[UPDATE; see red text below.]

The UK’s Chartered Quality Institute is an interesting beast. It’s like the United States’ ASQ, but boasts of a more formal UK branding (“chartered” has a more authentic sheen to the Brits), and its work isn’t as transparently craven as ASQ, even if they do nearly the same stuff. As ASQ is an incestuous partner to the accreditation body ANAB (that first “A” in ANAB partly stands for “ASQ”), the CQI has a kissin’ cousin relationship with the auditor training body IRCA.

But CQI is also a dependable, willing shill for the grand mothership ISO. When ISO claps, CQI jumps. It constantly helps promote ISO standards, and even ISO itself, by publishing endless articles, press releases and social media posts that are often poor rewrites of official ISO statements or articles. CQI’s editors deny publication of scholarly articles that might be critical of ISO standards or the surrounding certifications, and grant endless column inches to the usual hucksters willing to say nice things about Geneva. Like ASQ, CQI denies its members and the public an honest conversation about the pros and cons of the standards development process and the surrounding accreditation scheme. As the US does for ASQ, the UK government ignores the entire thing, happy to point to CQI as a national treasure when it suits its purposes, and then turn a blind eye when CQI clearly screws the populace.

CQI has taken, for example, a ludicrously high-minded position on Kobe Steel, the Japanese company that was found to have falsified quality inspection data for aircraft steel for over a decade. CQI blames Kobe’s management, natch, but left out of its discussions are the fact that both CQI and its loving cousin IRCA are complicit in the scandal, by promoting ISO certifications and the development of a weak ISO  9001 standard, both of which were adopted by Kobe. No one at CQI is asking the obvious questions: how could all those Kobe Steel companies have falsified data for over 10 years without a single ISO auditor noticing? How could they have not only obtained ISO 9001 certification during that time, but also maintained it? Why were some — and not all — of the certs only pulled after the scandal was reported in the press? Why were some certs not pulled at all?

CQI’s articles on the matter sound smugly convinced that they have the answer. In response to a criticism posted by me on Twitter, CQI tweeted out two articles about the Kobe scandal. In one article, CQI’s CEO Vincent Desmond said the following, before launching into a sales pitch for a new ISO standard on “corporate governance”:

It is too early to say what the senior leadership of Kobe Steel knew, but this intensifying scandal reminds us once again that operational governance failures pose a serious risk to corporate reputation, market capitalisation and the ongoing commercial viability of an enterprise.

In the second article Tweeted to Oxebridge, CQI’s Executive Director for Policy Estelle Clark parrotted what must be the same official talking point:

At the time of writing, in the developing Kobe Steel crisis, it is impossible to accurately assess; to paraphrase one of the most famous lines from Watergate, “what the board knew and when the board knew it.”

Had CQI acknowledged the failure of ISO standards like ISO 9001 to catch over a decade of fraudulent quality, it couldn’t have made the straightfaced appeal for more ISO standards which are equally likely to fail, since the players are so corrupt. So it has to leave that criticism out entirely, saying, “it’s too early to say” what went wrong. No it’s not. CQI is just too cowardly to discuss what went wrong.

The MSS 1000 PDCA model, which also doubles as a UK Metro subway map.

Rebel Scum

So it’s somewhat unusual that CQI should launch an open campaign to completely destroy ISO in one fell swoop. It’s doing this by subversively offering a free and direct competitor to the entire catalog of ISO management system standards, called MSS 1000, which provides a single integrated management system standard — did I mention it’s free? — that replaces not only ISO 9001 but any other ISO management system standard, too, including 14001 (environmental) and 31000 (risk management.)

The brainchild of the CQI’s Integrated Management Special Interest Group (IMSIG) and its Chair Ian Dalling, MSS 1000 purports to offer a “universal management system standard” that provides “joined-up management thinking.” Yes, thanks to ISO, now everything has “thinking” in its branding. Sigh.

IMSIG doesn’t bother with stuff like international consensus or, you know, participation by actual stakeholders. By all accounts, it’s comprised of three people: IMSIG Chair Dalling (a private consultant), IMSIG Secretary Bob Blackwell (a private consultant and, of course, ASQ drone) and IMSIG Deputy Secretary Cheryl Burgess (also — yawn — a private consultant.) I’d love to tell you more about them, but I can’t because none of the links on their webpage work. A fourth slot (“IMSIG Deputy Chair”) isn’t even filled, even though the organization claims it’s been around since 1995. Meanwhile, the organizational chart is a massive set of bubbles showing 15 other “vacant” positions:

Next, the website lists “IMS supporting organizations” — which, at first, you’d think meant organizations supporting IMSIG itself. In fact, it’s just a list of two accreditation bodies (UKAS and JAS-ANZ) and some other registrars who have said something, at some point, about the concept of integrated management systems, but not anything supporting IMSIG the organization. Totally misleading, but even then that page is nearly entirely blank, with not a single consultancy or standards body listed:

Next, the IMSIG page has a list of “IMSIG papers” which resolve to PDF articles written entirely by Dalling, and no one else. Ditto for the “presentations” page content, and the entirety of the (three) blog posts on the site: all Dalling. At least Burgess’ name appears in the metadata for one of the two “newsletters” the organization has published in its 23-year history. The latest is fairly hilarious in that it discusses how the “the IMSIG steering committee conducted a detailed review of its vision, mission, values, strategic objectives and the tactical and operational means of their implementation” and came up with a “new strategic plan … which builds on the great success of IMSIG over the last decade.”

Right: three people sat down. called themselves a “steering committee” and then conducted “a detailed review” of some donuts in a coffee shop, and then wrote a misleading press release about it.

And here’s the group’s “Events” page, which (of course) is totally blank. I went all the way back to 2013 and found no entries, and into the future a few years as well: came up empty. No one told them it looks terrible for an “organization” to have a blank calendar with no scheduled events; just remove the damn thing!

IMSIG markets MSS 1000 under some heavily dubious claims, with dark cultish overtones. First, Dalling relies on the consistently misleading claim that the idea of an integrated management system is now “the norm.” He bases this on a single 2012 survey conducted by CQI and the IIRSM group on risk management which claims that it surveyed companies and found that 4 out of 5 either had or were seeking an IMS. The data isn’t available to actually review, so we have no idea if it’s entirely bullshit made-up nonsense, and it also undermines Dalling’s argument: if the IMS is already “the norm,” then why do we need a new standard to govern it? Remind me: in which sequence do the horse and cart go again?

Next consider that the results were already determined just by whom they surveyed: by going to the IIRSM, it was not likely that anyone would admit they had only implemented, say, an “environmental management system,” since the group is populated by risk organizations. CQI hasn’t actually hired an objective, independent survey firm to conduct a truly universal, blind survey. It found a partner to fudge the numbers for them; again, assuming these numbers even exist in the first place. (Curiously, every time Dalling posts a link to the survey, the link is dead; this has been consistent “glitch” for years now.)

[UPDATE: the survey link now works.]

Dalling is also wildly inconsistent when dropping his favorite word “norm.” In 2015, he claimed the standard would become the norm:

(Yes, that link is dead, too.)

But then in January 2018, he said it already was the norm, despite quoting the same 2012 study:

So while the 2012 study didn’t change, Dalling’s hyperbolic marketing has .. shall we say… “evolved.”

Even worse, Dalling relies on this weirdo, almost cultish tagline that he puts in his papers and on the website: “No army can resist an idea whose time has come.” Really? You think your ideas are so revolutionary, an army is going to not only care enough, but put up resistance? And doesn’t this contradict the “it’s a norm!” argument? Do armies resist norms? Let’s chalk that up to hyperbole and marketing, too, then.

So to recap, you’re supposed to utilize an integrated management system standard created by, at best, three private consultants who are answerable to no one, using no consensus procedures whatsoever, and without any external oversight or stakeholder involvement. You are also supposed to take critical business advice on managing your entire organization from a group of people who cannot find volunteers to fill over a dozen positions in their own organization for the past 23 years, and who can’t manage to get their website to work, even though they used a free “make your own website” tool.

Got it?

Fire the Nucular Weapons!

In reality, the concept of the “IMS” was a myth invented by ISO to sell standards and certifications in bulk, and the concept is nearly universally ignored by actual companies. If we do the math we find that it’s likely that less than 0.1 percent of the world’s companies have implemented a single management system standard, with the numbers falling to more like <0.001% when you try to find a company that’s implemented at least two; you have to have at least two to be considered an IMS, after all. Add a third and the numbers fall to a number that can only be measured in angstroms.

But there’s no honor among the thieves in this profession, so in retrospect perhaps this should be no surprise. These groups routinely cannibalize each other, whether due to bureaucratic stupidity or just craven greed and through acts of narcissistic self-promotion. As I said, ASQ co-owns ANAB, but then allows its members to promote a certificate mill operator who publishes hundreds of videos accusing both ASQ and ANAB of terrorism. The IAAR — the plucky group of US registrars who meet in smoky rooms with ANAB present — often make decisions that undercut the very same “accredited registrars” they claim to support.

But, wow, does CQI take aim at ISO’s entire business model. First, it claims it will (as I said) replace every ISO management system standard all with one single free document:

It avoids the need to comply with multiple management system standards covering separate aspects of performance such as goods and services quality, health and safety, environment and security. Commercial and human resource aspects are also covered that are not normally explicitly addressed in management system standards.

Next, it just goes nuclear on the entire ISO-supported certification scheme, making itself a direct and immediate threat to UKAS and IAF and every single registrar on the planet, by offering its own competing scheme:

MSS 1000 provides a lot of flexibility in the way that it is used. Organizations can achieve bronze, silver and gold compliance. Bronze demonstrates basic effective and efficient functionality. Silver demonstrates enhanced functional performance plus commercial responsibility. Gold demonstrates even higher functional performance plus social responsibility. Self-certification and declaration is possible for bronze only and third party certification for all levels. The certifications enable more transparency in how organizations are operating and can facilitate better supply chain management and customer decision making.

Dayummm. Yes, they went there, and all right under the nose of ISO.

ISO Unfazed

A typical page from MSS1000.

ISO, so far, doesn’t seem to care. By all indicators, precious few companies have implemented MSS 1000, nor are likely to. The thing is a 300-page 91,000-word monstrosity filled with its own un-vetted terminology and approaches, an impossible spaghetti map of internal links on each page, and grade-school illustrations. Those links — my God, there are nearly 17,000 of them in the document! — are particularly vexing, since every single page is comprised of at least 50% blue-tinged link text, making the thing impossible to read with normal human eyes. Seriously, you’ll have to send this to your black and white printer and make a hardcopy to be able to read the damn thing.

It’s the usual product of antisocial standards nerds who care little for whether anyone understands what they write, smug in the delusion that what they are writing is so precious, only idiots would ignore them. So, basically, it’s a standard written by your IT department; that’s always fun.

But it’s not like it actually represents a threat. In the same way that Putin tolerates a timid competitor during elections to give his dictatorship a sheen of democracy, ISO can afford to tolerate a competitor that has no chance of ever supplanting it. Ditto for the IAF and its accreditation scheme.

So MSS1000 offers no functional alternative to ISO standards, being impossibly complex, poorly written, and self-deluded. As a result, ISO is willing to overlook CQI’s subversive plots. In reality, it appears that a single person — Ian Dalling — has obsessed for over a decade on a single work product, and managed, somehow, to convince the UK’s Chartered Quality Institute to allow him to slather their logo on what is very obviously a personal pet project. Now if only CQI would endorse my pet project to disallow them from enabling pet projects. But if Dalling’s car’s brake lines were cut one day, I’d know who to interrogate first.

The good news for both CQI and ISO is that MSS 1000 has no chance of ever escaping the IMSIG basement and being taken seriously as anything more than a bizarre business-based internet manifesto.

UPDATE 26 Jan 2018: The survey now appears online, but is problematic. The researchers credit Dalling for the idea behind the survey, and then give him thanks for helping throughout its implementation. If that doesn’t already smack of conflict of interest, the report overtly states Dalling intended to use the resulting survey to develop products for CQI members. Then, in the report’s conclusions, the authors ignore their own data that suggests people do not want a unified IMS standard, and suggest that such a standard would be beneficial no matter what the data says.

It’s also worth pointing out that the survey only included feedback from 184 companies, all in the UK, and all members of either CQI or IIRSM, and no one else. The authors admit that CQI has branched so far into other standards and concepts other than quality (such as environmental), that the CQI should consider renaming itself. By admitting this, the researchers essentially reveal they went directly to a group of respondents who were nearly guaranteed to have at least two management systems in place (quality + environment) which resulted in a biased finding.

In short, it appears clear the “survey” was conducted to support a pre-determined desire by Dalling to have something he could later hang his hat on, and has since done exactly that.

    About Christopher Paris

    Christopher Paris is the founder and VP Operations of Oxebridge. He has over 25 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.