A new official “Request for Interpretation” (RFI) on ISO 9001 was submitted by Dick Hortensius, on behalf of the Dutch standards body NEN, in which he tries to fix his own screwup. Showing just what a dumpster fire the entire ISO standards development process has turned into, the RFI reveals that ISO 9001:2015 standard is missing a single word — “or” — and now, eight years later, Hortensius is scrambling to fix it.

Hortensius was given superpowers by the ISO Executive, who tasked him — through NEN — to run its powerful (and secretive) “Technical Management Board” (TMB). Under new policies by ISO, the TMB is allowed to write “mandatory text” for standards (called “Annex SL”) despite the fact that the TMB individuals are not subject matter experts, are not formally nominated or designated, and the entire process violates ISO’s claims that standards are written based on consensus. While “votes” are conducted on standards, any changes to Annex SL text are prohibited… making the votes symbolic, at best.

And Hortensius himself writes most of that TMB text, answerable to no one except some overlords in Amsterdam. The heads at NEN are happy to have complete control over all ISO management system standards (so much for “developing country” participation) and are not about to rein in their golden boy for the sake of honoring tired old tropes like “consensus.”

Hortensius filed the RFI against ISO 9001:2015 clause 10.2.1, which has raised some confusion since Hortensius himself forgot to put the word “or” in the requirements. Currently, the contested portion reads:

10.2.1 When a nonconformity occurs, including any arising from complaints, the organization shall:

… (b)¬†evaluate the need for action to eliminate the causes of the nonconformity, in order that it does not recur or occur elsewhere, by:

(1) reviewing and analyzing the nonconformity;

(2) determining the causes of the nonconformity;

(3) determining if similar nonconformities exist, or could potentially occur;

Hortenius’s RFI claims that the standard should have read “or” between bullets B2 and B3, thus making each of the bullets optional. Instead, the lack of any word has led many to assume the word “and” applies, and thus all bullets in 10.2.1 B apply at once.

Hortenius argues this is not true, and says that there exists the possibility that during the review at bullet B1 (to “evaluate the need for action”) a company might decide NOT to take action, due to costs or low-risk of the particular nonconformity. So he wanted ISO to rule that the bullets in B are not a collective set.

Remember, again, that the text of this clause comes from TMB — which Hortensius runs — and TC 176 was disallowed from editing it. So Hortensius is confronting his own smug fuck-up.

But TC 176 isn’t having it, because they were not about to let Hortensius outshine their own monumental incompetence. In their formal response, TC 176 told member nations that they should vote “No” on the RFI, meaning that all three bullets are a set, and each is mandatory.

Then, because ISO loves to overcomplicate things, the vote of “No” had to go out for an official ballot, asking nations to vote “Yes” or “No” on the “No” vote. This created all sorts of confusion, and people were not sure if they are voting “No” against Hortensius or “No” against TC 176’s position. So, nations that supported TC 176’s “No” vote actually had to vote “Yes.” It’s a mess.

As it stands now, the final ballot shows a majority of nations (42 out of 82) voted to uphold TC 176’s idea, and assert that the bullets B1, B2, and B3 are all mandatory and none can be skipped. Eight countries voted against the measure and sided with Hortenius, including Australia, the US, and Canada. For some reason, the Netherlands abstained, presumably because Hortensius is the only guy working there, and would have had to have voted on his own RFI.

All of this is because TC 176 allowed TMB to write ISO 9001 for it, violating long-standing international rules (including those of the World Trade Organization), and Hortensius can barely form a sentence, so forgot to put the word “or” in there.

By any measure, Hortensius is a grossly underqualified hack with a God complex (literally) who should be nowhere near any ISO standards body. He has utter contempt for procedures or regulations if they mean getting in his way (he couldn’t even be bothered to fill out the official RFI form properly), and has openly spewed disdain against the ideal of international consensus. He should probably be sued, but the Dutch love him, because his role at TMB gives them power they would not ordinarily have. And the ISO Exec loves him, because he carries their water and helps them control the content of every single management system standard they publish.

Hortensius is a puppet, but he’s so stupid, he thinks he’s holding his own strings.

Postscript: While siding with Hortensius, Australia’s response was a scathing, uncharacteristically blunt, scorched-earth diatribe against the TC 176 subcommittee and its head, Suzie Radcliffe-Hart, who crafted the proposed response. First, Australia broke ISO’s unwritten rule of “never talk about the CBs in an RFI,” and just called out CBs who are likely to write uninformed nonconformities due to the confusion. ISO likes to pretend the CBs and certification to its standards don’t exist, so they can’t be held liable when things go sideways.

Then, the Aussies just called ISO a hypocrite to its face, saying (emphasis added):

The issue with the proposed interpretation provided by SC 2/TG4 is that it may be misinterpreted and provide a justification in the third-party auditor community that an organizations evaluation for action needs the determination of the cause for all defects within an organization, which is simply not possible (e.g., ISO, TC176 and SA would fail this).

Damn! Somebody woke up in a snit that day!


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