should look for evidence that Top Management has a ‘hands-on’ approach to the management of their QMS during interviews and auditing other requirements e.g. Context of the organization, policies and objectives, Management review minutes, Resources etc.

Evidence of Top Management involvement may be found in:

  • Management Reviews - meeting minutes
  • Business strategy plans and meetings
  • Environmental goals and communications
  • Information provided on the organization’s website
  • Annual reports
  • Other documented information

Management involvement must now be demonstrated and cannot be simply confined to annual management reviews. During internal audits Auditors should ensure that they are well prepared to interview the Top Management in respect of their commitment to the QMS. A good understanding of management-related processes and language used by Top Management can be helpful to engage with management on a range of issues.

Without rock-solid management commitment, you will not have a successful quality management system. Communicating the importance of Leadership commitment and active involvement to quality is essential.

This is not a commitment in words; it is the continuous and active demonstration to everyone in the organization that the need to meet customers' expectations is vital. Top Management commitment towards the QMS to demonstrate that they have a presence in the organization, are providing direction, are leading by example, are making informed decisions, and:

  1. Taking accountability for the effectiveness of the QMS e.g. established measures, system/process performance monitoring, management review, realization of planned activities, achievement of planned results and taking action when process performance is not meeting intended results
  2. Establishing and maintaining the quality policy and quality objectives aligned to the strategic direction e.g. context of your organization, external/issues (see 4.1)
  3. Integrated quality, environmental and health and safety requirements into your organization’s business processes e.g. system architecture, business model, process model, organization footprint, functional alignment (Engineering, Purchasing, IT, Finance, HR etc.)
  4. Promoting the process approach and risk-based thinking e.g. process modeling, process mapping, inputs, outputs, activities, interactions, interfaces, resources, controls, risk management (identification, severity, ownership, treatment etc.)
  5. Supporting process owners in their process management activities e.g. deployment, governance, process evaluation, process improvement
  6. Enabling resources, including people, required for an effective QMS e.g. resource planning, workload, priorities, constraints, balance, organization flexibility, business benefits, organization growth
  7. Communicating the importance of conformity to the QMS and effective quality management e.g. meetings, briefs, e-mail, intranet, campaigns, roadshows, focused training, voice of the regulator or customer, consequence of non-conformity
  8. Creating an environment for continual improvement, e.g. proactive - product/service/process implementation and improvement initiatives, improvement projects, waste reduction, process re-engineering, cost reduction etc., and reactive - acting on process performance results, audit findings and complaints
  9. Supporting other relevant management roles e.g. organization hierarchy, trust, empowerment, responsible delegation, coaching, sharing knowledge, removing barriers, route to escalation

customer focus

5.1.2 Customer Focus

Customer focus involves determining customer requirements and ensuring that processes exist to meet the requirements and achieve customer satisfaction.

Enhance customer satisfaction by ensuring that customer requirements are identified. The principal message that Top Management must convey is that the objective of the business is to satisfy your customers by ensuring a process exists to achieve the following:

  • Identifying customer requirements
  • Meeting customer requirements
  • Enhancing customer satisfaction

You should determine how customer satisfaction is evaluated and whether appropriate actions are taken, based on available performance information (e.g., nonconformity data, corrective action requests, results of satisfaction surveys, complaints regarding product quality, OTD, service provision, responsiveness to customer and internal requests) provided by your customers (e.g., scorecards, report cards).

Top Management commitment towards customer focus can be demonstrated by ensuring that:

  • External requirements are determined understood and met e.g. contracts, legislation, benchmarking, surveys, customer satisfaction, market intelligence, future trends, customer expectations
  • Risks and opportunities (see 6.1) e.g. competition, capability, resourcing, barriers to market, investment, business continuity, innovation, future trends, planning for changes, new technology, new products/services, building on current strengths are determined and addressed
  • Focus on enhancing customer satisfaction (see 9.1.2) is maintained e.g. building relationships, conducting surveys, customer feedback, customer communication, customer performance, complaint profile, evaluation of repeat business and identifying opportunities for strengthening the organization reputation and market presence
  • Customer perception (determined by the customer) and customer satisfaction (measured by the organization) are aligned
  • Product and service conformity and on-time delivery performance is measured e.g. defining performance criteria, flow down across the organization, setting targets, data capture, data reporting, management review
  • Action is taken when product and service conformity and on-time delivery performance is not achieved e.g. ownership, containment, root cause, resources are available, nonconformity and corrective action, continual improvement

When auditing customer focus, the audit team should assess whether customer satisfaction is adequately determined and appropriate corrective action undertaken when things go wrong.

The customer feedback process should be audited as a process in its own right and not just as a clause in the standard. Determine how this process is planned, implemented and improved as these factors will affect the processes’ ability to provide meaningful information about the effectiveness of the QMS.

Related Information You Might Find Useful

Next ISO 9001 Clause

Each ISO 9001 Clause Explained

Updated: 24th April 2024
Author: Richard Keen

Richard Keen

Richard Keen

Richard is our Compliance Director, responsible for content & product development.
But most importantly he is ISO's biggest fanboy and a true evangelist of the standards.
Learn more about Richard