Criticisms of ISO 9000
Posted by isoeasy on April 22, 2006
Many companies have found the transition to conforming to IS0 9000 difficult. This, along with doubts about the fundamental value of the standard, has spawned many criticisms, including:
* The compliance process is costly and time-consuming.
* Lots of administration is needed to implement it.
* Adhering to ISO 9000 makes processes more consistent; to some proponents of continuous improvement, it also makes it harder to improve and re-adapt the processes.
* "When all you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail." It has been argued that it may not be appropriate to apply a process such as ISO 9000 to a field requiring creativity, such as software engineering, which is more analogous to designing factories than to operating a factory.
* Bad managers still manage at arm's length, using paper reports rather than knowing what is happening on the factory floor. ISO 9000 can reinforce this behaviour. Instead of being seen as an opportunity to improve things, audits often become quite confrontational in structure.
* Many companies only register to ISO 9000 because they are forced to by the marketplace, whether or not ISO 9000 is in fact appropriate to their business.
* ISO 9001:2000 does not give too much practical advice but instead focuses on general principles. In order to create a standard applicable to almost any kind of organization, specific requirements and tools were avoided whenever possible. This is one of the reasons for the proliferation of industry specific standards which are more practical and give clear guidance about what quality tools have to be used when.
"improves productivity … almost always gives an immediate result in terms of productivity and efficiency, and that means cost reductions … pays for itself … Staff morale is better because they understand what is expected of them and each other,"
… whilst being unable to produce any objective metrics to substantiate these assertions. The complaint was upheld.
Quality programmes are notoriously difficult to quantify as Crosby warned in 'Quality is Free' back in 1979, long before the first of these standards emerged. When an organization is measuring nothing, the only 'quality costs' it knows are the basics of scrap and rework, and often even these are not being tracked effectively. Once a formal system is introduced, much more accurate data starts to emerge and initial costs of quality often appear to increase.
In Japan, amidst complaints of ISO 9000 undermining world-class thinking, Toyota abandoned the standard in 2000, moving back to their in-house Toyota Production System.
My own personal opinion is you get what you put into it – if you are just seeking certification to pacify customers, then it really is just a bureaucratic exercise. If you use the standard in the manner it was was intended, that is to stimulate business improvement, then you'll see the benefits: garbage in/garbage out!
Some of the "wrong" reasons that may cause problems for a company include:
* The only thing we need is the certificate.
* Get the certificate and be done with it.
* Getting the certificate is the responsibility of the quality assurance manager only.
* ISO 9000 and QS-9000 are separate from the company's daily business.
* We only need enough to satisfy the auditors.
Some philosophies that have served companies well include:
* ISO 9000 compliance, proven by a certificate, improves the way we do business. The resulting discipline yields significant cost reductions.
* Registration gives us a competitive edge over nonregistered competitors.
* Compliance raises morale because employees clearly understand what is required of their position.
In my views, compliance with ISO 9000 enhances companies' understanding and control of their processes. Registration, being a convenient and preferred way to prove such compliance, is fast becoming a customer requirement. The combination gives industry the basis for a quality system that's logical, attainable and verifiable, improving quality worldwide and ultimately industry's future.