by Christopher Paris

A recent article on ISO 26000 give an excellent example of how ISO uses only the most dubious data that supports a predetermined marketing initiative, and ignores actual data that might contradict it.

The article is linked here: http://www.iso.org/iso/news.htm?refid=Ref1675

The pertinent quote:

A Google search of ISO 26000 today returns over two million results. Kristina Sandberg, ISO 26000 PPO Secretary, reported on a survey conducted by the PPO. At least 60 countries have adopted the standard, and 20 more are considering following through. The text is now available in 22 languages. The survey showed that of the 74 countries who responded, 59 % believed that interest in the standard is growing.

Let’s dissect that. First, ISO considers Google search results as an actual metric, which is fairly nutty. The first few pages — if not the first few HUNDRED pages (I’m not going to check) — of results are from those SELLING ISO 26000 services – consultants and registrars. A search result does not indicate interest in a subject, but instead a measurement of those trying to push a product.

ISO then goes on to count the “number of countries” that have adopted the standard. By this measurement, a single company in Botswana could adopt ISO 26000, and that would count as a measurement of popularity and uptake, and put Botswana officially on the map. Under this thinking, if one company in every country of the world adopted it, ISO could accurately say it had “reached every country in the world!” even though there’d only be about 195 actual ISO 26000 adopters.

ISO then uses the number of language it has translated the standard into (“22 !”) as a metric, even though this decision is made as part of the standard development process, and is not done in response to any external demand. EVERY standard published by ISO MUST be translated into the languages of its primary members.

Finally, ISO relies on a pretty weak survey result. It asked 74 countries — we have no idea how many representatives in each country, it could be as low as one per nation — if they “felt” the ISO 26000 standard was growing, and only 59% of those said yes. But again, we have no idea what the sample size was, and the result itself is merely the SPECULATION of those that responded.

I mention this in the context of ISO 9001, because for two decades, ISO has used the same weak and dubious “data” to support the idea that ISO 9001 — which should be its flagship product — is “on the right track”, despite actual data that shows it is being rejected in large numbers. When confronted with growing numbers of organizations that dropped ISO 9001, ISO’s Roger Frost and his bosses made the decision to “no longer publish withdrawal data”, giving no clear rationale for the decision. So, they stopped publishing hard data that showed their product was failing, and replaced it with more soundbites, search engine results and other nonsense.

Until ISO stops this “governance by public relations” management style, it cannot expect its products to be relevant and useful to the widest possible audience. It MUST look at the data, and delve deeper, discovering what people think is wrong with the standard, and WHY. Then they can act on that.

Until then, all the efforts of all those hardworking TC folks is wasted.

ISO needs to take its own medicine, and (a) collect data, including customer complaints and satisfaction, (b) analyze that data, and (c) apply corrective action.

About Christopher Paris

Christopher Paris is the founder and VP Operations of Oxebridge. He has over 30 years' experience implementing ISO 9001 and AS9100 systems, and is a vocal advocate for the development and use of standards from the point of view of actual users. He is the author of Surviving ISO 9001:2015. He reviews wines for the irreverent wine blog, Winepisser.