Engaging with a Quality Management Consultant – the Dos and Don’ts

Engaging with a Quality Management ConsultantMany organisations aiming to achieve ISO 9001 certification seek a consultant to assist them. Whilst Certification Bodies must meet certain requirements, there is no overseeing body for quality management consultants. Therefore, for any business seeking assistance in implementing a Quality Management System (QMS), due diligence should be carried out before agreeing to work with a specialist consultant.

What Do You Really Want?

There is a misconception that without a dedicated Quality Manager, a consultant is a necessity to implement a QMS, or to achieve ISO 9001 certification.  In fact, many organisations have successfully achieved both without external assistance. However, there are clear benefits in using a consultant to help, such as;

  • Greater value derived from the standard
  • Can speed up the implementation process
  • Reduces work-load of person responsible for implementation
  • Can increase likelihood of achieving certification first time

The 64 million dollar question is always based around what fees a quality or ISO consultant will charge. The reason why it’s a difficult one to answer is because each project is different. You need to decide whether you really want an interim Quality Manager, or simply someone in the background acting as a safety net to check your work. Influencing factors will include: what ability the person responsible has, how much time they have to give to the project, and their inclination.

With the above in mind, you need to set out what you expect from the consultant. Do you want them to write all of your QMS documentation? Carry out internal audits? Present and perform training sessions with staff? These are activities that should be done by ‘someone’, but outsourcing them will of course significantly increase the consultancy fees.

Qualifications and Experience

It’s important to look past any glossy membership logos and see what the consultant really has to show that demonstrates credibility. If the consultant has a background as an auditor, you know they have real-life experience of what works, and what doesn’t. Well respected organisations such as the IRCA and CQI provide recognised quality qualifications; something to look out for on the CV of any quality management consultant you’re thinking of engaging with.

Whilst certificates are great, there is nothing like proven experience and expertise. Working with a consultant who has background knowledge in your industry has obvious benefits; they’ll know the typical issues and how to overcome them from past experience. A confident consultant will be pleased for you to have a chat with their previous clients.

Signs of a Good Consultant

This is more general advice, as whatever type of consultant you may be looking for, these points hold true for all.

A major benefit of bringing a quality management consultant into your company is, because they don’t work for you, there is no emotion involved. You will gain an unbiased opinion to problems and an outside perspective how to deal with them. A particularly experienced consultant may be able to cite examples how they’ve solved issues in previous work.

There can an air of cynicism when dealing with consultants; do they try and foster a dependent relationship to line their own pockets? A good consultant will make a real effort to ensure that you, your team and company can stand on their own two feet. It is, after all, your Quality Management System. It is very important that without the consultant there, you are able to maintain your own system. After initial help, the consultant’s role should be reduced to periodically checking up on where you are and visiting for the occasional internal audit.

An effective QMS requires top-level management buy-in. It’s a great advantage if the consultant is just as good with your CEO as they are with the office junior. Benefits like this are reasons why you shouldn’t opt for a consultant simply because they are the cheapest, or are a 5 minute drive away. Go with the one that you feel most comfortable with; the one will give you the most value.

This article was written by the British Assessment Bureau, who specialise in sourcing ISO consultants for those implementing the popular ISO management standards.

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