Connect the dots: PDCA, Risk-based thinking and the Process Approach

Connect the dots: PDCA, Risk-based thinking and the Process Approach

By Jim Moran, MA Ed., President of


Risk-based thinking

Risk-based thinking helps an organization determine what circumstances could cause hiccups, or worse, disaster. The idea here is to anticipate what might go wrong and create mitigation plans.

On the flip side, ‘risk’ can be positive and organizations can build a Management System that puts them in a position to make maximum use of opportunities as they come along.

Today’s environment is increasingly complex and requires a Management System that is stable but flexible – a system that can turn on a dime while being under control.

Continual Improvement is not new to ISO, and becomes more valuable as each year passes and might be achieved through breakthrough change, innovation, re-organization and other responses related to an organization’s changing environment.

The ‘Process Approach’

Since the late 1940s, W. Edwards Deming’s work has expanded around the world. He became famous for the Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA) model that he rolled out in Japan to bring them Out of the Chaos (one of Deming’s book titles) after WWII.

Here’s a QMS formula for your consideration:
(see ISO 9001:2015, 0.1 General, para 4)

PDCA + Risk-based thinking = the Process Approach

And another one:

Customer Requirements = Needs + Expectations

A ‘process’ in ISO 9000 is defined as ‘a series of activities that turn inputs into outputs’ (or results). So the process approach gives an organization the tools to manage activities, especially during changes.

The ‘process approach’ can be valuable as a concept when an organization is developing, implementing and improving a management system.

By systematically defining and managing the workflow (inputs > process > outputs) an organization has a framework to learn how their system works. By studying a system (PDSA – Shewhart) and knowing how the pieces (processes) relate, we can learn how to improve the effectiveness of our system. The goal is to build and operate a Management System that helps an organization move in its’ intended strategic direction and meet customer/client/stakeholder requirements.

By clarifying organizational goals we can build a Management System that helps us move toward our purpose.

We can audit by Objectives (not documentation) to make sure our system has the processes in place to get us where we want to go. Focus on system effectiveness makes it easier to clean up the roadblocks to success!

About the author: Jim Moran, MA Ed., President of, has worked with all 5 versions of ISO 9001 – 1987, 1994, 2000, 2008 and now 2105. He has been implementing, auditing and training in the ISO world since 1992. Jim has been doing ISO 9001:2015 presentations since November of 2013 and has done a number of webinars, ½ day presentations and full day trainings on ISO 9001:2015 for the British Standards Institute, BSI. He currently sits on ISO PC 280, an ISO committee formed to participate in the development of a new ISO Standard for Management Consulting.


Copyrighted Material: This article has been produced with permission from the author. Title picture is not associated with the original writing and copyright of our sponsor

The article was originally published by ASQ Ottawa Valley Section in December 8, 2015 following release of the final version of ISO 9001:2015.

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