Monster Zero, ISO9001 and Workplace Environment

Host Jeremy Wade and a colorful buddy on ‘River Monsters’

Amidst lots of mystic rambling to expose boredom-addicted Monster Zero, this paper, The Anatomy, Life Cycle and Effects of the Phenomenologically Distributed Human Parasite M0 has a long section on how ISO 90001 has poisoned the workplace.  It provides a much-needed but rather debatable interpretation of the psychology behind those addicted to its rituals:

Modify ISO9001 and Workplace Environment

ISO9001 is an international standard that has mistakenly attempted to improve the workplace by regularising it. It grew out of the Total Quality Management initiative in industry, which in turn was based in the “Theory of Profound Knowledge” produced by J. Edwards Deming during his studies of quality improvement. Dr. Deming’s philosophy (he recognised it was more than an industrial practice) is indeed profound, since it is all about enhancing awareness, and exploiting feedback in cognition. He new that once raised to full consciousness, many find the world they then perceive to be sufficiently interesting that they can avoid falling back into standby mode – particularly if their colleagues are also in this brighter, more positive and objective oriented frame of mind.

In this picture, Dr. Deming’s contribution is in remarkable company – it has suffered the same problem that has trailed in the wake of the great spiritual teachers throughout history. Although the topic may be of interest to many people because it may be the first case of secular understanding unambiguously catching up with the great teachers, discussing the indications that they all knew of M0 and allowed for it is largely outside the scope of this paper. There is no doubt that they all caused a stir, deeply challenging the people that heard them. M0 societies react to such challenges (which for some reason they do not dismiss with the usual simple denial) by wrapping the source of novel challenges in nice comforting rituals.

Dr. Deming’s awareness and feedback has become an orgiastic ritual fixing celebration of the thinking of Frederic Taylor, who gave us mass production before industrial robots with his slogan “Leave your brain outside and bring your body indoors!”. The existence of the ISO9001 audit, with its pointless adversarialism, where managers brief their staff like a barrister schooling his or her client – “Don’t say anything unnecessary. Just say everything is in the Registry…” shows how far the implementation of Dr. Deming’s ideas has strayed from his intentions. The mandatory requirement for ISO9001 “compliance” demanded for most public sector work, coupled with the “made up rule” that an organisation’s subcontractors must be “compliant” for one to be oneself, has made ISO9001 inescapable. And as it has spread, it has not only reduced novelty within each workplace, but has reduced the novelty passing between workplaces, as the outputs of one standardised set of paperwork ritual manuals become the inputs of the next, and if it isn’t in the book, well you’re just “not allowed” to do it, so there’s no point asking.

In this picture, ISO9001 is doing more than anything else to damage the state of industry, by creating an environment that makes the workforce unaware, defensive and extremely inefficient. The workforce is becoming test happy, as organisations no longer monitor the real quality of the actual delivered work and take remedial action when it slips, but instead simply randomly sample the employees’ urine to see if they have been smoking cannabis – apparently the only perceived source of problems (this witch hunt around). In fact, microsynchronisation has become so strong the workforce are aware of it and are taking ridiculous measures to enhance it, perceiving it as an inherent good! “Lesson teaching” is driving large numbers of key creative, problem solving natural immunes out of large organisations, and the few people sustained in low dopamine and with some contact with reality left because of being brought up with values such as “always ask yourself if you have done your best”, are becoming afraid to speak up against the exaggerated displays of contemptuous laughter produced when they try to drag discussions away from self administration and back to cases. This sorry tale is an unconventional way to look at something we have spent so much money on, but why else did the British Standards Institute keep saying that this standard (that supposedly values metrics above all else) increases productivity when it was eventually proved in court that the figures show it doesn’t? Again, M0 offers a rational reason for people to ritual fix for the sake of it and retro-fit rationalisations for actions they do not understand.

And yet the ISO9001 standard does not really have a problem! The people who make up the workforce have treated this largely reasonable document in this terrible way almost entirely of their own free will, each in their own individual interpretation of it, as if blatantly pointless yet mercilessly micropoliced mandatory actions, incessant whinging, “arguments” and mutual recriminations, and the provision of every communication as a fear inducing threat were just a natural way to set about anything! Which for dopamine self-addicts of course, it tragically is. It is The Way We Do Things – the mother of all procedures.

It is true that there is an opportunity cost associated with the entire approach adopted by the standard in that it is primarily control as opposed to results oriented and does nothing to encourage or even endorse initiative and spontaneous local problem solving. However in comparison to the scale of its current abuse as a mass excuse for “Monty Python” scale ritual fixing this problem will be slight for a long time yet, and significant improvements can be made by simply adding a preamble describing intent to the standard, and making successful registration dependent on fulfilling the spirit of the preamble.

Understanding what is meant by spirit and not getting into ridiculous infinite regressions of challenged “definitions” until even the meaning of the word “the” is claimed to be in dispute, is therefore a requirement. Auditors will have to be able to test for this. Therefore fully conscious auditors will be available to guide their colleagues when they are available, and a frenetic race to see how quickly rightsized managers can perform the auditor training rituals and tick the little boxes must not be involved simply because that is the “target meeting” ritual and hence “Quality”.

We must grow up and break this kind of “childish” behaviour by grown adults who call themselves “professionals”. “Playing The Game” is not big, clever or socially acceptable any more. It does not represent “the cut and thrust of business” no matter what the remaining self-addicts may believe. It must be as pathetically unacceptable and beneath comment as spitting, which also spreads unpleasant diseases.

ISO9001 must be seen as requiring effective solutions to problems. The process must be defined as “a protocol for communicating with our colleagues through time and space”, not a prescriptive tramline for blame avoidance. The auditor must always compare the local process with the business need of its users, and it must always be the process that is found to be at fault when problems occur (because if it was of any help in doing their jobs everybody would naturally want to use it correctly and be able to). So-called “noncompliances”, offences found out by the commissars, are simply not the issue amongst sensible people who are working together in a state of mutual respect, where managers are expected to identify and call for actions that are physically possible and will actually work. Instead the auditor, with concrete responsibilities that render them popular because they turn up and solve problems rather than force their concealment, must become a librarian of logistical technique, assisting in the development of local understanding of the nature of the work being done.

If a little effort is made to publish this concept from the centre of the ISO9001 definition committee, and checks are made to ensure that ISO9001 auditors understand and are acting on the publication, even the legislative requirement would be valuable since it would render unavoidable something that acts to increase awareness, not massively reduce it..

More generally, a culture that has always by default acted to maximise the ritualisation of the workplace will be able to make enormous improvements by turning the other way. This model predicts that organisations employing six people each doing six different jobs will find that efficiency and diligence are better than if each specialises in one job. Alternatively, as organisations get larger, jobs tend to get more specialised, but opportunities to practice mandatory job reallocation on health and safety grounds increase.

It will be necessary to consider which jobs produce a very high dopamine level, and see if they can be restructured. The first priority must be levels so high they reduce general awareness of physically dangerous situations. Investigation of how objective impairment of general responsiveness quantitatively varies with dopamine levels will be needed. Then jobs that require alertness but reduce it because of their structure should be examined. Can the jobs be restructured with less routine, or do we have to use natural immunes or very short shifts?

This entry was posted in Bureaucracy, Cartel, Computing, Laboratory medicine, Management, Philosophy, Psychology and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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