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ISO 9000 malpractice and dishonesty?

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QualityZoneIf the world of ISO 9000 interests you, then you should be aware of the recent claims made by Dr Lawrence Eicher, the Secretary of ISO (the International Organization for Standardization - they are, of course, the people responsible for creating the ISO 9000 "standards").

Dr Eicher says that:

  • malpractice and dishonest operators exist in the ISO 9000 accreditation/certification field;

  • some certification bodies act without integrity;

  • conformity assessment professionals need to avoid being seen as charlatans.
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We should pay attention to Dr Eicher because he, of course, is in a position to know the facts; he says that ISO "regularly receives complaints about certificates being awarded undeservedly".

In nearly five years of operating The Business Improvement Network, we have often observed cases where ISO 9000 certificates have been issued to organisations which seem to us not to meet requirements in fundamentally important areas. Two examples are:

  • a lack of quality objectives (this is very common), thus undermining the very purpose of a quality management system;

  • ISO 9001:2000 certificates are now being issued to companies that put forward procedures as process descriptions, despite the fact that ISO 9000:2000 defines the clear and fundamentally important differences.

Until now, we have assumed that this is just a symptom of the general 'interpretability' and lack of basic quality understanding surrounding these so-called "standards" (highlighted recently by the high failure rate by "professionals" in the ISO 9000:2000 examinations conducted by ISTO). See details.

But ISO's alarming claim now makes us wonder where one draws the line between, on the one hand, dishonesty (and we are sure that no dishonesty is involved an any case we know of) and, on the other hand, something else.

Is that 'something else' simple incompetence (assessors just don't know the difference between a policy and an objective, or the difference between a process and a procedure, or the purpose of a quality record)? Or is it, as
the 'quality' movement has been telling us for over 50 years, the process that is at fault - in this case, the process of certification?

Certainly something is very wrong with the way ISO 9000 is implemented. Let's hope ISO has given us all a wake-up call.

Finally, we have an exclusive statement from UKAS (they are the people who approve as competent the bodies that award us ISO 9000 certificates). See details.

In summary, UKAS, while denying any malpractice among accredited certification bodies in UK, admits that ISO 9000:2000 poses "a very real challenge to the competence of the certification bodies and their auditors".

Jim Wade
The Business Improvement Network

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