Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Declining Credibility of ISO 9000 Certifications

A friend and fellow Business Excellence Professional, Ramesh Rajagopal, recently asked a very troubling question - Who is responsible for declining credibility of ISO 9000 systems and what is the solution?

He further elaborated saying – In the recent years, ISO 9000 standards is losing its credibility. What role Accreditation bodies, Certification bodies, Top Management and Management Representatives have to play to bring back the spirit of ISO 9000.

Firstly, blame is the wrong word to start with. Why do we have to ‘blame’ someone? We are assuming that ISO 9000 had promised us something huge and delivered a lemon. From what I know, that’s not the case.

It’s critical to understand that ISO 9000 series was developed as a bare minimum standard for management. It did not promote excellence. That was left for the MBNQA.

Having said that I agree that all of us have failed in even maintaining the bare minimum status of ISO 9000. Quality professionals and auditors (all of us) have taken the convenient route guided by business compulsions. I have failed to understand how an auditor is expected to be truthful and strict when he/she is aware that any adverse remark will ensure his/her firm loses business. There are very few clients who will force the auditor to do a good job.

Another issue is around auditor skills. A lot of auditors I have met are just not upto the mark. They are sometimes too inexperienced and other times too rigid. Most auditors have still not made any effort to understand the business context of the client and go about ISO 9000 in a generic way. No wonder, most NCs are around documentation even now when the standard actually asks for only six mandatory documents.

What can be done?
1. Firstly the ISO and Accreditation bodies have to acknowledge that there is a problem that needs to be fixed. The ISO has long lived in an ivory tower taking a position that it only defines the standard and has no say in certification.
2. Then, develop a credible panel of certification agencies and auditors. A peer review process should admit the auditor into a select pool.
3. Consider building an online international database of companies seeking certification. If a company is denied certification by one agency, no other agency can pick it up for next one year. Of course all this will need a grievance panel etc.
4. Carry out a communication drive to disengage ISO certification from excellence.

Now, who is going to bell the cat? This is like our parliament. The people who need to be reigned in are the ones who are making the rules. Will the quality community rise to curb the commercial temptation around certification to look at the real issues?


You can read other answers at: http://www.linkedin.com/answers/business-operations/quality-management-standards/OPS_QMA/159702-15699003