Sustainable Learning LO11681

John Zavacki (
Mon, 6 Jan 1997 08:50:55 -0500

Replying to LO11667 --

Ben made some excellent points about ISO 9000. I agree with his
ambivalence towards the standard and have challenged some of the very
points Ben makes in a paper I'm presenting at the ASQC Quality Management
Division conference in February. To wit:

> First, it allows Internal Auditors a chance to see what goes on in other
> departments. I've learned a lot about how my division functions, and where
> the interdependencies are, through participating in Internal Audits.

> Second, it provides an excellent starting point for any organization
> interested in quality and/or learning. The processes act as a sort of
> anchor. They bring a certain sense of order.

And it allows the foundations of a learning history, a knowledge base from
which to grow, both through corrective and preventive action data bases as
well as quantifiable "compliance" records.

> At the same time the standard actually inhibits certain activities that
> can prove extraordinarily beneficial to an organization:
> First, it inhibits discontinuous improvement because all changes must go
> through the Corrective Action System.

I'm not quite sure what Ben means here by "discontinuous improvement", in
my own, Juran influenced world, it means "managerial breakthrough" and that
can be

> Second, in a similar vein, the standard does not adequately account for
> cultural, linguistic, and theoretical influences on the behavior within
> the organization. In many respects, these organizational attributes have
> far more to do with what people do day-to-day than do formal procedures.

As someone called on to assist in ISO/QS9000 implementations, I've got to
admit that you're very right on this one. The models (9001, 9002, and
9003) don't even think about these issues. ISO9004, however, presents a
very interesting presentation of what you can do, and how you can extend
the models by using the principles of TQM and (by intention) those of OL.

> Third, it provides a very clumsy mechanism for sharing information in an
> information dependent environment. The overhead required to comply with
> section 4.5 is just a little beyond ridiculous, IMO. In our environment
> new information is being discovered and obsoleted many, many times a day.
> It would take a team of over 25 people just to make sure all the
> information we use to do our job is up to date. And then we still wouldn't
> be certain we're on top of everything.

On this point, it's not the standard that's at fault, but the implementer.
I've worked with small companies and large which have insisted on
signatures and approval processes that would make the ugliest of
bureaucracies blanch. I suggest using Intranet/hypertext to do your
documentation, FTP sites for engineering drawings, etc., and desktop tools
to present it all to the user.

As for information which is "discovered and obsoleted many, many times a
day": what's to control? The standards don't require you to control every
thought in the design process, just (to use the software term) versions,
be they alpha (manufacturing prototype), beta (manufacturing pilot lot) or

> Fourth, the standard is very mechanistic. It does not do much to encourage
> managers to view their organizations as either a living organism or as a
> community. There are several people in my department who have retired from
> the military, and they constantly say how similar ISO is to military
> quality standards. That's not entirely bad, but its also not entirely
> good. But I do know that as long as we have a formal framework that
> encourages mechanistic thinking, we're not going to be changing in the
> right way.

The ISO folks used Mil-Q-9858 and the NATO specs as the model for their
series of quality standards. The major difference is the third party
assessment, a lack of a quality cost element, and the notion of a
"Management Representative". A major difference is the view of quality as
the responsibility of all functional elements. In the mil models, there
had to be a q department, inspection, and inspectors. It is real

One thing to keep in mind is the use of the word MODEL in the title of the
standards. These 20 major clauses are a blueprint for feedback mechanism
locations in a system, NOT blue prints for the system. The ISO standards
look to corrective and PREVENTIVE action as the keys to improvement and
customer satisfaction, once again, these fail in implementation, not in
intent. A corrective and preventive action system isn't a punishment
system. Receiving a request for corrective action SHOULD come off as
receiving a request from help, not receiving a traffic ticket.

> Finally, I'll conclude my comments by stating that I think ISO 9000 may
> work better in a manufacturing environment, but I don't know because I've
> never worked in such an environment. I do know, however, that it doesn't
> work that well for an environment that lives and breathes off of new
> knowledge. Nor does it provide a framework that allows an organization to
> make rapid, sudden, and/or comprehensive changes. And the only constant I
> can count in my my work is change. . .

ISO (or OL, for that matter) depends very much on the values of the
organization in which it is used. In the same way that I reasoned in an
earlier post that hierarchy does not make for a bad culture, the personal
mastery and the group attitude (which has been taught what it has been
allowed) make for the problems. Whether you're manufacturing, designing,
or servicing customers, you need to look at these issues. Quality (and
personal, group, and organizational satisfaction) relies on knowing what
needs to be known (planning/design), being sure everyone else who needs to
know it does (control), being sure the knowledge is being practiced
(control again, through assessment), continuously looking at the system to
see if it can meet its goals in a better way (improvement/breakthrough).

The standards are boring to read, the notion of a third-party assessor is
de-humanizing to some (read ME), and the knowledge required to implement
them is rudimentary, and, unless you're using all you know about systems
thinking and organizational learning, the procedures and instructions you
write and implement will be boring and unused.

John Zavacki
The Wolff Group

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