Matt Hrivnak

Kaizen: There's always another future state


ISO, or the International Organization for Standardization (Organisation internationale de normalisation), is an organization that is familiar to most people, but at the same time, requires much explanation.  ISO is headquartered in Switzerland and was founded in the 1940s.  It’s a standard creating entity made up of representatives from several countries that meet, form subcommittees, create and update procedures that are to be used, copied, and/or adapted to one’s business in an attempt to ‘standardize’ operations and improve quality.

Many companies see competitors that have an ISO certification banner hanging on the outside of their building or a .jpg on their website indicating that they have ISO 9001 QUALITY!!.  But what does that really mean?  To tell you the truth, no one knows for sure.  In some cases it means a lot, in others, it doesn’t.

ISO is an organization that strives and survives off of the buying and selling of the unnecessary efforts of other companies.  Each ISO system is different, not only from ISO 9001-2000 to ISO 14000 and so on, but also within each company that employs it.  It really comes down to, in a good portion of the companies, to ‘say what you do, and do what you say’.  But how far does that really get you?

In my opinion, ISO is a great help, if your company is drastically behind the times and has no means of standardization or procedure creation.  However, for most practical applications, it falls significantly short.  All of the companies that I’ve worked for that were ISO certified benefited no more from their ISO system than they did from their own standardized procedures.  In fact, many got worse with their quality levels because of all the red tape and the overwhelming amount of steps to update, change, and even implement new procedures.

Companies need to rely more on their own resources, be accountable for their own processes and procedures, and learn to become a learning organization that continually reviews and updates said procedures in a way that allows for some kind of betterment, to both their customers and their employees.  These days, there are too many companies that are spending good portions of their profits to become ISO certified and to maintain their multi-leveled ISO procedure file for the sake of saying they are ISO certified. 

For good companies that have an evolved awareness of quality and standardization, ISO is nothing more than a bureaucratic overrun of unnecessary red tape, expensive audits, and a faux selling point in the belief that ISO certification will trick your customers into thinking your quality is better.  Quality is determined by the company and its empowered operators, not by their ISO procedures.

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Comments (1) Posted by matt on Thursday, September 25th, 2008


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