ISO is shrouded in myths and misconceptions. A common theme is that “quality management” or developing a “quality management system” will be bureaucratic, involve lots of paperwork and is best suited to some geeky or nerdy person who loves admin.

In this series of blogs I will talk about just some of the things that have been said to me on initial visits with customers:

“It’s too bureaucratic”

This is another comment from the “paperwork” School of Objections. Nobody wants to build bureaucracy into their quality management system and you do have to be on guard to prevent it creeping in. It again comes down to the nature and level of control you need to deliver for your product or service. Some level of record keeping and sign-off is usually necessary and beneficial. By being vigilant as you develop your quality management system you can prevent bureaucratic creep. And as your system evolves, as it will, and often grows in size, as it will, the same vigilance will keep it in check. If procedures start to get complex and more paperwork looks like creeping in go back to the maxim that nothing gets into your quality management system unless it demonstrably adds to control of operations and consistency of quality delivery. Control forms can be multi-faceted if you wish, serving a number of activities simultaneously. As long as clarity is maintained always strive to kill two birds with one stone.

There are other reasons why an impression of bureaucracy emerges. Lots of people have heard horror stories about ISO 9001 implementation. This normally involves businesses who have files and files of procedures, work instructions, records and forms (generally sat on a shelf gathering dust) and have been trying to implement ISO 9001 for years unsuccessfully. To really ram the pain home they have spent a fortune doing so. Another common scenario is that of a quality manager who “wrote” a quality management system for them and then left. Because he had been operating in isolation, no other employee knew how to continue the process. Some businesses have gone through more than one quality manager each of them redefining, and adding to the last guy’s efforts. Often this means changing a few things around as well which only adds to the fun. In spite of all this however, some businesses cling on to what has been produced, even in its muddled incoherent state and try to make it work, which just leads to more frustration and an ever worsening impression of 9001 and so-called “quality management” when it is all about poor, ill-led, confused implementation and nothing to do with the Standard itself. In these circumstances, starting again with a good consultant and/or a planned and systematic approach really is the most cost-effective way forward