ISO 9004-4 1993 in Plain English

Guidelines for Creating Quality Improvements

While ISO 9004-4 is still useful, it is now OBSOLETE.
It has been replaced by the new ISO 9004 2009 standard.

Also see the NEW ISO 9001 2015 quality management standard.

This web page is based on the ISO 9004-4:1993 Quality Standard 
published by the International Organization for Standardization
It presents a comprehensive interpretation of this standard 
and uses language that is clear and easy to understand.

ISO prepared the ISO 9004-4 standard in order to explain how to 
develop and implement a continuous quality improvement program.

Develop an

  • Design and develop a quality improvement program. Your program should:                                                   

    • Improve your organization's ability  to serve the needs of its customers.                                 

    • Show people how to use quality  improvement tools and techniques.                                 

    • Help people to identify quality improvement  opportunities i.e. quality losses.                                    

    • Explain how quality improvement projects  should be planned and executed.                                    

Create a
that supports

  • The following values describe a sociocultural environment  that supports and encourages continuous quality improvement. Managers can help create this environment by:

    • Trusting employees. 

    • Encouraging cooperation.

    • Respecting and supporting teamwork.

    • Respecting and supporting individualism.

    • Encouraging employees to trust each other.

    • Encouraging employees to respect each other. 

    • Transmitting a sense of purpose or mission. 

    • Allowing employees to control their own work. 

    • Encouraging open and honest communication.

    • Giving employees access to corporate information.

    • Setting a good example by improving work quality. 

    • Making quality improvement an important part of every employee's job description.

    • Involving both customers and subcontractors  in the quality improvement process.                       

    • Encouraging employees to meet the needs, wants,  and expectations of internal and external customers.

    • Recognizing and rewarding individuals and groups who make important contributions to quality and quality improvement.                                                    

    • Giving employees the power, ability, and resources to improve the quality of their own work activities and immediate environment. 

    • Encouraging everyone to learn as much as they can about quality and about how to improve quality on a continuous basis.                               

    • Ensuring that all education, training, and awareness programs support quality and                       encourage quality improvement.                      

Reduce or
avoid quality

  • Reduce or avoid quality losses by exploiting  every chance to improve quality.                                           

  • Quality losses can be caused by:

    • Decrease in customer goodwill or satisfaction.

    • Failure to take full advantage of employee talent. 

    • Waste or misuse of physical and financial resources. 

    • Inability to exploit every chance to add more value.


a structure
that supports

  • Develop an organizational structure that supports quality improvement. Such an organization would have methods which can be used to:

    • Identify quality improvement opportunities. 

    • Develop quality improvement objectives. 

    • Allocate resources to achieve these objectives. 

    • Grant the authority to make quality improvements. 

    • Distribute the responsibility to make improvements. 

    • Guide and coordinate quality improvement activities.

    • Monitor and measure quality improvement progress. 

    • Review and evaluate quality improvement results.

  • Make sure that all members of your organization are  encouraged to recommend quality improvements.


Define quality

  • Define and distribute the following quality improvement responsibilities. Your organization should:

    • Develop plans to improve work processes. 

    • Monitor quality losses and improvements. 

    • Ensure that every process is oriented towards quality.

    • Expect open communication between departments. 

    • Identify the needs of internal and external customers.

    • Ensure that suppliers understand customer needs. 

    • Ask people to look for improvement opportunities. 

    • Monitor and control quality improvement projects. 

    • Evaluate quality improvement projects.


Develop an

  • Develop a quality improvement planning process and incorporate this into your business planning process. Your quality improvement planning process should:

    • Identify and address quality losses. 

    • Uncover quality improvement opportunities. 

    • Develop quality improvement objectives. 

    • Define strategies to achieve these objectives. 

    • Involve all personnel in the planning process. 

    • Ask for input from customers and suppliers. 

    • Ensure that implementation is monitored. 

    • Arrange to evaluate quality system changes.


Develop an

  • Develop a quality improvement measurement system. Your measurement system should:                 

    • Pinpoint quality improvement opportunities (losses). 

    • Evaluate quality improvement results. 

    • Measure and monitor:

      • Customer satisfaction. 

      • Process efficiency. 

      • Resource utilization. 

      • Environmental impact. 

      • Professional development.


Develop an

  • Develop a procedure that managers can use to review  quality improvement activities. This review procedure  should ensure that your:                                              

    • Organizational structure supports quality improvement. 

    • Quality improvement planning process functions properly. 

    • Quality improvement measurement system is effective. 

    • Quality review results are considered at the next planning session.                                          


out quality

  • Plan your quality improvement projects.

    • Select a quality improvement topic.

      • Select a quality loss that must be prevented, or

      • Select a quality process that must be improved.

    • Prove that there is a need for the project.

    • Appoint a team to carry out the project.

    • Define the project's purpose and scope.

    • Develop a schedule to control progress.

    • Allocate resources to carry out the project.

  • Execute your quality improvement projects.

    • Investigate the loss and prevent or correct it.

      • Clarify the nature and extent of the loss.

      • Analyze the factors that actually cause the loss.

      • Review alternative corrective or preventive actions.

      • Formulate actions to correct or prevent the loss.

      • Implement corrective and preventive actions.

      • Confirm that your actions created an improvement.

      • Verify that changes didn't cause bad side effects.

    • Investigate the process and improve it.

      • Identify and define process problems.

      • Analyze the factors that cause problems.

      • Review alternative corrective or preventive actions.

      • Formulate actions to address problems and causes.

      • Implement corrective and preventive actions.

      • Confirm that your actions created an improvement.

      • Verify that changes didn't cause bad side effects.

    • Find ways to sustain the improvement in quality.

      • Provide training.

      • Modify procedures.

      • Update specifications.

      • Revise job descriptions.

      • Improve process controls.

  • Monitor and control all quality projects.


Analyze the
facts before
you decide to
make quality

  • Use the following kinds of tools and techniques to collect  and analyze data and to discover what the facts are before  you make quality improvement decisions:                      

    • Flow charts

    • Histograms

    • Benchmarking

    • Tree diagrams

    • Control charts

    • Pareto diagrams

    • Affinity diagrams

    • Scatter diagrams

    • Cause and effect diagrams

    • Special forms to collect data

  • Make sure staff members have been trained  to use these kinds of tools and techniques.


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 Updated on November 29, 2014. First published on June 25, 1997.

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