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ISO 9000:2000 Digs its own grave

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Andy Bassett

Didnt know where else to put this, so i created a new thread.

John Seddon who is the UK's best known critic of ISO 9000 has made a holy pronoucement on the new standard which can be found here;

Archived as a pdf file in the directory (file name: ISO9000-grave.pdf).

Hope this works

Andy B

[This message has been edited by Marc Smith (edited 28 February 2000).]

Alan Cotterell

I have read John Seddon's comments with interest, however I disagree with some of the content. I consider the Y2K version of ISO9000 adequately addresses the systems aspects of a QMS, however the QMS is a subsystem of the overall Management System, not synonymous with it as John suggests. What we are talking about is 'Operational Risk Management', I suggest the complete Management System is made up of four major areas - quality, safety, environment, security.
For all operational risks to be controlled we must reconcile the policies in each area into an operating procedure - the 'right way to do a job'.
The problem with the way John proposes is that it puts emphasis on quality where the other risk areas may be neglected. Too often we see channelled thinking - we even see different functions in organisations responsible separately for the major operational risk areas.
Quality is not the 'be all and end all' where operational risk is concerned, safety, environment and security incidents can lead to major loss if not appropriately controlled.
I suggest it is better to develop policies in the four risk areas separately and integrate them into the Management System at the procedure level.
The problem is better understood when we look at the art of Escher. His drawings show perpetual motion, which we know is impossible. The problem is that we cannot look at two parts of a picture at the same time - it is a feature of the human brain, so similarly we normally cannot 'see the big picture' of the management system.
What John seems to suggest is that the other risk areas should be subsidiary to the QMS or integrated after the QMS has been developed. I think in some ways he is right as we must satisfy our customers first or we won't survive, however the other risk areas are of equal importance.
ISO9004.1 (guide to improvement) is equally applicable in all operational risk areas, and I think the comments made on use of statistics are appropriate considering this possible wider application.

Andy Bassett

G'day sport.

I posted this link to John Seddon just for badness, and to see what i could stir up.

Alan - Im sorry, but im not famous for my attention span. I have seen this notion of 'Operational Risk Management' come up a few times, and its just too abstract for me too absorb.

By all means have another go at educating me, im a shameless stealer of other peoples ideas if i think i can use them, but be aware that of my short attention span, (which you may wish to know is about 4 times longer than your average CEO.)

Andy B


Captain Nice
Staff member
There's some truth in it, but most of the arguements are, if you look closely, actually old arguements including "...If it's a QA 'requiremetn' or 'spec', then why doesn't it address quality?..."

The death of ISO9K has been around for quite a while. As long as I can remember. See:

I think you have to look at ISO9 as 1 tool with limitations, as all tools have. A drill is a great tool for certain things but doesn't do everything. A saw is also a great tool, but alone isn't an answer to anything.

John Seddon's review is pretty much a "...ISO doesn't address this..." diatribe. Stuff like "...Lack of any criterion, reference or objectivity about what works..." and if you notice he keeps addressing 'what works'. ISO is one small part. If a company expects ISO to be an 'answer' to everything, they are destined to failure.

In large part, as I read Mr. Seddon's review, I thought of scare tactics. "Buy my book and you'll be rewarded. I'll help you avoid the devil!" At one point he says "... It seems to me the real purpose of documentation has not changed – it is to enable the assessor to do his job..." I think he should have said: " is to enable the employees to know, understand and do his/her job..." Some of this whole thing is beliefs and attitudes.

He says: "...The draft lacks integrity, it is contradictory, confusing and, worst of all, very much more demanding. It is unlikely that the auditing community will be competent to work with it..." I'm sorry,, I totally disagree.

I'd go on but it's really just a word and expectations war.

The 'review' is very good 'thought' material, however, I admit. I doubt, 5 years from now, his prophacy will be seen as fulfilled in whole or in part. ISO9K is here for quite a while.

Alan Cotterell

I suggest operational risk (the risk inherent in industrial processes)is able to be categorised into four areas - quality, safety, environment, security. Risk is generally treated by a 'hierarchy of controls of which 'administrative risk control' is part. The documented Management System (including ISO9000) is an example of such a control.

Joshua Albert

During my sojourn in B-school, we spent a good deal of time discussing quality. This being more than ten years ago, we focussed attention on the organization and techniques used in Japan. We did not discuss formal standards such as ISO-9xxx or QS-9000 as such.

On one hand, it pains me to see these proliferate. Inarguably, there is tremendous expense - both up front and ongoing - required to comply. In light of the Japanese success in producing quality products without these standards (per se), it seems that we may be hampering our long term productivity.

However, in many organizations, there is a need for a catalyst to improve performance in general. Not every organization has access to a top flight general manager with all the needed change management skills. So, in my view anyway, these standards are the price for survival in an environment where there are gaps in the skill level of management (especially in the area of change management) - and the work culture is rife with satisfaction. You still need a good general manager or management team to implement any of these standards effectively - but I think the use of a recognized standard as an authority can be the big assist required to promote the change effort.
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