ISO 9001:2008 Quality Management Systems has high expectations for senior management. In fact about 15% of this Standards text is devoted to the responsibilities of management. This is in recognition of the fact that if senior management doesn’t support the system then it isn’t really going to work. Sure, you can probably get certified without the support of senior management. But without them your Quality Management System will be like an appendix – it’s there but it doesn’t really achieve anything, it sometimes causes pain, and when the pain gets severe it is cut out. WITH the support of senior management your Quality Management System can be more like the heart. It can keep your organisation going and with exercise, improve it.

The Quality Management Systems Standard ISO 9001:2008 states –

5.1 Management Commitment
Top management shall provide evidence of its commitment to the development and implementation of the quality management system and continually improving its effectiveness by:
a) communicating to the organization the importance of meeting customer as well as statutory and regulatory requirements,
b) establishing the quality policy,
c) ensuring that quality objectives are established,
d) conducting management reviews, and
e) ensuring the availability of resources.

ISO 14001 Environmental Management System Requirements, AS/NZS 4801 and OHSAS 18001 for OHS Management Systems all contain a clause like this one. The wording differs a little but the intent is the same. Let’s have a look at the above clause, bit by bit.

Top Management

When the Standard says top management it means the individual at the top of the organisation (e.g. CEO, Managing Director) and his/her direct reports. Depending upon the size and structure of the organisation, it may be appropriate to think of one or two layers of management below this group as top management.


If people perceive that the most senior managers in the organisation don’t care about customer/OHS/environmental requirements, regulations or laws then why should they, the employees, care? And if no one cares then you don’t have a management system.

Senior management may communicate in any number of ways including meetings, documented policies and procedures, emails, directives, newsletters, the intranet, etc. In a large organisation a communication plan may be needed to define what needs to be communicated; to whom; the methods used; the frequency; and the means for determining communication effectiveness.

ISO 9001 for quality doesn’t ask you to document a communication procedure but ISO 14001 for the environment does (refer to clause 4.4.3).

Quality Policy & Objectives

Clause 5.3 states what should be in the Quality Policy. The above clause says that senior management must be involved in writing the Policy and in ensuring that it is kept current so that it meets the needs of the organisation, not just the requirements of the Standard. The objectives form part of the Quality Policy. They must be measurable and senior management is responsible for showing that progress towards those objectives is being made.

Management Reviews

Here there is another link to another clause in the ISO 9001 Quality Standard. Clause 5.3 Management review states what should be discussed during management review meetings and what the minutes should contain. But at the end of the day, if senior managers don’t attend and contribute to the management review meetings then there is, at the very least, a perceived lack of commitment.


No matter how simple your Quality Management System is it needs resources to develop it, maintain it, and improve it. These resources may take the form of additional time and often wages. Senior managers need to make a person in the organisation responsible for the system. This person is the Management Representative and I talked about their responsibilities in a recent blog.

As you can see, clause 5.1 Management Commitment links to many other clauses in the Standard but at the end of the day all it is really saying is that senior managers must “walk the talk” and demonstrate their commitment to the Quality Management System. This really is a critical success factor in any Quality, Environmental or OHS Management System.

If you’d like some guidance or need a sounding board please email me at Alternatively, visit my website where you’ll find my Top 5 Essential Tips for the Quality, Environmental and OHS Standards as well as free ISO 9001 procedures.