Being clear about an organization's intentions and goals is the first step toward effectiveness and results. This information, if it is well communicated and monitored in the organization, forms the basis for directed progress. The ISO 9001 standard identifies the techniques of policies (for stating intentions for how we will operate) and objectives (for stating goals for what we want to achieve) as primary tools of top management to direct the organization toward it's quality goals for the products and processes of the company.
"The quality policy is a general statement made by top management that it intends to achieve quality as a result of the company's operation."

One specific policy required by the standard is called the quality policy. The quality policy is a general statement made by top management that it intends to achieve quality as a result of the company's operation. The quality policy is more than a "slogan" in that its effectiveness is measurable through the performance of the quality management system. By developing, communicating and maintaining a quality policy, the organization is held accountable to achieve the expectations for quality stated in the policy.

Third-party auditors will look for objective evidence that the policy is effectively communicated and implemented throughout the organization. It will not be uncommon for an auditor to ask several employees to state the company's quality policy. While the expected response does not have to be a "word-for-word" recitation of the policy, every employee must be able to demonstrate knowledge of the policy and how it applies to their day-to-day job. Thus, any preparation plan for an ISO 9001 registration audit will include training and/or communication of the quality policy.

The ISO 9001 standard is explicit in stating its expectations for a quality policy:
Top management shall ensure that the quality policy
  1. is appropriate to the purpose of the organization,
  2. includes a commitment to comply with requirements and continually improve the effectiveness of the quality management system,
  3. provides a framework for establishing and reviewing quality objectives,
  4. is communicated and understood within the organization, and
  5. is reviewed for continuing suitability (ref. 5.3)

The top management team of the company must determine its quality policy and monitor its effectiveness on an ongoing basis. When determining product and process quality objectives (see "Management Planning – ISO Explained), management must consider how the stated objectives support the company's quality policy. If there is discrepancy between them, either the quality policy or the objectives must be revised. And, the management team (usually during management review) must review the quality policy regularly (perhaps annually) to ensure that it is still relevant for the organization and change it if necessary.

A well-articulated and managed quality policy is one of the fundamental building blocks of an effective quality management system.