Re: ISO 9000 [Warning--Long post]
"Derrel Fincher, Dowell" <dfincher -at- DSNVXB -dot- SUGAR-LAND -dot- DOWELL -dot- SLB -dot- COM>
Wed, 28 Sep 1994 00:26:34 -0600
After reading the several recent posts on ISO 9000 certification, I decided
to show a different side of the subject. (BTW, for those of you who are
wondering what this has to do with tech writing, rest assured that if your
company is contemplating ISO certification, you WILL be affected.) The
writers are correct in that ISO certification does not guarantee quality.
However, three points about ISO 9000 that are not mentioned enough.
1. If you are any good in your business, you should be doing what ISO
9000 calls for anyway. Get a copy of the standard and read it. There is
nothing in the standard that is not good business sense for the vast
majority of businesses.
2. EVERYTHING that you do for ISO 9000 must be value added. Most
people fear ISO 9000 because they foresee a paper monster.
3. ISO 9000 will get you at most a third of the way to being a world
>My feeling was that if you had not formally defined the procedures
>you were going to use for things, and had not really been doing
>things consistently, ISO9000 would help you because you'd have to
>sit down and document things. It would help you refine your
>thoughts and procedures. But you could do the same thing without
>bothering to go for ISO9000 certification.
Absolutely correct. But tell me, how many companies are actually
consistent? Pull out whatever manuals or procedures that you have, and
convince yourself that everyone is your company is following _everything_
that is written in those procedures! The great majority of companies can't
make that claim. And most companies wouldn't want to. How many times have
you heard, "Well, the policy says to do it this way, but that takes too
long, so we do it differently." But Bill and Susan do it one way, Karen and
LeDon do it another, and Jimmie does it differently each time. The policy
in question was typically written by somebody trying to justify his
continued employment. Who would want to follow it? It's not value added.
What ISO does for you in this situation is that it gives you an independent,
outside evaluation periodically to make sure that you are following your
procedures. After you have significant findings on each audit, you tend to
simplify your procedures until they are truly value added. Or until you
lose your certification. How many companies have the discipline to do this
on their own?
>We decided that it would add administrative overhead to our current
>processes, and would probably not raise quality. However, if our
>customers asked for it, we would do it. They didn't ask.
If it adds admininstrative overhead, you're not doing it correctly because
it's not value added. Either that or the consultant wants your business, so
he is telling you that you need many more procedures than you actually need.
(I've seen evidence of this in companies that I've visited.) My test for a
procedure is that it must either save you money or make you money. If it
does neither, you don't need the procedure. As for your customers not
asking, you should become certified only if you percieve it being a benefit
for you. If the only reason you get certified is because your customers
ask, you're not going to be successful at it.
>ISO provides a theoretical structure, but it still comes down
>to individuals doing their jobs. If the people in those jobs
>slack off, fail to do the inspections, and just sign the
>paperwork, then the QA plan is just a waste of trees.
>(Or magnetic coating on disks...)
And you loose your certification. Yes, it still come downs to people doing
their job. But ISO does not address the root cause of this problem as Deming
is quick to point out. As I said earlier, ISO only gets you a third of the
way to a world class organization
>What ISO -will- accomplish, however, is an enormous increase
>in costs. In order to properly perform ISO type QA inspections
>on tech manuals, you can expect to increase the size of staff by
>10-15%. That figure, BTW, will also go across the board.
>Youll need QA people to check the software, QA people to
>check the hardware, QA people to sign off on the released
If it does, you are not doing it correctly. Check out Michael Hammer's
"Re-engineering the Corporation." (It's a great book. The only problem is
that when management in most companies read it, all they see is, "...and
they were able to cut staff 25%... ...and they were able to cut staff by
75%... ...and they were able to cut staff by 40%..." So they cut staff and
claim they are re-engineering. Phhhht.)
>As noted by many, the ISO requirements are for documentation
Not strictly correct. You can supplant many of your task specific
procedures with documented training. Not documented training procedures,
just documented training. And that training could be as simple as Jane
showing Bill how to use the machine. But the fact that the training
occurred needs to be documented.
>In many companies, however, its a new group (Industrial Engineering
>in some places) that does nothing except write, file, and update
I hope those are our competitors. We like competitors that waste their
money on non-value added procedures. ;-)
>Any time you come up with a new and better
>way to make a product, all the applicable process documents
>must be changed. If they aren't the ISO auditors are going to
>have a cow at their next visit.
It's not the ISO auditors I worry about. It's the poor customer on the
other end. You bump the print to revision D, but the poor assembler is
still getting assembly information for revision B. Since she knows that's
wrong, she pulls out her trusty revision C print stashed under the bench
that has all of her pencil marks from the last time she built the product.
Rev D and rev C look identical don't they? (But hey, so what if the rev D
calls for a higher torque spec on the fuel line connector because the thread
form was changed.)
Whether you are ISO certified or not, you must change all applicable process
documents when you change anything. The question you need to ask is, "What
do those documents bring to the party?" Do you even need the documents in
the first place? Can you perform the function that the document is supposed
to perform in some clearer, easier, simpler way? If it's not value added,
don't make it part of your requirements. (As professional communicators you
should be asking the WHY of what you are communicating. [FYI -- I'm not a
professional communicator; I'm a manager. ;-) ])
>Filling out the paperwork, making sure the job is done correctly,
>all of this takes time. You can double the amount of time for a task
>if the paperwork is thick enough, at least thats my experience. (A
>few weeks ago, I sent a pile of the GE manuscript checklists to
>LaVonna. I think she went into shock when she saw them.)
If it's not value added, don't make it part of your requirements.
>I have said before,"ISO 9000
>will solve the problem of the military buying $50 hammers, but only
>because all hammers will cost $50."
No, only hammers from companies that have implemented ISO as a paper monster
will cost $50. The rest of us who have implemented ISO will be happy to
sell you a better hammer for $5 because we will understand how ISO gives us
one-third and we know what to do to get the other two-thirds.
>Susan R. Kloster talked about her experiences over the past 18 months.
>She said that the process of documentation will force you to look at how things
>are done, and quality will improve. The final QA plans, however,
>can be terribly stifling and restrictive. Style guides will become more
>detailed, eventually rivaling MILSPECS. (Try reading MIL-M-38784,
>just for a scare.) Why will this happen? Because historically, any set
>of regulations becomes more, not less, restrictive with time. A year
>down the road, you think of new things that should be added. Inspections
>and requirements must be thrown in to make sure that "one time slip"
>never happens again. Then the next year there is more, and the year after that
>even more. The result is a thicker and thicker series of requirements.
>The upshot is that ISO 9000 -will- improve quality, but it will do so at a huge
What Rick is addressing here is organizational behavior, not ISO 9000.
Those organizations which don't understand ISO 9000 and have a bureaucratic
mind set will do exactly as he says. Until they go out of business (or put
a bigger hand in your pocket as the government does). Those organizations
that understand that ISO 9000 is good business sense will be able to use it
to their advantage. Because if it's not not value added, they won't make it
part of their requirements.
You can get the benefits of ISO without becoming certified if you have the
will, but I have only seen one company that had that will. They finally
decided to get certified, and their system was so complete that they passed
the audit with no preparation. Most companies don't have that will. You
would be amazed at how many companies will hand you their quality manual,
then tell you that it is so complex that they don't follow it.
So, how come am I qualified to comment on ISO 9000? I'm not, really. But I
am working closely with the QA manager of one of our ISO 9001 certified
sister organizations, which does approximately $80MM per year of business.
Their entire quality manual, which has both the quality policy and the
quality procedures, is a perfect bound 5x7 1/4" thick manual. You can roll
it up and stick it in your hip pocket. They were certified 90 days from the
time they started. They went through their last audit with ZERO findings.
He has several other similar success stories. So, how does this happen?
1. Management commitment.
2. If it's not not value added, it's not part of the procedures.
3. The people that have to follow the procedures wrote the procedures.
4. The employees understand what ISO 9000 can do and what it can't do.
They had been ISO certified prior to the move here (certification is site
specific) and they had the difficult-to-maintain proverbial paper monster
with a shelf full of manuals to back it up. They realized it didn't need to
be that way, so they rewrote it all. I take copies of their manual when I
visit vendors. Nobody can believe that an ISO 9001 organization has such a
Our own organization will become ISO certified in February, and we intend to
start about the middle of October. (It's only taking so long because of the
Christmas vacation, and several of our key personnel are expats who will
take a long vacation.) If you are taking months to implement ISO, you are
not doing it right.
So, for all of you that have been discouraged by the previous posts -- take
heart! It doesn't have to be that way! And remember -- if it's not value
added, don't put it in the procedures.
Derrel Fincher, HPCD, Stimulation and Completion Products
Tel: 1-713-275-8581||Internal E-mail: dfincher -at- sugar-land -dot- dowell -dot- slb -dot- com
Fax: 1-713-275-8552||External E-mail: dvfincher -at- slb -dot- com
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