ISO 9004:2009 – A review

It’s here. A year after the publication of ISO 9001:2008, the companion document ISO 9004 has been updated. And whilst the most recent changes to ISO 9001 have been minimal and to all intents and purposes largely cosmetic, the changes to ISO 9004 have not. The changes are big. In fact the revised standard is barely recognisable from its predecessor. It’s different

So what are the changes?

… Where do we start?

OK, gone is the old title “Guidelines for Performance Improvement”. The new title for ISO 9004:2009 is “Managing for the sustained success of an organisation – a quality management approach”. Gone is the old familiar format that mirrored ISO 9001. The ISO 9001 requirements as “boxed text” accompanied by some general hints and tips outside the boxed text, there to help us understand and apply the various requirements of ISO 9001. That is gone

In fact, ISO 9004 no longer follows the structure and requirements of ISO 9001 in any real way. It no longer goes through the ISO 9001 requirements and offers specific clause by clause advice. It actually does more or less what the title implies, it offers guidance on a more general “quality management approach”

This calls into question what the intended application of ISO 9004 actually is. It can no longer really function as an implementation guide to ISO 9001, firstly because it no longer tries to, but secondly because the scope of its content is now fundamentally different. It contains, for example, guidance on such matters as:

  • Strategy and policy formulation
  • Strategy and policy deployment
  • Financial resources
  • Knowledge, information and technology
  • Natural resources
  • Innovation & learning

Wow. That’s different. Good topics though these might be for any management system, they are, arguably, out-with the current scope of ISO 9001:2008. What is more, it appears that ISO 9004 is starting to use some established terms in a different way to ISO 9001. “Policy” for instance. If we look at the way ISO 9001 uses the term “Policy” (with reference to clause 5.3) it deals very much with the one page “statement of intent” that we all know and (maybe) love. ISO 9004 appears to be using the term “Policy” in a broader sense, something more detailed, meaningful and less neutral. And strategy? Well, ISO 9001 currently does not even go there

The most obvious “hit you in the face” feature of ISO 9004:2009, however, is that it borrows very heavily from the EFQM Excellence Model

efqm model

All of those new topics I listed above feature heavily in the excellence model, and have done for a couple of decades. We saw a small movement to an “excellence model approach” in 2000 when the “8 Principles” were introduced. These principles were lifted, more or less, from the principles that underpinned the EFQM excellence model at the time. Some of them (Continual Improvement, Customer Focus) even generated some significant new requirements within ISO 9001:2000. Many people expected ISO 9001:2008 to move a little further in that general “excellence” direction. It did not, of course. Some of us were pleased, some of us were disappointed. Maybe ISO 9004:2009 is a kind of half-way house? Maybe it has been developed this way as a means of placating those of us that maintain ISO 9001 standards are old fashioned or not challenging enough? Maybe ISO is saying, “OK you want something more challenging? There you are. Next time be careful what you wish for!”

Either way, as a general observation, I have to say that I am detecting some initial confusion. Not that the contents are in any way badly written or irrelevant, just that practitioners are simply confused as to what the intent of ISO 9004:2009 actually is. How are we to use it? Will certification bodies develop a certification scheme for it? (there’s a thought), how are ISO 9001 auditors meant to use it? All these questions remain for the moment, so far as I can see, unanswered

So, yes, it appears to be a “quality” document, but will it be used in a “quality” way? Only time will tell

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23 Responses to ISO 9004:2009 – A review

  1. Rob says:

    Hi Shaun

    I like this summary? Can I repost this on my blog, obviously crediting you?

    Let me know, thanks.

  2. admin says:

    No problems, Rob. back-links always appreciated

  3. folly francis says:

    Shaun, after getting certified as an Auditor iso 9001:2008 with this latest development with iso 9004:2009. what do i do to meet up with this development.

  4. Shaun says:

    Good to hear from you Francis. The good news is that you don’t really need to do much at all. ISO 9004 is just a guidance document. Your registration as an auditor/lead auditor is only dependent on the auditable standard (i.e. in your case ISO 9001:2008). In terms of general awareness you’ll find it useful to get hold of a copy of ISO 9004:2009 and read it, but to all intents and purposes this is just good background knowledge for you, there is no requirement for you to go through any formal transition. Hope this helps

  5. Rob says:

    Hi Shaun

    I’m posting this on Monday (tomorrow) over at You should like it, as you wrote it!


  6. Ekhagbai Inusa says:

    Thanks for the precise summary and the beautiful answer to Francis.



  7. admin says:

    Thanks Inusa, hope you found it useful

  8. L.K.Mehta says:

    An excellent review.Well, the ISO 9004 clearly defines in its scope that it’s NOT intended for certification.


  9. admin says:

    It does indeed, Lalit. The scope says it is not INTENDED for certification. However the intended use and the actual use sometimes end up being two different things. I have a feeling there would be some niche interest in some sort of ISO 9004 certification, and where there is money to be made …

  10. Emmanuel. k. Adesina says:

    Hi, Shaun

    it a long time,how is your family?
    Thank for the summary of iso 9004:2009. Is an advantage for us that have not be certify as Lead Auditor. plc i want to find out is there any training course, Environmental Lead Audit.


  11. Shaun says:

    Family still good thanks. Hope things are good for you too. Actually right now I am in Istanbul but I will be back before Christmas holidays. The Environmental Lead Auditor is going through approval with IEMA right now and it should be available in Nigeria through Festus from February 2010

  12. When I read it I wondered whether it had been lost on someone’s hard drive for the last nine years 🙂

    I would have loved to see something like this accompany the heavy-hitting 2000 revision of the ISO 9001 Standard rather than on the heels of the new lack-luster 2008 revision.

    I write a little more on this subject at

  13. admin says:

    That’s what I think whenever I see any revised standard, funnily enough. Spooky isn’t it?

  14. shaun says:

    PS I reciprocated with a link on the Blogroll Lindsay. Thanks for the link on Get ISO

  15. Thanks Shaun –
    I agree with you its hard to think of it as a companion, especially when customer and registration agency auditors tell companies “we aren’t interested in marketing, sales or financial processes and all we care about in your mission statement is that it should mention quality”. – urghhh! don’t get me started !!!

  16. Pingback: ISO 9004:2009 The Companion Document « Get ISO? Blog

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  18. ISO 9000 says:

    this is really helpful and i find it knowledgeable , i am looking for ISO certification for my own business , what should i do as a initial step.

  19. shaun says:

    There is a process map that describes an overview of the ISO certification process in the “members area” on this blog

    Email me on for a password for the members area

    There is other stuff in there that may be useful to you too

  20. Travis says:

    Another excellent post.
    Just add fuel to the fire though, I think this ISO is more about ‘sustaining success’
    rather than advancing Quality Managent Systems

  21. Pingback: EFQM and ISO 9001 - a comparison of approaches | Capable People Blog

  22. Guenter Lenz says:

    thanks for this excellent post!

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