Knowledge Management & ISO 90001:2015

Knowledge Management & ISO 90001:2015

The new ISO 9001:2015 has added a new clause on organisational knowledge (clause 7.1.6) which explicitly mentions Knowledge as a resource, and specifies expectations for the management of that resource as follows:

Clause 7.1.6. Knowledge

  • “Determine the knowledge necessary for the operation of its processes and to achieve conformity of products and services.
  • “This knowledge shall be maintained and made available to the extent necessary.
  • “When addressing changing needs and trends, the organization shall consider its current knowledge and determine how to acquire or access any necessary additional knowledge and required updates.
  • “NOTE 1: Organizational knowledge is knowledge specific to the organization; it is generally gained by experience. It is information that is used and shared to achieve the organization’s objectives.
  • “NOTE 2: Organizational knowledge can be based on: a) Internal Sources (e.g., intellectual property, knowledge gained from experience, lessons learned from failures and successful projects, capturing and sharing undocumented knowledge and experience; the results of improvements in processes, products and services); b) External Sources (e.g., standards, academia, conferences, gathering knowledge from customers or external providers).

How this clause may be interpreted

In 7.1.6 the international standard addresses the need to determine and manage the knowledge maintained by the organization, to ensure the operation of its processes and that it can achieve conformity of products and services.  Requirements regarding organizational knowledge were introduced for the purposes of:

  • safeguarding the organization from the loss of knowledge, e.g. – through staff turnover – failure to capture and share information
  • encouraging the organization to acquire knowledge, e.g. – learning from experience – mentoring – benchmarking”.


We can see from the text above and in the previous section, that many of the common elements of Knowledge Management are implied or specifically mentioned. These include:

  • an appropriate system for learning from experience, including the use of lesson learning;
  • an appropriate approach to knowledge retention, including mentoring, tacit knowledge capture, and knowledge sharing;
  • some form of KM audit, benchmarking and KM strategy, sufficient to identify the critical knowledge needed to deliver quality products and services, and the main knowledge gaps;
  • a system (roles, processes and supporting technology) for maintaining knowledge and making it available to the extent necessary

What this means for the knowledge manager

As Knowledge Manager, the new requirements under ISO 9001:2015 can make a massive change to the way you present Knowledge Management to your senior managers. From now on, Knowledge Management is an explicit requirement of a major international standard, and is no longer an optional extra. Instead of selling KM within your organisation as “a good thing to do” you should now be presenting it as “a requirement for ISO certification in the area of Quality”.

You need to make your organisation aware of any impact clause 7.1.6 may have on their ISO 9001:2015 qualification, and any actions that need to be taken. As a Knowledge Manager you will have to take the lead in this, and specifically;

  • introduce the new clause to your sponsor and steering committee so they are aware that the management of knowledge is now becoming an expectation in international standards;
  • determine whether any part of your organisation is currently certified under ISO 9001:2008, or has plans to apply for ISO 9001:2015 certification;
  • speak to the quality manager of this part of the business, and explain the new Knowledge requirements under the ISO 9001:2015 revision (perhaps forward this newsletter to your quality colleagues as a first step);
  • go through clause 7.1.6 with the quality professionals line by line, and offer your support in ensuring the required KM elements are in place;
  • work with the quality professionals to prepare a plan to get ready for audit, as described in the next section.

How to prepare for an audit of ISO 9001:2015 clause 7.1.6

An organization applying for ISO 9001:2015 certification is audited based on an extensive sample of its sites, functions, products, services and processes. The auditor identifies and presents a list of problems (defined as “non-conformities”, “observations”, or “opportunities for improvement”) to management. We do not yet know how clause 7.1.6 will be audited, but the text of the ISO standard document suggests that the auditors may be looking for evidence that the following are in place:

  • You need to have “determined the knowledge necessary” for the operation of processes and to achieve conformity of products and services. You therefore should conduct your own knowledge scan of key knowledge topics, and create a critical knowledge list
  • The knowledge needs to be “maintained”. Make sure each critical knowledge topic has a topic owner, and an appropriate maintenance procedure.
  • The knowledge needs to be “made available”. There needs at the very least to be an effective way to find the knowledge, such as a good knowledge base and search engine. Even better if the knowledge is “pushed” to those who need it.
  • You need a strategic knowledge plan, with identified actions to fill knowledge gaps from external sources.
  • You need an effective system for learning from experience and for lesson learning, including embedded roles, consistence lesson capture processes, a lessons management system, and good governance. This system should also cover lessons from process, product and service improvements.
  • You need a Knowledge Retention and Transfer program.

If you have prepared well for the audit and there are no major nonconformities, the certification body will issue a certificate. Where major non-conformities are identified, you will need to present an improvement plan to the certification body showing how the problems will be resolved, and once it is satisfied that the organization has carried out sufficient corrective action, it will issue a certificate. As knowledge manager, your role will be to help the quality function avoid non-conformance with clause 7.1.6.

Source: Knoco Newsletter, October 2015