Los 10 pecados de la ISO 9000

This blog has previously linked to JM Raventos’ excellent article.  Important posts from other blogs have disappeared.  We wouldn’t want to lose this one, so here it is (Google translation from Spanish).

Remember, this just exposes ISO 9000.  The article doesn’t refer to ISO 9000’s mutant children for laboratories, ISO 17025 and ISO 15189.

ISO 9000 (centre rear), ISO 17025 (left), ISO 15189 (right)

The introduction to ISO 17025 admits that ISO 9000 was inadequate to assure valid lab results. But a review of External Quality Assurance results also shows that accredited labs sometimes get things wrong.  Probably at about the rate you would expect from a normal distribution – not dissimilar to good, non-accredited labs.

But that remains to be proved,  should anyone be fearless enough to do so.  Has the inspection cartel published anything to prove otherwise?

Yes, accredited labs still get results that are wrong sometimes.  Actually, some accredited labs get things wrong fairly consistently despite all their comfort rituals. But at least there’s the “assurance” that other work in the same lab was inspected, which proves they have “quality”, says UKAS.

Do you think they considered offering a money-back guarantee?  And accept legal liability for what they accredit?  Of course not – that’s why they remind you each year their inspection is “only a sampling exercise.”  It’s a coded way of saying they know what they do is pretty worthless so don’t try to sue the inspectors when the lab gets it wrong.  Making the extreme demands they do is just a cover-up to distract you into thinking that so much effort must be worth something.  It’s not.  This is the fallacious Labour Theory of Value.

So the next time the inspectors call, ask them about some of these points. Watch them squirm and give illogical answers to avoid admitting the controversies the cartel has previously failed to confront. All they have is smoke, mirrors and lots of wasteful work. Their system exists for inspection and cannot exist without it. Tagging on clauses about recording improvement actions just isn’t enough for the ISO standards to compete with real quality improvement.

If “delivering confidence” of the UKAS kind makes no sense to you, if you think formerly professional organisations have been silenced by their complicity with and membership of UKAS, then José María’s article will make perfect sense.


The 10 sins of ISO 9000

In the organization I work for Europe in Spain and especially its leader John Seddon are very critical to ISO 9000. Our reviews are based on observation of the results and consequences of the application of the rule has had and has in organizations public and private services for the past 20 years.

The origin of the ISO is in the BS (British Standard) 5750, an initiative of Margaret Thatcher in 1979, which had the objective of improving the management of companies in the UK, incorporating some of the elements that had made ​​possible the “Japanese miracle.”
Despite much criticism from sectors of the British economy, in 1987 the British Standard Institute and the British Government decided to create the International Standard Organization to adopt an international standard BS5750.
At this time born organizational dangerous and serious disease called ISO 9000 which expands worldwide.

ISO 9000 is now clearly in recession in developed economies. Major Japanese companies, starting with Toyota, many years ago that rejected. In Western Europe and the US survives because it has become a succulent business for hundreds of certifying companies that are connected to the same companies who force their customers to certify.

Mainly ISO 9000 commits 10 mistakes:

  1.  The ISO 9000 encourages organizations to do things that end up hurting customers / users
  2. Quality inspection based on quality not.
  3. It is based on the erroneous assumption that the work is monitored and improved specifying and controlling procedures and standards (command and control)
  4. The typical method of implementing the ISO tends to cause performance suboptmización not being a systemic approach
  5. Relies too much on the personal interpretation of quality assessors and certifiers.
  6. Promotes and recommends explicitly asked to carry out actions that clearly cause sub-optimization.
  7. When people are subject to external controls tend to pay attention only and exclusively to those things which are subject to controls.
  8. The ISO 9000 ignores the theory of variation in the systems.(Shewart)
  9. The rule has failed to promote and improve customer-supplier relationships to base them on transactional subject to constant inspection and suspected relationships.
  10. In terms of “intervention” ISO helps neither encourages managers and managers to think in a different way. In any case do better as usual.

But today the ISO continues to have prestige in many areas.
When at conferences or workshops explain the consequences of the ISO there are always people with very good intentions, they tell me that the problem of ISO is not known to implement but that “in itself” is a good rule.
I’m waiting for the day when someone takes me to an organization that ISO has served to improve performance (reduce costs, increase sales or improve citizen services in public and improve the morale of the employees trust them)
On the contrary, the last case we have seen, a public hospital, advised by consultants who are also certifiers, ended its first phase of implementation of the standard in some areas. Their costs have increased 12%, services have deteriorated and people are crazy “doing paperwork all day” Of course, now it cut in benefits to the user.

Aware that there are companies that are subject to blackmail by their customers “if you do not certificates do not buy”, we made ​​a practical guide on how to achieve certification minimizing damage to the organization.
You can find it here in Spanish version .

Also for those who are interested in going deeper into the subject I recommend reading this book

But beware that come more fashions, most recently on EFQM, another serious illness. I will discuss it in a future post.

PS I have a friend who tells me to never put the aternativas what critical. In this case the alternative is “systems thinking”, the method which led the Japanese to overtake North America and began Taiichi Ohno and Edward Deming .


  1. José María, after years of implementing ISO 9000 in many companies, I can not agree more on all aspects of your criticism of the ISO 9000 standard.

    Born with the best intentions have done the opposite of what they advised parents of modern quality: standardize and normalize as easy as unsuitable for the improvement model.

    Its origins are even older than the BS5750, as the “International Standards Organization” (ISO) was copied almost verbatim from “American National Standards Institute” (ANSI) standard which comes from 1950 and later proposed to ISO through a such standard BS-5750. The ANSI standard was developed when the quality still had some prestige in the US but starting to fade, then had his first failure and en’esta time.

    It has become a business and a false requirement for some companies.

    However it is possible to help companies that introduced him to take the path of continuous improvement, innovation and a new style of management.

    Congratulations on your article,


    • Thanks for your comment Jordi.
      As you know I’ve also fallen victim to the ISO. I know of no quality management system that prevents the improvement in an organization as does the ISO. It is the corset to any kind of improvement based on knowledge.
      And now I’m vícitma of attacks still, with all my respesto believe in fallacies.Some because they are unable to think otherwise (I do not blame them, simply can not) and others obscure interests. (€€€€€)
      A hug

  2. Good article, direct and head.

    • Thank you Jesus for stopping by. If, direct and head. Experience advises me. If we do not change the systems that have brought us where we are and the ISO is one of them, end up with what we know as well.
      Best regards
      Jose Maria

  3. Excellent article friend,

    Allow me a couple of suggestions to the list of 10 errors:

    – The standard says that “top management shall appoint a representative quality ….” Well, from my experience, is the fastest way for senior management to “forget” the quality and reneges on this.

    – Within 6 mandatory procedures, the standard procedure specifically cites a “Continuous Improvement”. Thus all that does is alienate improving the places where work is done and where you should apply and deprives persons performing work to improve themselves.

    Why a company decides to implement ISO 9000?

    – For fashion, everyone has it. Result = failure
    – By necessity, my clients and / p providers required by me. Result = Failure.
    – For conviction. I refer you to read the 10 points that have exposed. Result = failure.

    How many times have we seen the “Departments of Quality” reduced to mere bureaucratic departments whose goal is that everything is in order so that when the auditor comes will not have problems?

    What value does this to the company? In my opinion none.

    As you say, there are other effective ways, “systems thinking”.

    As Yoshikasu Tsuda said in a letter to Deming,

    “In Europe and America, people are more interested in quality costs and methods of quality control. But in Japan we are still very interested in improving quality. ”

    Decades later, this sentence still stands.

    A hug


    • Thanks Peter for supplement my 10 points. How right in everything you write. I especially like the phrase of Deming. Also give much value to what you say because you are an expert in ISO (converted). But as you have seen, the attacks of those who still believe in it are fierce, why is that?
      A hug
      Jose Maria

  4. Good friend,

    Thanks for your words.

    I especially want to emphasize the concept “reconverted”, lol. Well you know the time I was working under ISO 9000 and also know the doubts assailed me and changing my thinking (in which you have great guilt lucky me).

    I have a theory about the stubborn defense made by some (too many) on ISO 9000 and as now no one listens to us, lol, I’m going to raise.

    First, the implementation and certification is a very lucrative business, will we lose not work because the company if my advisor and / or certification I do well?

    And from the internal point of view is another business. “I’m responsible for quality, if I argue that this system does not work, maybe I’ll stay out of work”.

    Solution, I “traps” that apparently works and all, as the big boss “passes” this, with all figured introduce a “pretty” reports.

    There is another option, which was the one I took. I raised my old company that there are effective ways to bring quality to the company without having to “submit” to a standard.

    And you know what was the result, I presented my low voluntary and created my own company to try to help those who really want to be helped.

    A hug

  5. Dear José Maria,
    I find your comments very interesting, I have to agree with some points and not others. There is a myriad of issues that have driven the wrong way in the ISO 9000 model, for one, have “blamed” (sorry but I’m a Brazilian living in Mexico and not if it is a term known outside Mexico – I mean popularly tax ) things for which ISO 9000 was not designed to (not a standard focused on increasing profits, although “could” have a positive impact, depending on many factors, it is not a policy aimed at ensuring the success of the organizations, although many the queire sold as such. In fact I think it is an excellent document, I worked with the regulations from “before” the first version and seen good results. Indeed, I have observed “says consultant” working with management models Superexcellent quality “shelf” (I go fast, go out and express billed) focused on certified (actually certified is not complicated) and certified (as you mention often with very poor results. I do not want extendeme here, but I leave my mail (mvillaca @qualityexperts.org ). I have written several articles on the subject and if successful too. I do not agree with some issues that you describe as: “The ISO 9000 encourages organizations to do things that end up hurting customers / users or are based on the erroneous assumption that the work is monitored and improved specifying and controlling procedures and standards (command and control) or The typical method of implementing the ISO tends to cause performance suboptmización not being a systemic approach promotes or recommends and explicitly asked to carry out actions that clearly cause sub-optimization or ISO 9000 ignores the variation theory systems. (Shewart).

    I think that the criticism of the models are highly positive, since they make us all penser on the issue and seek better solutions and options.


    • Thanks for your comment.
      As I just answer Luis, I think that the ISO may be useful to you in some systems., but let me hesitate. And if I doubt it is no other reason that mia experience and many others.
      Now, in this world there are no absolute truths and therefore everything is debating will be very welcome and we add value.

  6. Again, it shows that man’s best friend is not the dog but the scapegoat …

    The organization that does not sacrifice time and resources in managing inertia will continue what they were doing, both good and bad, while adopting new models and management tools.

    The counselor who, by setting a budget, agrees to make a bad job, have more success selling short a few kilos of papers ISO, but will be part of the problem.Furthermore, I understand that business is bad, and that to sell your book you have to talk bad, even what is not known.

    Eleven years ago that ISO 9001 focuses on the client and effectiveness of process management. It is clear that not only are some bad auditors who have not assimilated.

    If attitude and aptitude lack both companies as consultants, failure is always assured, whatever the model. What happens is that maybe the ISO is more obvious, because in those cases it fills an entire office with papers of little or no use.

    More examples and explanations morning on my blog: disparibus.wordpress.com

    Thank you for opening the debate in any case, congratulations on the blog. Ah!And the Deming cycle called Shewhart (with two “H”) !!!

    • Luis.
      Thanks for your comment. I think there is absolute and less in the world of Management truths. Probably the best model may be a combination of several methods. . So I think it’s always interesting to discuss and share experiences, ideas and knowledge
      I will follow your blog and read it carefully to try to understand why and how utilizais a model that, by mia experience, and many others (see http: //isowatch.wordpress .com ), causes severe sub-optimization of the performance of the systems I’ve known so far. Sure I learn something new and be enriching.
      Regarding our book I think before thinking about it you should read it and know who John Seddon and why believes what you think about ISO and other “fashion”.
      Thank you rectify Shewhart. Continuous doing otrografía faults … but I assure you perfectly know his work in statistics and theory of process variation.

  7. […] With quality awards, saving arrival of new approaches or tools for management, or the questionable value of some of them. The prize does not always mean what it seems; approaches or tools […]

  8. See the example of the pilot school Top Fly, they filled the mouth talking about the ISO9000 certification to prospective customers or “victims” .Llenaban the walls of their offices with copies of the certificate and put it on the front page of its website in good size grande.Todo this knowing the mismanagement that has been for years and discontent of many alumnos.El result: its closure last month and more than 70 lawsuits in court.

    • Hello son.
      I do not wonder at the school where you studied during pilot had the ISO, what I wonder is if you also had it in the puticub Riviera del who were also owners and we all know how it ended, like Top Fly, but there were not caught any customer with a prepaid.
      Your father.

  9. Hi José María:

    What a great post. From my experience I subscribe 100%. I remember the Germ Theory of Management when he said that they were looking erroneous solutions in the wrong places. Until we understand what the germ and how it is transmitted, we will continue with a false image of the world and do not understand why it is not working. Until you understand what is quality, will continue to pursue wrong solutions in the wrong places. I think no paradigm shift, there is nothing to do. We understand the facts as our mental model. We have work to do 🙂 .

    I also liked the comment of Peter Wall. How right Pedro!

    Incidentally, I am also waiting for the day when someone takes me to an organization that ISO has served to improve performance : D .

    I send you a hug.

    José M. Vives

    • Jose Miguel: Thank comment here.
      You do not know the mess they’ve ridden with this post. It is amazing to see what happens when you challenge the mental models of life deceiving others (although they do not know) and rely on “command and control” models that have been proven totally obsolete earn. But as you say, without changing paradigms, without the “double loop learning” Argyris can not do anything. Our great challenge is to change the Management thinking.Thanks for participating in it.
      Best Regards

  10. on July 25, 2011 at 21:50 | ReplyRoberto Clemente

    Greetings … Jose Maria.

    I worked with a company that was among the first to certificarce in ISO 9000, and the results were really just to stay alive a few years, enough for investors to turn their vision to other investing and finally time when the company died, we were all forgotten and preparation through high current company does not employ us, for fear of the new administration.
    The truth is that investors just want to see the gains or recover investments, forgetting the Vision for the future, what motivates us improve the product and find new ways to beneficion the client to meet their needs, to open new markets, which in turn leads to renover investment that will grow that way a snowball.
    All products can be improve or update, to be more functional and that the customer gets an extra veneficio that exceeds your expectations.
    But as they say “while the customer does not complain or protest all this bien` is why the company has its lifetime.
    A companies have forgotten the generation of a research and development department, talking about Mexico.

    • Roberto Hi.
      Thanks for stopping by this blog. One of the serious problems of many companies is seeking a quick profit, the famous ROI, without providing any value to their customers or society.
      All this explains much better Michel Henri-Coll in his commentary that can read after yours.

  11. […] – Looking for new ways to trabajarEste way to be left. Towards the management agil.Show Original News Written by Scoopit / July 14, 2011 / No Comments […]

  12. […] Maria Raventos’ blog Describing The 10 sins of ISO 9000 can be enjoyed by English speakers. The inspectors call: “Our chief weapons are […]

  13. JOSE MARIA THANK YOU !!! AWESOME ITEM !!!, SÏ and well capitalized.

    This theme of utlilidad / value of the ISO 9000, had left forgotten in a while. It gave me a lot of headaches express my disagreement with this model, but its certification.

    In some heated discussions I have had with the topic, I listened as in some comments of this post to ISO 9000 is not a standard focused on increasing profits, not a policy aimed at ensuring the success of Organizations … .ok . It’s clear, then for serving ??? As simple as that. Nothing more.

    I think the big mistake is to think that quality is completely dissociated from economic performance of the company. As someone he can happen that you may think of quality in a company that is not being profitable ???

    ISO 9000 proposes a parallel universe where other laws governing, but do not realize that the only laws that are worth market, and quality is no exception to this.While not understand that quality is a result of the business, all you’re going to do with this model is to help return more incompetent companies.

    But worst of all is that these proposed these models are aware of it, can not not be, and do nothing to change it. Why? Because it is still business. It is more comfortable to continue in that position because there is still market to destroy.

    A more evidence of reality. The current crisis has produced many budget cuts, the first cuts Where to apply? Quality is a favorite. Why is that? Because employers do not recognize the areas of Quality as a fundamental part of the success of their negocios.Y that are not fundamental part? Why not contribute to improved results.

    The future:
    1. Continue struggling for companies aware of the inconsistency of the proposal.

    2. certifying consultants and try to avoid their “sincericidio” so outside doors continue to defend to the death the model, but indoors will see how to change course to the extent that the monster they’ve created the go leaving work. And hopefully, for the health of us all, that happens fast !!!

    • Edu Hi.
      Thanks for stopping by this blog.
      I think your comment is to frame. Sums up the fallacy of an alleged pattern of management quality, as you say, is useless.
      However, it is curious that when I wrote this post I received many negative comments, not only in the blog, but through Twitter . Many of them written by people who believe that the problem of ISO is known not to apply, which always argue those who have fallen in different fashions management (Six Sigma another of them), but strange (or dark) reasons refuse to see the evidence of their failure.
      One reason is that it has become a very profitable business for certification and other “vultures” that revolean around the body of a method that has already been shown that only serves to prevent innovation and quality consciousness as Deming (father of modern Quality) taught.

  14. on January 6, 2013 at 1:54 PM | Replycarmen pañaranda

    do not believe in iso, work until viuernes in a certified laboratory in Guajira riohacha and go wrong in a survey trabajr after 24 years with them I got kicked without knowing what grounds, why not think ebn iso, is pure papael

    • Hi Carmen:
      I see you’ve been the victim of the worst disease that can drop an organization, ISO.
      I hope you find another job soon.
      Thanks for commenting

  15. Among recently a small business for a given sector (sales and infrastructure). Suddenly I assigned the task of recertified ISO 9001 (we are certified since 2010) and uncomprehending I started researching the web and pay attention to the Internal Auditor (tercierizado) who hires the company every year. Quickly I thought: This is the world’s biggest lie !!! Seriously certified companies such sins bureaucratic system? And if it is really so. Show only certify to put the seal of ISO 9001. This company is no exception so decided to take a course to successfully get training (course in which the elusive capacitor some of my questions answered vaguely other so my theory stating that This system makes water everywhere). In a couple of months I receive the external auditor and would like to give me a few tips to cope when deemed necessary.

    Jose Maria, the truth standing applaud your article as it is a clear sign that this is purely business and no quality is. Many successes and look forward to reading new criticisms of this bureaucratic system!

  16. Good afternoon, I am researching voluntary standards from a legal perspective because, NO RULES and have a own character however require us to meet the ends they collect. If you could give me some information commentary or opinion would be grateful

  17. good afternoon, from southern Argentina’m starting to realize my thesis to finish my studies, the theme is Quality Systems in Public Areas, work in a place that absolutely certify all processes and trabjao this for about 7 years.
    The past with all the changes of management and budget system quality fall term and nobody modify anything, I think that ultimately caused all relajemos us and work continue as normal year.
    This article helped me to see clearly other places I had not considered regarding quality, as my posture is not endorsing this type of implementation compulsively as do nothing to improve career development.

    • Hi,
      Thanks for your comment. I’m glad my post was useful to you.
      I have worked in the public sector in the UK and I have directament see problems caused by ISO certifications. Perhaps the biggest is the organizational stagnation, the inability of internal learning within the organization. I think the best alternative to ensure quality is the methodology derived from systemic:
      Purpose> Measurement> Method. In my experience, an organization that brings this scheme with Demand> Value> Flow has the ability to be constatemente learning to improve what you do with the active participation of the people working on processes rather be controlled by their bosses constamente are helped to create value for the customer-user.

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