The member nations of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) have voted to “confirm” the ISO 9001:2015 standard, and not subject it to another revision. The vote puts the ISO Technical Committee 176 (TC 176), which authors the ISO 9001 standard, at odds with the ISO Technical Management Board (TMB) which will demand a revision regardless of the vote.

According to official vote results released to industry stakeholders this week, 36 member nations voted to “confirm” the standard as-is, with 32 nations voting to revise it. Another 10 nations abstained.

Voting results for revising ISO 9001:2015

The ISO TMB, however, has directed a working group led to revise “Annex SL,” a document which acts as the structural blueprint for all ISO management system standards. That document was originally intended to act as a style guide for ISO standards, but was quickly expanded to include mandatory content and definitions, thus defying the will of authoring committees like TC 176. While some technical committees objected to the TMB’s overreach, TC 176 — led largely by private consultants — has consistently supported Annex SL.

It was Annex SL that injected “risk” into the ISO 9001 standard, which was then branded by TCD 176 as “risk-based thinking.” The same consultants who worked on the rebranding then began selling “risk-based thinking” seminars, training courses and books.

The revision to Annex SL will force all management system standards to undergo a revision in order to adopt the changes. In the case of ISO 9001, this will make the vote to uphold the current revision moot, and override the will of the ISO member community.

Oxebridge has obtained a copy of the voting results, which can be viewed here. The document required those voting to amend the standard to provide a justification, and the comments from the various nations are illuminating.

  • There are 165 member nations of ISO, but only 78 nations participated in the vote (47%).
  • Brazil voted to amend and specifically referenced its support of Annex SL. Brazil is represented by Nigel Croft, who is one of the architects of Annex SL, and who coined the phrase “risk-based thinking.”
  • Colombia asked to see the risk requirements of ISO 9001 dramatically expanded beyond organizational risks and into operations risks, similar to how AS9100 currently addresses teh concept.
  • Denmark called for ISO 9001 to contain critical elements of ISO 9000, such as terms, so that ISO 9001 can be “self-contained.” Denmark then revealed, “Sales of ISO 9000 is less than that of ISO 9001 which indicated that ISO 9001 are used by some without knowledge of the principles and the meaning of terms.
  • Jordan still argued about the definition of “risk,” which has remained unsettled for ten years or more.
  • Portugal provided a massive list of specific changes it wants to see in ISO 9001.
  • The United Kingdom largely quoted its own work on the Future Concepts Taskforce, using the vote comments to promote its own itnerests in that area. UK also wrote this related to feedback from the ISO 9001 Brand Intergrity Group[, which it also dominates:

The work of the Brand Integrity task group shows that trust in the value of ISO 9001 is falling and there is a growing loss of market traction. This has almost certainly been influenced by the proliferation of other management system standards, but also reflects an increasing belief that ISO 9001 is no longer generically fit for purpose and does not give organizations and their customers the assurance that they are looking for.

  • Every nation that provided comments did so by indicating the name of the representative writing the comments, save one: the United States. In keeping with a general posture of non-accountability, the US signed its comments as coming from the “Team ANSI/ISO.

At the same time, a vote was held related to the need to update ISO 9000, the standard defining key terms for quality management system standards. Those votes also rejected an attempt to update the standard, with 33 nations voting to confirm it as-is, and only 27 nations voting to revise it. That standard is not subject to any Annex SL alignment, so does not cause controversy.

In its justification for voting to revise ISO 9000, the US team wrote, “In addition, the world has changed significantly since 2015 and some of these may have impacts on either fundamentals or vocabulary or both.” It is not at all clear what quality terminational would have “changed significantly” in the past five years.

If the ISO TMB forced TC 176 to revise ISO 9001 to comply with Annex SL, it will reveal that ISO does not operate as a fair dealer upholding the will of its members, but instead manages its activities to maximize the sales of its standards regardless of world view.

UPDATE 15 December 2020: TC 176 member Didier Blanc pointed out that the vote of “Participating” members was 34 (Confirm) to 31 (Revise). The votes above include “observer” nations, which are not counted. The “P-member” vote tally still upholds the decision not to revise ISO 9001, however.

The official ISO rules of procedure only require a simple majority to determine the outcome, but ISO then includes language that allows it to override that vote at will (emphasis added):

Typically, a decision as to the appropriate action to take following a systematic review shall be based on a simple majority of P‑members voting for a specific action. However, in some cases a more detailed analysis of the results may indicate that another interpretation may be more appropriate.


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