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Seb Anthony

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Does ISO9001/2 influence corporate culture?


I have recently come across a couple of companies with ISO 9001/9002 international accreditations. I have found their systems and processes to be monitored and regulated extremely well.
However the corporate culture was not impacted by these quality standards and management paid lip service to the company values. Employee motivation was low, a 'stick' approach to motivation existed and corners were frequently cut at the expense of employee satisfaction to improve profitability.

My point is the accreditation may have improved some quality issue but how far does it go? You can bet your last Euro the assessors when they revist wont be assessing cultural issues.

Does anyone else have any experience of significant accreditation but little impact on culture or buy in on the overall message from management?

Mark Starling

6 Responses

  1. They need to recertify under the 2000 version
    You mention ISO 9002 so you must be talking about the old (1994) version, which has indeed been widely criticised for just the reasons you suggest.

    The 1994 version has been entirely superseded by the 2000 version. The numbers 9002 and 9003 are no longer used.

    The new (Y2K) standard could be considered to go quite a long way to address your concerns. It has been totally restructured and includes some very significant new things, esp. re management commitment.

    The assessors can’t pass over this, because if an organisation was certified under the 1994 version and wants to retain its certification, it has until 15 December 2003 to convert its systems to comply with the new standard.

    To be fair to the assessors we are still awaiting publication of ISO 19011 (Guidelines on Quality … Management Systems Auditing) which is a key part of the “ISO 9000 family” (their term, not mine).

    I think ISO (BS/EN) bods have designed the highly confusing standard numbering system purely to create work for management consultants.

    Sorry to go on! I’ve recently done a great deal of writing on the new Y2K version.

    Please contact me if I can be of any more help.


  2. ISO is a system for documentating what you do
    ISO 9000 is a system for documenting what you do and doing what you document. If documetned effectively, it can help training people, esepcially if the procedures are flowcharted and linked together as processes. A well documented quality system has some inherent impact of culture in that it may imply changes to behaviour in order to follow it. If you talk to a precision engineering company, they’ll tell you they don’t need such things as ISO 9000 as they would not be in business if they did not already do what ISO tries to bring about (i.e. conforming products with variation only as specified). This is because such companies cannot afford to make mistakes after they’ve added a load of value through turning and shaping metal – otherwise they may lose all the value added so far! Of course TQM is meant to be the key to helping bring about the more fundamental culture changes in an organisation. I know of one organisation where ISO has stultified aspects of the business, in that they will not go outside the limits set by their ISO system. This can stop innovation. They don’t seem to understand that you can go outside the limits – just log it as a ‘non-conformance’! When used properly, ISO can be of real benefit to an organisation. When not used properly, it can become a bureacracy.

    Barry Faith
    0773 793 299

    I have worked with ISO 9001, Investors In People and organisational learning cultures for a number of years. ISO is an all embracing Quality Management System of which HR managment forms part. This means that HR recieves the attention it deserves as determined how strongly it is written up in Quality documentation (Manuals and Procedures). IIP is better focused on people issues but there is certainly no need to have both (ISO & IIP). Organisations with ISO certification can improve staff motivation and performance by increasing the Quality System emphasis accordingly. The question is, do they see any reason to do so?
    I would happily discuss further if you wish.

    Chris (

  4. ISO – Not So
    Hi There,

    I don’t really think that a ‘process’ orientated system can really change the culture within an organisation – it can make employees more EFFICIENT – but are they also more EFFECTIVE!

    The best people focused / commitment driven standard I’ve got experience of is IIP – Investors In People. It won’t help you make ‘widgets’ faster, cheaper, better, but will ensure that all staff are fully aware of the business aims, have a clear picture of what training they can expect for an individual and organisational perspective.
    Ian Stone

  5. mostly it doesn’t
    About two years ago I did a training for one company. The company recently got the ISO certification. Management of the company was extremely happy about it. But most of employees had no idea what it was for and what they could get from it. Corporate culture goes from management and not from any certification (unfortunately).

    Julia Alieva


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