Review of ISO Standards

Debate is raging regarding the upcoming release of ISO 9001:2015. The CD is available for scrutiny and comment. Whilst the CD may be messy, the debate is even messier and leaves me wondering whether anyone has a clear idea about what the intended outcome is.

Previously I have blogged about the purpose of certification. Certification is a system attestation that is designed to give potential customers useful information about a supplier’s management system. It IS about the badge in other words. The idea that an ISO standard and the associated certification is designed to put the company on the “right path” is a distraction and just plain wrong. Nobody needs to pay a CB to do that, even if we agreed they were competent at doing that. Unfortunately right now I think the tail is completely wagging the dog. I have tried to stay out of the current ISO 9001:2015 debates simply because they embarrass me and I don’t want to be associated with them. Generally speaking it is a load of unfocussed, self-indulgent opinion by people who value their own wants, needs and preferences way above the needs of those that will be the primary users of the standard – CUSTOMER ORGANISATIONS.

Has anyone ever stopped to think what management system attributes customer organisations actually care about? Is this a key design input? It is even a criteria? An afterthought?

The result is a bit of a mess. I was rather hoping that ISO 9001 would follow the infinitely more effective structure of ISO 14001 and OHSAS 18001. But it hasn’t. Currently it is a jumble of fuzzy thinking and things that, frankly, just don’t make sense. As an example it defines risk as “the effect of uncertainty”. THAT IS NOT A DEFINITION OF RISK! Why would anyone think it a good idea to depart from the established convention of combination of likelihood and severity? It is just plain nuts, but sadly symptomatic of the way of things. Throughout all the debate, I have never seen ANYONE trying to revert back to a design objective to calibrate ideas and to ensure initial objectives would be met. It’s just more ideas. One on top of another, presumably working on the principle that all opinions are equally valid.

I never ever thought I would find myself praying for the stifling intervention of the certification bodies, but I am tempted. Fortunately I have high confidence they’ll all hate this draft and will soon mobilise their efforts against it. Let’s hope




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8 Responses to Review of ISO Standards

  1. Paul Simpson says:

    Hi, Shaun. Your comments are, as ever, interesting but I don’t agree with them. This edition of 9001 has been the most open of any development cycle and it hasn’t done anyone any favours. ISO has tried to be inclusive by inviting opinion before the design specification was put together (and yes it does outline the primary focus of the requirements standard, 9001, in providing confidence to customers.

    Many interested parties have circulated copies of the CD, some legally, some not but haven’t checked that the people using it understand the ISO drafting and commenting process before they let them have a copy. That is one reason why we have so many people out there ranting and raving.

    I like to think of it as everyone is telling the world they have the answer when it seems (to me anyhow) that nobody understands the question.

  2. Shaun says:

    Thanks for taking the time o read and comment, Paul, I appreciate it, but I still can’t reconcile the design objective you outline with the current output. It just looks to me like a load of ideas layered one on top of another. Much of it is unstructured and some of it just without any sense. Can you shed any light on the bizarre definition of risk and explain why quality has elected to go out on a limb and depart from the definitions used in every other discipline (not just management systems) from Finance to Close Protection?

    I can see how the increased openness has been a double edged sword. You simply can’t invite comments from all quarters without bias or prejudice and not expect that to cause a problem with analysis and prioritisation. I can see how that could have caused more problems than it has solved. The principle of one man one vote can’t be applied, as the interests of customer organisations have to be weighted far more heavily than those of geeks, enthusiasts, academics and those with a commercial interest in certifying as many as possible (bearing in mind I am actually praying that this latter group now step in and flex their muscles).

    From a purely selfish perspective I could say I’m best off keeping my mouth shut. The bigger the change, the tougher the transition, the greater the training need, but I actually do put my customers first, working on the principle that I need to be on their side, and what works for them will ultimately work for me.

  3. Richard Allan says:

    Shaun, I’m just as disappointed in the poor showing from the CQI in collecting and sifting members’ opinion and developing a strong position paper through an effective Standards Panel.
    The CQI is missing a major opportunity to engage with its membership,( their customers) especially those members who represent the customer organizations you describe in your blog. It makes me question what value I get from the CQI if I don’t feel it’s effective in taking member’s input to influence the development of THE major quality management system standard.
    I agree that the CBs will rally their forces and resist anything too radical from coming into effect.
    How are people like you, or organizations like I work for, able to have any influence on the development of the standard if it is not through bodies like the CQI.

  4. Paul Simpson says:

    Thanks, Shaun. I think the reason the CD looks unstructured is that it remains a ‘cut and paste’ of the HLS, old text of 9001 and ‘new’ ideas from a series of sub-groups on the working group. This is par for the course at this stage of development.
    You’ve raised a couple of specific queries that I can answer. 1) The risk definition comes from the TC developing ISO 31000 and this TC is made up of experts from Finance etc. 2) The openness from ISO is not total as the route for comments remains through the National Standards Bodies (NSB) – so in theory they do the filtering and organizing of comments. The quality of the response will depend on how good the NSB is at managing access to the standard and arranging the groups to comment in a format acceptable to the TC. My experience of this isn’t great as some NSB just pass through unfiltered comments.
    I think there are enough practitioners on TC 176 to give the ‘quality’ and ‘customer’ view – I for one try to do this.
    I’m also not convinced about your argument for a stronger voice from the CBs. Apologies that the layout of my replies appears ‘blocky’ – not sure if this is my IT set up or your blogging software.

  5. Shaun Sayers says:

    David Hoyle explained the origin of the definition of risk to me, Paul, so I did actually know – but I still think it’s barmy. Under those terms an effect of uncertainty will often be nervousness and fear. Therefore you can reduce risk by having a stiff drink or taking therapy. That’s stupid. Whereas trying to move things down either (or both) of likelihood and severity axes is eminently practical and a well proven tactic for risk treatment.

    Richard, I can understand where you’re coming from on that front. I won’t go into detail with regard to my experiences with CQI working groups (There are no juicy conflict stories, just process difficulties) but one thing that I will say is that the CQI gets itself caught between a rock and a hard place in my opinion. On the one hand it wants/needs representation on its groups from a range of quarters, but the consequence is that the group ends up being BIG. In my experience that is the single biggest inhibitor. I’ve never seen anything remotely resembling a consensus being reached, merely an output based on “last man standing” which is not the same. The other barrier to consensus at the moment is a lack of agreement on the meaning of ANYTHING to do with Quality or Quality Management. There are no cornerstones on which to build. I don’t know the answer …

  6. Paul Simpson says:

    Richard. I’ve sent a link through to the Standards Panel Chair and to the ISO 9001 review lead. I hope they come back here or to LinkedIn with an update for all.
    For my part I filled in the online questionnaire and have completed the ISO comments sheet. Have you been involved in the review under the new Standards Panel? If not I am sure you will be welcome. We need to get people like you and Shaun engaged in the process but it is fairly painful to make sure that our comments will be received and listened to. I don’t agree that CBs will rally their forces and exert disproportianate influence – the only ones with a seat at the table are the moderate ones who are actually interested in a good, workable standard.

  7. Paul Simpson says:

    Shaun. I tend to agree with your view on risk. I get the concept of ‘positive uncertainty’ but it is largely irrelevant in the work I do. Therefore I can accept the ISO definition (mandated for political reasons) but in my head I’m thinking ‘negative risk.’ Perhaps that says something about me? 🙂
    The ‘new’ SP is small and the ISO 9001 working group is smaller still. I genuinely hope we can get a pithy set of comments back to ISO.
    I also agree that CQI has some problems getting the quality of volunteer to be part of its governance and to contribute to panels and working groups. Unfortunately the majority of people who have the inclination and time to spend on this work are not necessarily the people you want to contribute to the output. End of rant.

  8. Shaun Sayers says:

    Your last point I can buy, Paul. I have a certain amount of time, but it is not limitless, nor can I feel relaxed when it is apparently wasted, so I’d find it difficult to get involved in the future. Like I say, there is a fundamental problem with the design of the process when a consensus output is desired from a massive group. That is never going to happen quickly under any circumstances. Nor is the process going to be any fun …

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