Item 7.1.6 Organizational Knowledge, present in the 2015 version of ISO 9001, is essential to ensure the maintenance of processes and the delivery of conformity. This item emphasizes how the knowledge acquired over time is a valuable asset for companies and how it should be preserved. Remember that we have already discussed requirement 7.1.5 here.
The text of the standard is relatively short and has 2 footnotes, but it is worth reading to better understand our article today. Let’s go to it:
7.1.6 Organizational Knowledge
The organization must determine the knowledge necessary for the operation of its processes and to achieve the conformity of products and services.
This knowledge must be maintained and be available to the extent necessary.
When addressing needs and trends of changes, the organization must consider its knowledge at the time and determine how to acquire or access any additional knowledge required and updates.
NOTE 1 Organizational knowledge is specific knowledge for the organization; it is gained through experience. It is information that is used and shared to achieve the organization’s objectives.
NOTE 2 Organizational knowledge can be based on:
- a) internal sources (e.g., intellectual property; knowledge gained from experience; lessons learned from failures and successful projects; capture and sharing of undocumented knowledge and experience; results of improvements in processes, products, and services);
- b) external sources (e.g., standards; academia; conferences; compilation of knowledge from customers or external providers)”
(ISO 9001:2015, item 7.1.6 Organizational Knowledge).
The text is quite didactic, and we can say that it provides a “step-by-step” guide. Let’s delve into its interpretation.
“Determine the necessary knowledge”
It seems obvious that organizations need knowledge to operate, but it is not uncommon for them to overlook this factor.
In many cases, the company has been in existence for a long time, so processes run naturally, and the knowledge resides in people. The problem arises when people are absent or when doubts arise.
Even in new processes, a lot of knowledge is used, whether from the people who created it or from the process modeling itself. Here, the knowledge is usually more systematized, as this process will need to be taught to others.
The important thing is that whether in new or old processes, knowledge about how they operate needs to be preserved. To do this, we can use flowcharts, procedures, work instructions, and a multitude of tools that help preserve acquired knowledge.
Maintain and make it available to the extent necessary
Even if this knowledge is determined in an exemplary manner, it will not be of much use if people cannot access it. Therefore, the standard requires that it be maintained (stored and updated if necessary) and made available (made available to employees or interested parties who need it).
Another important factor is that it needs to be “to the extent necessary.” This means that we need to consider not only the process or activity but also the message recipient.
For example, it is useless to provide a written procedure if the employee cannot read. Or a video procedure if the employee does not have access to a monitor or television to watch it.
Therefore, knowledge needs to be in the necessary extent (we can even read “in the required format”)!
“Acquire and access any additional necessary knowledge”
It is obvious that an organization’s knowledge is limited. The necessary knowledge will not always be available in the company’s database. Furthermore, with the constant changes in the context, new knowledge will be required constantly.
And the standard anticipates this. Therefore, in addition to determining the current knowledge, it is also necessary to anticipate ways to acquire new knowledge that ensures the proper operation of processes and the conformity of products and services.
This knowledge can be external or internal, depending on the complexity of the situations faced by the organization and its needs. Thus, it is worth considering this and creating a robust database that contains important information and means to search for what is needed.
The Value of Organizational Knowledge for ISO 9001:2015 and Your Company!
Organizational knowledge is a valuable resource for companies, as well as being essential for compliance with ISO 9001:2015. Furthermore, item 7.1.6 Organizational Knowledge reinforces the importance of determining, preserving, and making available the necessary knowledge to operate processes and achieve conformity in products and services.
By valuing organizational knowledge, companies strengthen their ability to adapt, innovate, and achieve high levels of performance and conformity. Thus, understanding and applying item “7.1.6 Organizational Knowledge” of ISO 9001:2015 is, in fact, a set of fundamental steps to ensure operational excellence and maintain a competitive advantage in an ever-evolving market.
It is worth mentioning that this is the theme of World Quality Week 2023: “Quality: realizing your competitive potential.”
Finally, by adopting a systematic approach to organizational knowledge, companies can optimize their processes, learn from previous experiences, and leverage relevant external knowledge. In this way, they are prepared to deal with challenges, adapt to changes, and achieve excellence in their products and services.
All of this translates into greater organizational sustainability and results for all stakeholders in your business!