Internal review documents reveal that the editors of Quality Progress, the journal of quality management published by ASQ, refuse to publish any article critical of ISO 9001, calling into further question whether ASQ has abandoned its mission to support the quality profession and instead is acting as the marketing arm for ISO’s publishing operations. Editors deemed it “inappropriate” to “critique” an ISO standard. The decision was then upheld by Quality Progress executive editor Seiche Sanders.

In 2014 a world renowned author, who has requested his name be withheld, submitted an article which discussed inconsistencies in how the Draft International Standard (DIS) version of ISO 9001:2015 defined the concept of “quality management system.” There was no other criticism of ISO 9001 in the draft article; however, the article was rejected by the QP editors on the basis that it was not “appropriate for QP to publish a paper that critiques and challenges an ISO standard.” A second editor commented that, “While the author appears to make good points, I believe this critique of ISO DIS 9000:2015 should be directed to the authors of the standard and not to QP readers.”

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This points to an editorial policy that “critiques” do not “contribute to” the body of knowledge in the quality profession, per ASQ — a remarkable position to adopt, given that ASQ boasts the purpose of Quality Progress is to “be the world’s leading source of timely information about quality principles, tools and techniques [and provide] learning opportunities, stimulates discussion on achieving performance excellence and delivers the means by which individuals, organizations and society can improve.”

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Another reason given for the rejection was that “The authors raises [sic] several questions but does not provide a solution. This makes it appears that the paper is a critique of ISO 9001:2015.” This point is particularly curious, as the submitted paper provides a suggested solution in a section labeled “Conclusion,” but which appears not have been read by any of the editors.

The author in question has written over a dozen books on previous versions of ISO 9001 since the 1990’s, and his books have been translated into multiple languages an published across the globe. For many, he is one of the world’s topmost thinkers on ISO 9001, but does not hold a position in TC 176, the ISO Technical Committee which develops the ISO 9000 family of standards. Fueling speculation that ASQ is prioritizing the publication of TC 176 and US TAG 176 members, the article was rejected on the grounds that “in many ways [the article] was an editorial” and yet the pieces published by QP to date are nearly entirely editorial, presenting the personal opinions of TAG leaders such as Paul Palmes, Jack West, Denise Robitaille, Charles Cianfrani and Allen Gluck.

The article would have appeared in the September 2014 issue of Quality Progress. Instead, that issue featured two separate pro-ISO 9001 articles, by Paul Palmes and Sanford Liebesman, both US TAG 176 leaders. Ironically, the Palmes piece is promoted with the blurb that “the author emphasizes the degree to which the standard reflects the input of numerous quality management professionals.” Another article, unrelated to ISO 9001, was published by Donna Thomas, also a US TAG representative.

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To bolster the argument against “editorial” submissions, the editors justified the rejection by saying the article “contains a significant amount of ‘if’ and ‘could’.”  A glance at the Quality Progress articles published to date from the US TAG authors appear rife with such opinions.  In one example, a September 2015 issue of QP included a “panel” of TAG leaders’ comments, published under the title “Keep Calm and Prepare for ISO 9001:2015″ which featured the exact words the editors indicated were inappropriate.

“… organizations should look for favorable conditions or circumstances that can offer a potential advantage or beneficial outcome and include planning for those worthy of pursuit.”

“These new requirements… should provide an organization an opportunity to expand the breadth and depth of its QMS.”

“An organization could develop a list of areas in which issues could exist and perform periodic evaluations of any existing or emerging problems that might affect meeting requirements.”

No Fact-Checking

The QP article also allowed the TAG leaders to publish openly false statements that appeared not to be fact-checked by the editors. One claim, made by Deann Desai and Susan LK Briggs — the latter of whom is widely considered the architect of Annex SL — was:

“One of the key responses in the user survey conducted prior to writing the revision was that the connection with the larger, strategic view of the organization was missing.”

In fact, however, the ISO 9001 User Survey showed that “strategic planning” was eighth on the list, and fell beneath higher-ranking concepts such as “voice of the customer” and “self-assessment tool” which were ignored by TC 176 entirely.

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TAG-Only Policy

Recently, Oxebridge reported that 90% of the QP reporting to date on ISO 9001 has been provided by US TAG members. It now appears this is not accidental, but the result of a firm ASQ editorial policy. The author of the rejected article requested secondary consideration by Quality Progress executive editor Sanders, who replied, “As you may have noticed, QP has been covering the revision of the standard for some time now, and has much of our content and authors already strategically planned and timed.” This position — that the “content and authors” of Quality Progress is pre-planned and timed, violates the official QP editorial policies, which demand that no consideration of the author be given, since articles are submitted “blind” to reviewers, and that “accepted articles are generally published in the order in which they are submitted.”

Instead, it appears that the official policy is to pre-fill the available pages in Quality Progress with pre-planned articles by accepted US TAG authors, leaving little room for other authors. Ms. Sanders declined to comment or explain this disparity.

A discussion on ASQ’s LinkedIn Forum worsens the ASQ editorial board’s position, and reveals some level of personal politics in play. The discussion, begun by Oxebridge, found ASQ’s policy to be met with generally unfavorable comments by ASQ members. The only official response from ASQ was a re-post of the official editorial guidelines by ASQ Communications Specialist Julie McIntosh, who said, “QP stands behind the integrity of its review process.” When the contradiction over the published policies and the actual  review process were pointed out, Ms. McIntosh did not reply.

As mentioned, Executive Editor Seiche Sanders was asked for an explanation, but ignored the request. When the conversation turned to personal attacks against Oxebridge’s Christopher Paris, however, Ms. Sanders and other ASQ editors “liked” the attack posts, including posts that denigrated Paris as “belly-aching and grandstanding”. Paris has maintained this is evidence of grossly unprofessional behavior on the part of ASQ’s editors, and a public admission of allowing their personal opinions to infect the content of Quality Progress.

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Other supporters of ASQ’s actions include ASQ fellow Denis Devos, who is Vice Chair of the ASQ Quality Management Division, which oversees publication of its Quality Management journal. Devos is himself published by Quality Progress, appearing in its “Ask the Expert” column. On LinkedIn, Devos alleged “I bet I could get my critique of ISO 9001 published in QP in 10 minutes if I chose to write one.” To date, Oxebridge could not find any material published by Devos that was critical of ISO 9001.

Author Duke Okes, a consultant who has been previously published by ASQ’s Quality Press imprint, argued against any criticism of ISO 9001 at all, saying, “complaining after all the work has been done is really mute [sic]. If you don’t like it don’t work with it. But if you want to change it the input/opinions need to be put forward during the time when they can be considered.” Okes did not respond when it was pointed out that the rejected article was submitted during the DIS commentary period, a period specifically mandated by ISO specifically to gather feedback on ISO 9001. By rejecting the article, ASQ may have intentionally skewed the results of US opinion, allowing the standard to proceed without significant challenge.

Taken together, this appears to be irrefutable proof that the ASQ editors are prioritizing the publication of material supportive of ISO 9001:2015, and only submitted by a pre-selected group of authors, nearly all of whom are pulled from the US TAG to TC 176. The TAG leadership has been accused of using their role in the committee, and their relationship with ASQ, to enrich their private consulting practices, an allegation they have recently denied. The issue is slated for escalation to ANSI through the official appeal process.

Oxebridge has criticized TC 176 for releasing ISO 9001:2015 as a flawed document, filled with vague language, and for failing to obtain proper consensus. Oxebridge argues that NIST should file an official complaint with the World Trade Organization against ISO for failing to adhere to its standards development procedures, and thus allowing ISO 9001 to become a barrier to free trade. The slanted editorial policy by ASQ would tend to support the argument that ISO failed to obtain proper consensus, and is instead allowing its Technical Committees to be used as profit centers for a handful of private consultants.

 

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