ISO Technical Committee 176 has announced that a ballot to revise ISO 9001:2015 will be circulated in “coming weeks,” after five prior votes failed to generate support for the move.

To date, ISO has conducted five formal votes or informal polls, and all but one resulted in a decision to maintain the ISO 9001 standard as-is. The poll that did not conclude this did not allow users to vote against the idea, but asked users to give their suggestions on changes “if” a revision could be produced. None of the five votes to date produced a majority decision to revise ISO 9001.

The actions to date are as follows:

  1. Vote #1: Dec 2020: official 5-year “Systematic Review” (SR) ballot. The majority voted against revision.
  2. Vote #2: May 2021: Public User Survey (via SurveyMonkey). The majority voted against revision.
  3. Vote #3: May 2021: ISO Committee Internal Ballot (IB) asked P-member nations to revise their original SR vote from Dec 2020. The majority voted against revision.
  4. Vote #4: October 2021: TC 176 SPOTG Committee polls members, again via SurveyMonkey, asking members to change their vote. No results were published. The survey did not allow members to reject the idea of revising the standard outright.
  5. Vote #5: March 2022: SPOTG holds Task Group 5 meeting on revising the standard, the output of that meeting results in SPOTG admitting, “No single item, or source of evidence, on its own was found to be strong enough for TG 5 to recommend a revision of ISO 9001.”
  6. May 2023: Secret “ad hoc” meeting of TC 176 held to gain informal feedback on TC 176 members’ willingness to override all prior votes and pursue early revision of ISO 9001. The meeting ends without any informal polling, as critics of the plan to revise ISO 9001 largely dominate the discussions.
  7. Vote #6: (Not yet performed) June 2023: SPOTG announces a sixth vote will be held “in the coming weeks” to ask TC 176 members if they are willing to revise ISO 9001.

Previously, ISO handed over a large portion of the development of ISO 9001 text to the unelected “Technical Management Board,” which produces mandatory text called “Annex SL.” The Annex SL text currently comprises over 30% of the ISO 9001:2015 standard. The TMB has updated Annex SL, and any vote to deny updating ISO 9001 creates a conflict, as the TMB demands its text be included in ISO 9001. The TMB, led by the Netherlands’ Dick Hortensius, is pushing TC 176 to ignore consensus and voting, in order to have its updated Annex SL text inserted.

At the same time, TC 176 is largely led by private consultants who have worked feverishly to push for an update to ISO 9001 in order to help them sell new consulting services, books, and training seminars. Those private consultants pushing for revising ISO 9001 include Nigel Croft, Jose Dominguez, Lorri Hunt, Didier Blanc, Paul Simpson, Devindra Chattergoon, and many others. ISO has rules that prohibit any single “category” of member to dominate TC meetings, but no longer enforces those rules, allowing consultants to engage in self-enriching behaviors that violate ISO core principles.

If ISO 9001 is revised, as expected, the costs to user companies will be exorbitant, requiring purchasing of new standards, updating internal procedures, conducting audits against the new requirements, and undergoing costly “upgrade audits” by certification bodies. ISO typically works with the IAF to mandate a three-year cutoff, at which point all certified companies must be updated to the new ISO 9001 version or lose certification. Given that the changes are coming after widespread rejection, and in violation of multiple official ballots, an ISO/IAF “3-year transition” mandate may run afoul of the laws of various nations, including the US.

However, ISO stands to make as much as $200 million in the first two years if it publishes a new version of ISO 9001. In addition, private consultants and certification bodies stand to profit considerably from the move.

It is not clear how ISO plans to weather the inevitable criticism when it does revise ISO 9001, given the very public nature of the arguments against doing so. ISO insists it complies with World Trade Organization rules and develops standards based on “consensus,” but the TC 176 activities to date would appear to disprove that.

TC 176 has already worked up a comprehensive spreadsheet of some planned changes, as well as a design specification for the new version, despite claiming that revision work has not yet started.


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