ISO 9001 Continual Improvement: DO's and DON'Ts

Infographic depicting the Plan, Do, Check, Act (PDCA) cycle



An ongoing series of Posts: Practical advice on ISO 9001:2015 Clause 10.3

The rate, extent and timescale of actions that support continual improvement are determined by the organization itself. Quality Management System (QMS) performance can be enhanced by applying an improvement to the quality management system as a whole, or improving one or more of its elements. Your ISO 9001 Implementation Project offers a real opportunity to take advantage of Continual Improvement.

How to Implement ISO 9001:2015 Clause 10.3: Continual Improvement

  • Do develop a QMS Improvement PlanYou can do this with the aid and support of top management.
  • Do present suggested improvements to the Management Review Meeting. Here, decisions can quickly be made regarding the choice and priority of the improvement projects and the allocation of resources against them.
  • Do aim for an approved improvement plan adequately resourced. Make sure this is in line with QMS Policy and integrated (usually) with Quality Objectives.

A QMS Improvement Plan Outline Sample

The following example shows the outline of an improvement action plan. Such a plan might be the result of an internal audit and/or a management review of the QMS.

QMS Improvement Plan Outline Sample

  • Don’t have improvement plans without measurable objectives. Without a target, how will you measure success?
  • Don’t have vague improvement plans. Responsibility and authority to implement and manage the improvement should be clearly defined and documented. The use of Action Programmes is recommended.
  • Don’t forget to consider timing and resources when crafting an improvement plan. Setting due dates for the busiest time of the year or when the needed people or resources are not available makes failure almost inevitable.

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Conclusion: Transform a good QMS into a great one

Continual Improvement is intended to help transform a good QMS into a great one. By changing the QMS in a controlled manner, the organisation is able to match the changing needs of customers and end-users.  Too often in the past little more than lip service has been paid to improvement.

In implementing ISO 9001:2015, make sure your organization doesn't miss out on the real opportunities here.  Improvements can work wonders for the bottom line. The result can be a greater appreciation by your management colleagues of what the QMS can contribute. And of what you personally can contribute - could help your personal bottom line also!

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Note: Originally published in Oct 2017; revised and updated in Apr 2021.


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deGRANDSON Global is an ISO Certified Educational Organization

In October 2021 we secured certification to three education-related ISO Standards.  We now have a university-grade management system in place conforming to the requirements of  …

  • ISO 21001, Educational Organizational Management System,
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  • ISO 29994, Learning Services – additional requirements for Distance Learning.

We have chosen ISO 21001 certification because, unlike IRCA and Exemplar badges (which in our opinion are commercially compromised), it is based on independent third-party assessment.  It is a ‘university grade’ standard in use globally by schools, colleges, and universities to demonstrate their competence.


Written by Dr John FitzGerald

Director & Founder of deGRANDSON Global. Spent 15 years in the manufacturing industry and 25 years training, consulting & auditing management systems
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