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What are standards?

The CQI has been actively involved in the development of national and international standards for many years, and for CQI and IRCA members, standards form part of their ‘everyday working tools’. 

ISO, the International Organization for Standardization, defines a standard as ‘a document, established by a consensus of subject matter experts and approved by a recognised body that provides guidance on the design, use or performance of materials, products, processes, services, systems or persons’. In other words, a standard is an agreed and documented way of doing something. Standards contain precise criteria that can be used as a guideline to help with the reliability, consistency and effectiveness of the products and services we use. 

For CQI and IRCA members, these documents form part of their ‘everyday working tools’, with quality practitioners using them to design, develop, implement and improve products and services, and IRCA auditors using them as base criteria to assess the same. 

Types of standards

National and international standards

There are national and international standards: ISO, established in 1947 to promote global standardisation, has more than 24,000 standards and a membership of 166 countries. Most counties also have their own domestic standard production capability overseen by a National Standard Body (NSB). The UK’s NSB is the British Standards Institute (BSI). British standards are well respected and have been adopted as the basis for their international counterparts on more than one occasion, eg BS 5750 became ISO 9001 and BS 7750 became ISO 14001.     

Having national and international standards is crucial not just for those in business, but for each and every one of us as individuals. By following the requirements of relevant standards’, we ensure electrical plugs are wired safely, that medical devices are developed under controlled conditions, and that those offering specialist services are competent. They help ensure bridges don’t fall down, that planes stay in the air, and that instances of nappy rash are minimised. In short, standards touch every aspect of our lives. 

There are different types of standards: they can set out requirements, provide guidance, or contain a combination of both guidance and requirements.  

Requirements standards

The role of a requirements standard is not to set out best practice but to identify a minimum acceptable quality level which a product, process, or service is required to meet. They tell the organisation what must be done, but not how to do it. The latter is a matter of choice for the organisation itself.  

Guidance standards

Guidance typically comes in two forms. The majority of management system standards contain an annex which provides guidance on how to interpret the requirements. In addition, there are specific standards which provide guidance on how to implement their partner requirement standard. These are written specifically to help those who may have little or no prior exposure to a standard, but who have the responsibility of introducing it into an organisation.

What is the CQI's role in standards?

Standards are developed by experts in a given field who join together to discuss the potential contents of the standard, reach agreement on the contents, and then publish the resulting document. Although this process sounds straight forward, developing a brand-new standard can take two or three years to complete.  

The CQI has been actively involved in the development of national and international standards for many years, primarily focusing on management system standards. ISO 9001, ISO 14001, ISO 27001, ISO 45001, ISO 37000, ISO 19011 and ISO 17021-1 have all been directly influenced by the CQI in recent years, along with other standards in the same or associated series.  

The CQI has been recognised by ISO as an organisation which is both keen and capable to make an effective contribution and has, as a result, been awarded Category A Liaison status to its principal Technical Committees. This means CQI members are not only able to provide individual comments relating to standards development but also that the CQI is present in the room when key decisions are taken. Only a handful of external organisations are afforded this privilege.    

In addition to the CQI sending a ‘nominated representative’ to key meetings, there are also CQI members who attend national and international standard development meetings in a personal capacity who have risen to senior roles in Technical Committee structures. As Committee convenors, technical/working group leaders or members of Audit Practices Groups, CQI expertise is present at the heart of the management of standards development processes.     

The recently created Standards Coordination Committee, and its predecessor, the CQI Standards Panel, are responsible for determining the CQI’s policy position in respect of proposed changes to standards based on stakeholder feedback. 

The CQI's Standards Coordination Committee

The CQI Standards Coordination Committee exists to coordinate strategy and direct the CQI’s sponsored standards activity. This includes determining those standards which are of importance to the CQI, directing and coordinating participation in their development, and recommending the development of products, services, and assets relating to the use of international standards.  The scope of the Committee’s activity encompasses quality and other related management systems standards, and management systems audit standards which are of strategic or operational importance to CQI, including those for which the CQI has products, services, or assets.   

The Committee is comprised of standards users, makers, thought leaders and management systems experts drawn from a variety of backgrounds and industries. 

The Standards Coordination Committee

Find out more about the CQI's Standards Coordination Committee members.