How to write your first quality management plan

To win tenders it is often important to include a quality management plan. For large organisations this is usually straightforward and will probably already be embedded in their management processes. However for small businesses a quality management plan may seem like a giant step. Here is some background and advice on how to put together your first quality management plan in a short time. There is also a link to a free Madrigal Communications template.

What is quality management?

Quality management is a methodology for an organisation to manage its people and processes to deliver a product or service at a desired, consistent level. Quality is a measure of fitness-for-purpose and should not be confused with “quality” as being of high value.

All businesses must manage the trade-off between cost, quality and time to produce goods or services that are appropriate to their customers needs. Therefore customer need is at the centre of quality management. One of the common sayings in quality management is that you do not build a Ferrari when all that is wanted is a Volkswagon.

How do you manage quality?

Every level of a large organisation, from CEO, through managers to workers, is responsible for contributing to the overall quality management system. To manage quality an organisation needs to:

  • define precisely what they are producing or delivering (CEO and Board, Marketing Department)
  • plan how they will deliver the product or service (CEO and managers)
  • create processes to deliver that planned product or service (managers and workers)
  • review the processes to find improvements (managers and workers)

Quality management requires each level of the organisation to have different quality processes in place:

  • the leaders (CEO and Board) must focus on the overall business and customer strategies
  • managers must focus on developing and monitoring processes to deliver their parts of the product or service
  • operational teams (workers) must focus on the daily delivery of the product or service

For small businesses quality management may not have the same hierarchical divisions, where one person may liaise with everyone to get processes in place.

How do you write a quality management plan?

A quality management plan does not need to be a large complex document. It can be a simple document that explains how your organisation does things. Most organisations will have many components of a quality management plan already. Even if it is not already written down you should be able to write a quality plan in a short time.

Here is a short template of headings that you can use to develop your plan:

  • company overview—how you started, what you do
  • company details—address, ABN, ACN, Type of organisation (sole trader, company, partnership, other), contact details
  • mission, vision, values, code of conduct
  • major products and services
  • markets and stakeholders
  • key performance indicators—how you measure your success
  • ethical, social, environmental, safety policies—simple statements of how you want the organisation to treat these issues and what you are doing about them
  • service and product delivery procedures

If you don’t have procedures in place you need to identify what are your key business areas and write short procedures to start with. These short procedures will be summaries of how you do each process. If you have staff members it is important to get them to help to explain what they do. Some procedures are common to all businesses:

  • commercial and contractual processes (quotations/costings/terms and conditions
  • how you manage your work, e.g. project management processes, roles and responsibilities
  • selecting and managing sub-contractors
  • invoicing, payments and debt collection
  • sales processes
  • backups and cyber security, document control
  • recruitment and employment conditions

Other procedures are specific to each business and may include:

  • safety requirements (SWMS, traffic control)
  • product specifications and manufacturing
  • customer service requirements
  • privacy policy and procedures

You should assemble all documents that you use in your business and include them in your processes and procedures. Click here for a free quality management plan template.

Do you need accreditation?

Accreditation is the next step in having a quality management system but it can take several months or longer so is not a short-term action. Accreditation means that your quality management system (how you implement your plan) meets a recognised standard. The most common quality management standard is ISO9000 but there are several others. Having accreditation can help to show that you will deliver your work exactly as you say. Some customers require their suppliers to have quality accreditation to show that they are safe, reliable, ethical, etcetera.

To get accreditation you first need to review your plan and your work processes against the standard and make the necessary improvements. The next step is to get a quality consultant to audit and assess your system. Don’t forget that quality management is about always looking for improvements.