Understanding ISO 9001:2015
5.3 Organizational roles, responsibilities and
Before we begin, let’s clarify some definitions:
is the defined or expected behavior associated with a particular position, function or status in an
: The duty, obligation and accountability for the performance of assigned duties, tasks and
: The power or right to control, command, issue orders, make decisions, assign resources, delegate, and ensure
compliance to company policies and practices.
means taking responsibility for and accepting the consequences of your actions in achieving results and proving it
to others (see our discussion under clause 5.1.1a).
Top management must establish the organizational framework necessary to deploy the QMS. It must define
the structure, hierarchy and lines of reporting. Additionally, (perhaps, through the assistance of the Human
Resources function), it must ensure that the duties, roles,
responsibilities and authority of all personnel are defined and communicated. All personnel must be
clear on their duties, responsibilities and authority in meeting customer and regulatory
Although this version of the ISO 9001 standard does not specifically require any documentation, clause 4.4.2 does
require that to the extent necessary, the organization must maintain
documents and records to support the QMS.
Organization charts, job descriptions, procedures, work instructions, responsibility matrices, etc, are typically
some of the many ways that top management may use to define and document
its organizational framework and associated duties, roles, responsibilities and authority
These must be communicated and deployed, as applicable, throughout the organization. Orientation packages; quality
and operator manuals, appointment postings; sign-off on job descriptions; job training on procedures and work
instructions, etc, are some of the many ways to accomplish this.
The organization structure and lines of reporting; responsibility and authority of managerial functions and
departments must be established by top management (business planning) and the responsibilities and authorities for
the rest of the organization may be established by the HR function working with various process owners and
department heads. Again, this would depend on the size, complexity and culture of the
The specific QMS activities themselves that top management must assign responsibilities and authorities for are
covered in detail in other parts of this ISO 9001 standard. In this clause, we are only concerned with top
management’s role in assigning them.
In the 2008 version of this standard, the Management Representative (MR) was assigned specific responsibilities and
authority for overseeing the implementation, maintenance and improvement of the QMS and reporting on QMS
performance to top management. This MR function could be assigned to any individual at the managerial level who had
a reasonable grasp of the ISO 9001 standard and people skills in promoting and implementing the QMS.
In this version there is no such requirement. The expectation is that some companies will continue to maintain the
MR function, while others may choose to reassign the responsibility for the various QMS activities indicated by
This article is an extract from my eCourse “Understanding ISO
9001:2015”. The rest of the article discusses in
detail clause 5.3.a-e and the action items needed to address these