It’s mad, you know


Obsession simplifies the complexities of life and can create an impression of control.  Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder (OCPD) is a pervasive pattern of preoccupation with orderliness, perfectionism, and mental and interpersonal control, at the expense of flexibility, openness, and efficiency.  It has been institutionalised as accreditation.  Coercion spreads it like an infectious disease.

It may seem metaphorical to identify the requirements of the ISO management systems with diagnostic psychiatric criteria.  However, the requirements of accreditation do seek security in trivial, fetishistic list-making to protect from harm.  This is superstition not science.  The requirements are persistently maladaptive and work against the efficient running of the accredited organisation.  The targets its framework requires documented prevent variation according to market demands.  This produces waste and poor service that neither the business nor customer wants.  The behaviour required of staff and inspectors so closely mirrors the characteristics of Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder that the parallels need to be highlighted.

  • Is preoccupied with details, rules, lists, order, organization, or schedules to the extent that the major point of the activity is lost. This is the essence of a management system.  Regularly-updated SOPs and document control records must describe every eventuality to provide non-compliances whose absence is the definition of quality.  This is high sensitivity, low specificity testing.
  • Shows perfectionism that interferes with task completion (e.g., is unable to complete a project because his or her own overly strict standards are not met). Interference with task completion is concealed because other projects are stopped to prioritise accreditation.  Non-compliances cannot be discharged until inspector’s interpretation of rules has been satisfied.  Accredited work must cease if certain standards are not met.  Stress is created through the system restricting staff professionalism because experienced staff cannot perform tests unless training, test witnessing and uncertainty of measurement are signed off.  Customers may be happy and results correct, but inspectors will always find negligence in some minor issue.
  • Is excessively devoted to work and productivity to the exclusion of leisure activities and friendships (not accounted for by obvious economic necessity). Accreditation has a contractual view of all relationships.  The management standards were designed to ensure naval contractors would not default on delivery of the ships they were commissioned to build.  Accreditation takes little account of non-quality-related duties and other limitations on staff time.  SOPs govern the documentation of everything.  Workers are reduced to formulaic entities to be controlled in the scientific management system.
  • Is overconscientious, scrupulous, and inflexible about matters of morality, ethics, or values (not accounted for by cultural or religious identification). All deviations from SOPs are non-compliances which threaten accreditation and must be corrected, whether serious or minor, even when there is no evidence that results have been compromised or led to wrong decisions.  The onus is on staff to satisfy inspector that no non-compliances could occur.  This exemplifies the overcautious, just-in-case thinking arising from verificationism.  It takes no account of the range of inter-laboratory error demonstrated in EQA schemes.
  • Is unable to discard worn-out or worthless objects even when they have no sentimental value. Withdrawn documents must be filed for a defined period – formerly for 6 years (UKAS M10), now a self-determined term (ISO).  Inspections check archiving although the documents are never needed for any other purpose.
  • Is reluctant to delegate tasks or to work with others unless they submit to exactly his or her way of doing things. Detailed organisational charts, job descriptions and SOPs are required.  Delegation is only permitted to fully trained staff and according to SOPs.  “Accreditation by UKAS can also limit the need for government to regulate industry and the professions.”  Discrimination against non-accredited supplier organisations is promoted.  Policies and certificates are needed for suppliers and subcontractors.  Non-competition agreements exist between accreditation bodies across borders.
  • Adopts a miserly spending style toward both self and others; money is viewed as something to be hoarded for future catastrophes. UKAS’s monopoly position limits its profit.  Claims of cost saving by those it accredits are not substantiated and are probably rare and coincidental rather than causal.
  • Shows rigidity and stubbornness. No deviations from SOPs are permitted without detailed records.  There is a necessity for inspectors and auditors to find non-compliances even if they are inconsequential.  Inconsistent interpretations arise between inspectors at different sites and between visits by the same inspector.
  • Refuses to admit anything is wrong. Yes.
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One Response to It’s mad, you know

  1. Pingback: The human face of the accreditation disease | ISOwatch

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