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What Tools and Techniques can you use to help define the Context of the Organisation

Updated: Feb 5, 2021

In this video, Peter Rogers from Mango Global discusses Context of the Organisation as part of the Compliance Conversation series. We have gathered compliance consultants from around the world to give some insights into the ISO requirement, clause 4 "Context of the Organisation". The question we answer in this conversation is "What tools and techniques can I use to help define the Context of the Organisation?"

Check out the video here:

Nicholas, SRM, South Africa

We've got something that we call a discovery register, which is a formalised process that we take our clients through, to help them to understand the context, and it looks at site maps:

  • Where they are locally, regionally and nationally within their country? Because that is going to influence a lot of our understanding of the legal and other requirements.

    • Who are some of their customers?

    • Who are some of their contractors?

    • What are some of the historic incidents?

within that we define all of their processes and sub processes.

  • We have a look at their people,

    • We have a look at their shift patterns.

It's critically important, to understand all of that information, because this is the foundation that we're going to build the system on.

If we don't comprehensively identify the context of the organisation, then when we develop the system, we're probably not going to consider those factors.

John, Many Caps, New Zealand

In terms of tools to help you understand context of the organisation, there's a couple of really easy ones;

  • You can always use the good old-fashioned SWOT analysis; Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats, that’s really good and you can get people involved in that.

  • The PESTLE analysis is a really good tool. That’s where we look at:

    • Political

    • Economic

    • Social/Cultural impacts

    • Technology

    • Legal and

    • Ecological impacts.

It gives you a really good framework to make sure you put everything in boxes and think of all the things you want to think about. And again, you can do the same with SWOT analysis and get people involved in doing it.

The Pestle analysis is my preferred technique.

Mark, Business Basics, Australia

You can use things like:

  • SWOT analysis

    • Pareto analysis

    • Porter's five forces, which helps you understand your competitive environment.

All these things can identify your internal and external issues that are going to help you achieve your goal.

Additionally, by undertaking stakeholder analysis, you can identify the people that are involved, the people that are going to help and hurt you from achieving your goal.

Undertaking these things gives you a good grounding, to work out what your objectives and targets will be.

Chris, FQM, United Kingdom

There are heaps of different tools available that you can use, you can go back to basics as simple as an Excel spreadsheet, and you can use different types of graphs and things.

Me personally, one of the things I use as examples when I'm speaking to clients is to do a SWOT analysis.

It's another one of those tools as positives and negatives. It is quite old fashioned, but I still think it's pretty good.

I think one of the good things about a SWOT analysis allows you to see, if done correctly, the clear weaknesses that you can have in the context and often, if you consider the external factors that can bring weakness to your business, then you can improve upon them, and see the areas you might have to focus.

SWOT analysis is probably one of the ones that I would suggest, and it's very good to allow you to see other interested parties within the context.

Jodie, Penarth Management, United Kingdom

When defining the context, the easiest thing is to think of it in terms of:

  • Who

    • Why

    • What

    • Where

    • When and

    • How

This approach is commonly known as the five W's and an H.

Ben, Total Management & Training, Australia

One of the key tools or techniques that I use is a structured approach.

Basically, first of all, I'll define the particular scope that I'm looking at applying. This is what part of the business or what particular area that I'm going to target.

The next thing is I'm going to look at the issues surrounding that area. These issues are going to be both internal and external.

Whilst I'm identifying those, I'm actually going to find the stakeholders that are relevant to those issues as well and see what they think and see how they would apply against that particular issue.

The last thing you can do is actually use some of the structured tools, one of the ones that I know of is called PESTLE, it stands for:

  • Political

    • Economic

    • Social

    • Technological

    • Legal and

    • Environmental.

It takes you through a process of thinking along those particular topic lines when you're identifying these issues.

Michael, Momentum Safety and Ergonomics

A lot of businesses do this without really actively thinking about it, but it's one that when you challenge them, it's not easy for them to come up with answers. I often say, ‘Let's sit down and talk about all the external factors which may influence the Organisation.’

It's a good chance to do it in your Management Review meetings, or any planning meetings that you might have.

As far as where you might put it, for example, in a quality manual at the start. A bit of a blurb about how we do things, those sort of impacts in an external, internal factors.

I also put it into my risks and opportunities registers as well, and they'll have a separate section for external and internal impacts which affect the context.

Andrew, Integrated Risk Management, Australia

We really advocate with our customers to build it into their monthly management meetings at a senior management level, your OHS committee meetings, your operational meetings as well.

That's a really good top down approach. It's simply a very time effective approach, as we're discussing these things, particularly when we're discussing it at a senior management level, we can then make decisions about how to support that with resources and actions and authorisations needed as well.

If you carefully read clause 4.1 and 4.2 in the standard, you'll note that they don't mandate that documented information is required about the process, so how do you assess the context and they also don't mandate that you must keep a particular documented output.

My reading of that, keeping in mind I'm not involved in developing ISO standards, but my reading of that is clearly that ISO want to allow you to take this opportunity to build it into some of those high-level, management level meetings without making it a laborious process just to demonstrate compliance.


  1. Some great tools to use to help structure and define your context:

    • SWOT analysis

    • Pestle analysis

    • Porters five forces

    • Pareto analysis

  1. Do a stakeholder analysis and identify the people you need to involve that can help in this process.

  2. Define the scope, identify the issues, use any of the structured tools.

  3. Always consider your external and internal impacts.

  4. Click on this link to listen to our video outlining clause 4

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