ISO 9000: 10 Reasons to Dump It (if you haven’t already)

I occasionally drive by service organizations that have their ISO 9000 banners displayed outside their building.  The reality is ISO offers little in business improvement and much in increasing costs.  My counterparts in the UK (95 Consulting Ltd) wrote a book titled “The Case Against ISO 9000″ (by John Seddon) that describes 10 arguments against ISO 9000.  Let’s look at them:

  1. “ISO 9000 encourages organizations to act in ways which make things worse for their customers.”
  2. “Quality by inspection is not quality.”
  3. “ISO 9000 starts from the flawed assumption that work is best controlled by specifying and controlling procedures.”
  4. “The typical method of implementation is bound to cause sub-optimization of performance.”
  5. “The Standard relies too much on people’s and, in particular, assessor’s interpretation of quality.”
  6. “When people are subjected to external controls, they will be inclined to pay attention to those things which are affected by the controls.”
  7. “ISO 9000 has discouraged managers from learning about the theory of a system and the theory of variation.”
  8. “ISO 9000 has failed  to foster good customer-supplier relations.”
  9. “Coercion does not foster learning.”
  10. “As an intervention, ISO 9000 has not encouraged managers to think differently.”

Each one of these 10 is a blog in itself.  ISO 9000 is a command and control managers dream.  Documented processes with inspection, huge cost of documenting, inspecting and getting certified (better to go to a mental hospital to get certified).  The old joke about having documented processes for concrete life preservers comes to mind.  Regardless, it is a organizational change management method that one colleague describes as “making work as if working.”

Systems thinking offers a better way, without the restrictive documentation, inspection and certification.  You can learn more through my free download “Understanding Your Organization as a System.”  Take a look, it has great information and exercises to find a better ways to achieve business improvement.  Tweet me @ tribabbitt.

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