ISO, more thoughts

After I wrote the post yesterday pretty much smashing ISO and the certifying bodies into the ground I thought I should balance things a little more.

To recap, ISO 9001 is supposed to be a guarantee that a company is working to continuously improve its quality. Most companies with ISO certificates do not work in the way that is defined in their quality manual. The quality manual has, most likely, been created purely for the purpose of satisfying the ISO auditors requirements to justify their ridiculous fees.

Note I said most companies. That means in some cases where a company is ISO certified you can guarantee on the quality. Now this is often nothing to do with their certification, however, it does happen that a company is certified and uses exactly the same system that was certified to control quality in a very good way. It is rare but I have seen it. As some one who cares deeply about quality and continuous improvement it almost makes me weep with joy when I see this in action. I remember visiting a supplier in deepest darkest Germany to perform a supply chain audit. I was very much expecting to see what I had seen in every single other German company I had audited (15 plus in number). A strict end of the gate quality control, no feedback on failures to production apart from rework or remake orders, SAP ruling everything, quality manuals gathering dust and management who have heard of continuous improvement but think it is not right for them. What I saw shocked and surprised me. They came at the beginning and presented their quality management system that was ISO certified. This is not unusual. What was unusual was that when we went down onto the shop floor and walked around the different production cells it became clear very quickly that the systems were being used on a daily basis to control and improve quality. The guys didn’t know about TPM or Six Sigma or anything else like that. They had simply taken the ISO requirements and implemented to the principal of the requirements, not just the letter. I was truly impressed and to this day it remains the best example I have ever seen anywhere in the world where defined process in the quality manual match the reality that is running on the shop floor. Inspiring stuff!


If you know of some other examples of companies who have their quality system properly integrated rather than detached please comment on this post or email me If you have and pay for ISO certification and would like some help with using it to deliver value to your company rather than just acting as a paperwork “cost” please also feel free to get in touch.

2 thoughts on “ISO, more thoughts

  1. I agree with the insight you are sharing in the previous post and in this post. ISO certification can easlity turn into a compliance and documentation game, when the receiving company “designs” the required documents with one and just one goal: to get certified. More often than not, ISO is an extra cost without any value add for these companies.

    Once in my student life, I worked in a consulting company. I visited the clients, got into their daily life, and helped them develop their ISO documentation. Sadly, we always ended with a lof of nicely written documents being archived for ever!

    ISO is a tool. You can use it effectively, or you can reach only to the surface.

    • Thanks for the comment Amir. Glad that you agree with the insights as well. I want people to focus the energy they put into those nice looking documents into creating and then managing a system that runs and continuously improves their company.

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