There are different but related comments that have been made to me in this area.

“It’s too bureaucratic”

This is a 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.


“It will tie us up in a straightjacket”

I can only assume that this misconception comes from a belief that once you have a documented quality management system you have to follow it slavishly. Well assuming you have done the job properly wouldn’t you want to follow it because it represents what best practice means to you? Of course you would but nothing is ever cast in stone. You have to be watchful for the integrity of your system in the sense that any changes must be controlled and effected properly – you cannot have a free-for-all with staff changing documents and procedures willy-nilly — but you want all your users challenging the system for effectiveness and suitability all the time. I used to encourage everyone to constantly challenge the manual we had created in terms of constantly asking can we do this better. Are these the most effective methods that we can come up with? Your quality management system is not a straightjacket; it is your agreed way of doing things at this moment in time, i.e. at this stage in your business’s development given your current range of products and services, your current customer base and the client and market environments you operate in. There are lots of internal and external influences that may demand changes to your quality management system. ISO regularly compels you to ask if your quality management system is suitable and effective. If it is not you change it accordingly and make sure it is serving your business. There is always value in reviewing and assessing your quality management system’s relevance! It is not a straightjacket; it is loose clothing to be adapted, amended or cast aside and start again in dramatic circumstances. Moreover, should crises occur or more changes occur in your business’s scenario then ISO expects you to keep your system up to date.

“Paperwork won’t get the job built Andrew”

Initially, some of the sternest resistors to quality management systems and the inevitable, even if minimum, paperwork they necessitate are fixers and tradesmen. Guys of great practical skill are sometimes oblivious at first to anything that involves “pen pushing” and cannot see, or choose not to see, the importance of for example demonstrable QA checks and Handovers to customers. I would have retired long ago had I a pound for every time someone told me, when explaining a modicum of necessary documentation, that “paperwork doesn’t get the job built”. I totally accept that and firmly believe that quality tradesmen are the be all and end all of quality installations. But in the modern construction industry and increasingly with private clients, verifiable quality assurance procedures are the norm. Is there anything more frustrating than doing a job twice because it never got handed over properly and got damaged before the customer “accepted” it? Verifiable QA procedures protect you and your work as well as giving assurance to the customers. They may not physically get the job built, of course not, but they are integral to completing the job, hopefully right first time. They are increasingly vital to getting paid as well. What’s the point of being the best contractor in the world if your customer won’t take responsibility for the work and pay you for it?

    • ISO will not cost a fortune
    • It is not bureaucratic
    • It is not inflexible
    • It is for all businesses, large and small
    • It is not all about the paperwork
    • You will not need loads of training
    • You will not need extra staff
    • You don’t need to write ‘everything’ down
    • You don’t need someone who loves paperwork
    • Anyone can compile a Quality Manual
    • It will reduce, not increase, stress
    • You don’t need to ‘spare’ anyone
    • It is not a long drawn-out process
    • You don’t need jargon!


I also discuss how quality management principles and indeed ISO Certification can help you turn the pain of completing PQQ’s into opportunity and profit. It’s a free download, please secure your copy at and tell me what you think at