ISO 9004:2009 – Is it any practical use?

There is a discussion in process within the Capable People LinkedIn discussion group at the moment, started by Craig Cartmell. Craig initially asked whether anyone had seen much evidence of any practical application of ISO 9004:2009 by companies. Naturally, I’ve added my ten cents, but the issues, I think, deserve an airing on here too, as I think, at best, ISO 9004:2009 is an enigma

So, two years on, where are we with it?

When ISO 9004:2009 was released, I think it is fair to say it took a lot of us by surprise. I posted a review of it soon after I had first sight of it, but at that time it was a bit early to judge its practical impact. What struck me first was that it was fundamentally a different document to its predecessor both in content and intended use. It no longer gave you clause by clause help on the intent of ISO 9001. In retrospect I now see that as a big retrograde step. Whatever we might feel about the weaknesses of ISO 9001, the old ISO 9004 did at least reduce the chances of inappropriate application. So, that useful “help” document is gone (or at least withdrawn). Whatever the intent of ISO 9004:2009 was or is, I do think that at the very least the old 9004 should have been allowed to retain its position within the series. The baby, in my opinion, went out with the bathwater. At the time I remember thinking, based on the general bemusement of the community with ISO 9004:2009, who asked for this? Time would tell, I concluded – let’s see who is actively using it two years down the line. Now I believe it is fair to conclude that appetite for the document is limited. I get around more than most and do not find people using it at all in a business context, and the only chatter about it is in an academic context such as this

Now I do appreciate that hindsight is 100% accurate, but I also believe that it is not that difficult to vox pop the user group and get a feel for demand beforehand. I simply cannot accept that this could have been done properly in this case. There are people who believe that it was developed with a view to craftily sliding in a “higher than ISO 9001” level of QMS certification by stealth, but I’ve not seen any evidence for this. Moreover I don’t think the document reads like a certifiable standard, so I don’t buy into that conspiracy theory. In summary I am still left scratching my head after two years, lamenting the loss of the old style ISO 9004 and wondering how much time and money was spent (I won’t say wasted) developing something which, to me, seems like a complete white elephant

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