The Office of Electronic Communications (UKE, formerly URTiP) in Poland is a central-level administration body and regulator which acts as the national regulatory authority of telecommunications and postal markets, and is responsible for the frequency management of all radio broadcasting services.
It also carries out market surveillance within the scope of the European Electromagnetic Compatibility (EMC) and Radio and Telecommunications Terminal Equipment (RTTE) Directives.
As its wide ranging remit would suggest, UKE employees must be qualified in several different fields, and combine administrative, legal and engineering knowledge with skills in operating the enhanced measurement equipment in its laboratories. Recently we added quality management system (QMS) implementation to these abilities when the organization decided to pursue ISO 9001:2000 certification.
Wherever a QMS is implemented, the process generally presents a number of challenges – most importantly human, time-related and financial. In the human context, certain habits, stereotypes and procedures will undoubtedly need to be changed. In terms of time, the bulk of the organizational, documentation and formal work must be done without negative impact on normal tasks and duties.
In Poland, however, the financial and budgetary situation of its public administration bodies makes the financial aspect of QMS implementation more and more challenging. For us, the best way forward to ISO 9001:2001 certification was found from close analysis of the current circumstances in our country.
Irrespective of an organization’s approach to quality management, it is always necessary to define those organizational structures, processes and resources essential to QMS implementation. For those deciding to build their own QMS like UKE, the principles are included in the ISO 9000 series standards which define a model QMS.
Nevertheless, organizations may face problems that can make the implementation process more difficult. Some of the most likely obstacles are:
a. Resistance to change
People are by nature resistant to change. They feel safe in a familiar and well-ordered world. However, such resistance is frequently caused by insufficient knowledge and a negative perception of the word “standard” as something that might deprive them of their independence.
In many organizations, management system knowledge is relatively elementary, both at the lower employee level and among higher management. Therefore UKE decided to start with introductory training courses to make employees aware that QMS implementation would not pose any threats such as staff reductions or excessive workload. To the contrary, we stressed that it would make their work easier and enhance opportunities for personal development.
b. No evident short-term success
This perceived obstacle results, to a great extent, from our national character. We are easily motivated to positive action, but such enthusiasm quickly fades. Evidence to date shows that if the implementation process is lengthy, the results may be poor.
We recommend that the optimal implementation time in a moderately complex organization should not exceed 12 months. Small organizations with simple production or service processes are capable of cutting that time to 5-6 months.
UKE decided to implement its QMS in three stages to make measurable and visible progress in a relatively short time.
c. Perception of individual not collective achievements
Experience shows that the best results can be achieved with team work. Although not greatly appreciated in Poland, teamwork is necessary for implementation of an ISO 9001:2000-based QMS. In that endeavour, we managed to involve a large group of people in documenting the system.
d. Reluctance to delegate
Modern process management systems require that tasks and responsibilities be delegated to direct actors in the process since it shortens the decision-making path between actor and customer, enhancing effectiveness of the system.
However, it is quite common that all decisions, even those least significant, are made by top management reluctant to delegate to lower management levels. Also there can be a reverse effect, i.e. employees’ reluctance to assume responsibility and powers.
The UKE organization is vast and complex, but openness and willingness among most employees to implement the QMS enabled a systematic improvement of internal office communication. In our case, UKE top management took the QMS implementation initiative in the first place, so any problem of lack of top management involvement did not occur.
QMS implementation at UKE
When a QMS is implemented in a public administration, it is important first to define the “product”. In the case of UKE, administrative decisions which normally generate payments to the state budget should, first and foremost, be regarded as the product – i.e. its inspection activities in the form of telecommunication, postal and product market surveillance, and monitoring of electromagnetic interference, etc.
In late 2002, UKE took the decision to implement an ISO 9001:2000-based QMS to achieve:
It was decided that implementation would be carried out totally in-house without any external consultation. We started with a training course for the Office Management (heads). Having analysed the financial situation and training capabilities it was decided that the QMS would be implemented in three stages. This would enable the office to allocate its resources over time, and substantially reduce the financial burden.
Implementation in a relatively small part of the organization first would be smoother and faster and act as an incentive for the rest of an organization. Also, the documentation would form the basis for further extensions.
The chosen units for the first stage of QMS implementation were the Department of Frequency Resources Management (DZC), the Department of Broadcasting (DRD) and the Director’s General Bureau, the latter being responsible for internal inspections and coordination of every day activities, and for handling complaints and requests.
The Director General and his top management team at UKE took the initiative of developing the quality policy and actively supported all pro-quality activities.
We published the quality policy early in 2004. Its key messages were to strive for continual improvement in the level of customer service, in meeting deadlines for handling cases, to improve and extend the QMS throughout the organization, and above all to create the image of a customer-friendly office.
UKE top management is fully responsible for establishing, communicating and improving the quality policy as well as for ensuring its consistency with quality goals and customer requirements.
Our first implementation task was to put all employees in the Department of Frequency Resources Management (DZC), the Department of Broadcasting (DRD) and the Director’s General Bureau through two intensive two-day training courses on ISO 9001:2000 and QMS documentation. We appointed a coordinator and a working group in them composed of people with a thorough knowledge of the organisational structure, processes and tasks.
More than 40 group meetings took place. Since the QMS was intended as an office management support tool, the starting point was to define the “product” and to review all departmental processes that impact on quality.
A challenge was to find measurable parameters to define the efficiency of each process. The first that came to mind were deadlines and the correctness of administrative decisions being issued.
In accordance with the fundamental principles of ISO 9001:2000-based QMS implementation, we began to develop procedures describing the factual and quality processes, with the participation of employees directly involved in the “production” process.
This required intensive work by the whole team, but the result was a full set of UKE QMS documentation and implementation strategy guidelines, compiled and published by the first quarter of 2004.
After a series of internal audits, the third-party certification audit was carried out at the end of April 2004 by the Polish Centre for Testing and Certification (PCBC), culminating in UKE’s successful first-stage ISO 9001:2000 certification on 21 June.
Following certification of the first two departments, the next step was to train employees and coordinate QMS implementation in the next five bureaus and all regional offices.
Regional offices are effectively an extension of UKE head office “production” and for that reason they were covered by the QMS as early as the second stage. We visited each office to review and analyse current quality practices in the light of ISO 9001:2000, and establish basic training courses for employees. This enabled us to assess which QMS elements were already in place, and which should be implemented.
We appointed coordinators in each unit and put them through two three-day training courses focusing on ISO 9001:2001 requirements, QMS documentation and internal audit methodology.
Good preparation of coordinators for future tasks is extremely important as they are responsible for managing QMS teams within organizational units – and consequently for the correct implementation of QMS documentation within specified time limits.
The second stage was successfully completed by a PCBC audit and ISO 9001:2000 certification was awarded in June 2005. The certificate confirmed that “The Office of Telecommunications and Post Regulation within the scope of: administrative, regulatory and monitoring activities with respect to broadcasting, radiocommunications, telecommunications and posts on the territory of the Republic of Poland implemented in respective organizational units of UKE-URTiP head office and of all regional offices conforms with the requirements of the ISO 9001:2000 standard.”
It was assumed that the third stage of the QMS implementation programme would simply roll out to the remaining organisational units of UKE. However, despite the experience gained in the previous two stages, this proved not to be the easiest part of the project!
The reason was that this final stage dealt with “non-productive” units where the quality elements are often difficult to identify. A totally in-house approach to QMS creation and implementation was the answer. We expect to complete implementation of stage three during 2006.
Benefits of doing it our way
There were several valuable benefits from the decision to implement the QMS using our own internal resources. Firstly, it increased employee awareness of the QMS role and function in UKE and certainly contributed to the involvement of all in system creation.
Another key advantage was the fact that quality documentation was created by the employees themselves in those units where the QMS had already been implemented.
Also, training courses in small groups of not more than 20 people proved very effective. QMS implementation in three stages enabled the head office to allocate resources over time, thus reducing the burden of a one-time UKE-wide programme.
Undoubtedly the experience gained during implementation of the first stage enabled the head office to develop basic documentation which, after minor modification, was suitable for rapid adoption by the succeeding units.
In conclusion, since first-stage QMS implementation, covering a relatively small part of the organization, proved to be smoothly and successfully done, it had a very encouraging effect on those UKE units that still awaited ISO 9001:2000 implementation and certification.
Elzbieta Kobylinska - Chief Specialist and Tomasz Niewodniczanski - Quality System Manager of UKE
*Article was published in ISO Management Systems, 6/2006