Close Menu

By Tom Gordon, CFPIM [a dyed-in-the wool poststructurarlist] 1
Missouri Enterprise Project Manager

 “Those who spend too much time with their noses glued
to maps will tend to mistake the map for the territory”.2

These are exciting times in the evolution of ISO 9001; the business driving the standard rather than the standard trying to drive the business. ‘Risk and Opportunity’ are perfect examples – all businesses, whether they realize it or not, are risk averse and aspirers to opportunity.   

To many business people the traditional dysphasia of the 20 element, pre-2000 model, is giving away to the business-focused 2015 standard.  I am sure that many people reading the 2015 version for the first time underwent a similar epiphany to those seeing, for example, Picasso’s 1910 “Standing Female Nude” for the first time. They finally “got it”! 3  Looking back at the old BS5750 and earlier versions of ISO 9001/2/3 what we see are a set of rules, a half-century of formalist indoctrination, which neither created a quality product for the Customer nor a dynamic way forward for the majority of organizations.

My first introduction to the ISO/BS5750 world was failing a certification audit.  My company was a ‘real’ Class A MRPII user.  We were the first European organization to fully implement the international Version 5 of ASK ManMan, passé now but at the front of the pack in the late ‘70s. 4  At the Closing Meeting the two auditors, who I still think of as Laurel and Hardy, told the collected multitude that we had too many major nonconformities to allow them to recommend certification.  I took their report home that night with a copy of BS5750 and quickly came to the conclusion that L&H did not ‘get’ my factory.5   By adding, to my mind, a series of irrelevant activities and silly documentation 6 we finally achieved certification and then forgot about it until the next surveillance audit – the epitome of non-valued activity.

The standard only marginally changed until the revelation of 2000.  The 1997 phase 2 revisions did not come out, largely because the business community realized [and that included the serious registrars] that the 20 element model caused more issues than it solved.  ‘Boundary’ management problems were endemic but only the most forward thinking organizations recognized the implications.  The 2000 version, in part, understood that any ‘system’ is simply a means of translating the Customer requirements into the folding green stuff to put in the bank.  Anything that helps this throughput is good, anything that hinders it is mere sophistry.  The evolution has continued; the level of prescription has dropped and phrases like, “as appropriate” have found their way into the 2015 version.  Long may this movement infect the ISO standard. 

It is instructive to ask the question, “Why do it”?  The common reason is to satisfy the requirements of the Customer.  This is fair enough on the face of it, but does that response not contradict the 7th quality principle in ISO 9000:2015?  The set of inter-acting relationships, which is erroneously termed the “supplier chain’, is complicated to manage but that is hardly an excuse to insist upon the overhead of an outside registrar; because it is difficult to do should not exclude detailed supplier evaluation! ISO certification as a requirement is an attempt at risk-mitigation, rather like motor insurance, but as the commercial for an insurance company points out – “you chose the wrong insurance plan – No, I chose the wrong insurance company’! 

There are more effective ways to mitigate the supplier-risk – for example, the great Ollie Wight postulated in the 1960’s that the sensible approach is to treat the supplier as the ‘outside department’; sharing the MPS, easy with today’s technology, will mitigate many risks.  However, certification, for whatever reason, is not the goal, it is not the time to sit on the river bank, put the corporate feet in the water and send out for beer and pizza.

It is the start of a journey to excellence, merely a tool to help straighten out the road.  For practitioners to allow this attitude, and even supply the pizza, is to do the organization a great disservice, which will be costly and self-defeating.  

 

[1] “They” being the writers of the standards.

[2] I presented a paper on our application of 2nd level Master Production Scheduling to the MANMAN Conference in 1979 or there-abouts.

[3] A non-conformity which still irritates me was centered around the color of paper in the fax machine.  Sometimes we used blue, other times red, other times white – whatever was available at the time.  When asked why, my PA stated that we sometimes used colored paper to highlight the importance of the fax communication.  The next question addressed the fact that this was not documented – Laurel and Hardy.

[4] We did not go as far as adding instructions for the coffee vending machines but, over the years, I have seen that!

[5] A non-conformity which still irritates me was centered around the color of paper in the fax machine.  Sometimes we used blue, other times red, other times white – whatever was available at the time.  When asked why, my PA stated that we sometimes used colored paper to highlight the importance of the fax communication.  The next question addressed the fact that this was not documented – Laurel and Hardy.

[6] We did not go as far as adding instructions for the coffee vending machines but, over the years, I have seen that!