82 Perceptions of ISO 9000 and its derivatives
How we think about certification
Pressure for certification
When an organization chooses not to pursue ISO 9000 certification or not to retain
the ISO 9000 certificate, it should make no difference to the way the organization is
managed. It is similar to the man who chooses not to take the course examination. He
still has the knowledge he has acquired whether or not he takes the examination and
gets a certificate. What he cannot do is to demonstrate to others that he has reached
a certain level of education without having to prove it every time. People who know
him do not care that he did not take the examination. It is only those who do not know
him that he will have difficulty convincing.
Many organizations were driven to seek ISO 9000 certification or ISO/TS 16949 cer-
tification for that matter by pressure from customers rather than as an incentive to
improve business performance and therefore sought the quickest route to certification.
The critics called this coercion and like most command and control strategies, believed it
resulted in managers cheating just to get the badge. What was out of character was that
suppliers that were well known to customers were made to jump through this hoop in
order to get a tick in a box in a list of approved suppliers. It became a ‘necessary evil’ to
do business. Certainly when perceived as a means to get a badge, the standard was no
more than a marketing tool. It could have been used as a framework for improvement but
the way it was imposed on organizations generated fear brought about by ignorant cus-
tomers who mistakenly believed that imposing ISO 9000 or ISO/TS 16949 would
improve quality. To achieve anything in our society we inevitably have to impose rules and
regulations – what the critics regard as command and control – but unfortunately, any
progress we make masks the disadvantages of this strategy and because we only do what
we are required to do, few people learn. When people make errors more rules are
imposed until we are put in a straitjacket and productivity plummets. There is a need
for regulations to keep sharks out of the bathing area, but if the regulations prevent
bathing we defeat the objective, as did many of the customers that imposed ISO 9000.
ISO 9001 Certification is a requirement of ISO/TS 16949 but not ISO 9001, nor is
it encouraged by the standard. It is however encouraged by governments and this is
where the misunderstanding arises. Governments encouraged organizations to use
ISO 9000 alongside product standards in their purchasing strategy so as to raise the
standard of quality in national and international trade.
Certification became a require-
ment of customers – they mandated it through contracts. ISO 9000 was a convenient
standard to use in order for customers to gain an assurance of quality. ISO 9000 was
launched at a time when customers in the Western world took an adversarial approach
to their suppliers. It came out of the defense industry where there was a long tradition
of command and control. As a consequence, ISO 9000 followed the same pattern of
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