Tuesday, November 15, 2005

ISO 9000

For over a decade, manufacturing corporations of any consequence and in particular, companies that expect to compete outside the borders of their home country or world headquarters, have subscribed to a series of international standards that heuristically govern the quality of their products by dictating a minimal and standardized set of guidelines for self improvement of the processes by which they make their products.

I have actually worked for some of these companies and it has been alternately amusing and disgusting to watch "business as usual" collide with what is the radical spirit buried in the mind numbing prose of those standards: humility and objectivity. Though presented to employees in evangelical tones when the company brass finally buys in, the metamethods prescribed are really more akin to science. One metric of its being more a science than a belief, is the curricula in which it is taught.

I am always trying to figure out why nations, factions, some political parties and religiously affiliated political movements are so hopelessly, often destructively, rigid. The reason for mentioning ISO9000 is to try and free up my own thinking: to get away from the stick of castigating the fear, inertia and unreasoning preference for simplicity that frustrates change.
I'd like to get away from the presentation of change as an emotional challenge and try instead for the carrot of advantage and adaptation. But this seems a doomed course: as citizens, businesses tend, by design, to be sick and soulless but generally a bit more rational than the rest of the stuck-in-the-muds I listed. Corporations govern themselves by hard cold numbers of profit and are perforce that much more objective than those of us who don't so govern ourselves. And that objectivity leads, or forces corporations to subject their processes to scrutiny and change in a depth simply unacceptable to persons who have an identity to protect and a myth about their place in the world which they fear is in need of defense.

There is no perfect world, no upbringing untouched by hurt and deceit, no psyche unhaunted by truths that were thought best left unsaid. In so many turning moments, we made what sense we could without a teacher. None of us faces any situation or relationship knowing every thing we should about others or even ourselves. All that can help us in such a world is to open our eyes neither demanding or rejecting change when life would teach it again.

We are born simple but we become foolish. Every thought is tainted with mistakes except the barest awareness, the watcher silent in judgement, silent in praise.


Davo said...

When I was young, I knew the answer to everything. The older I get, the less I "know".

John said...

If an organization chooses to "implement ISO 9001" to obtain a certificate then it will obtain less value than a company that uses the standard to improve the system it uses to run the business.

The INC article focused on the woes of the former organizations and did not report on the successes of the latter.

Any company can use ISO 9001 to develop its process-based management system so it could be used to drive its core process to add value faster while the system enables employees to prevent loss sooner. The core process, by the way, translates the needs of customers into cash in the bank (ready for the six sigma treatment).

Our website has described how our clients do this since 1997 and this is based on the hardcopy guidance we have published since 1987.