ISO standards author Dolf van der Haven just pulled back the curtain on ISO’s disdain for the input of subject matter experts when it comes to developing standards.

Van der Haven frequently posts updates on Annex L development, and defends the mandatory “common text” approach of ISO’s Technical Management Board, even though it strips away the power to write standards from the Technical Committees (TCs) who are supposed to write such standards. The resulting text of Annex L (formerly Annex SL) is imposed as mandatory content for various standards such as ISO 9001 and ISO 14001, and voting or commenting on the text is prohibited. The TMB does not have to have any actual subject matter experts on its committees when writing Annex L, nor does it have to follow WTO rules on ensuring participation by developing nations, nor rules on ensuring equal distribution of authors from various interest categories. It does whatever it wants, and its final text is mandatory for every ISO management system standard, period.

When I posted my article “How Does ISO 9001:2015 Stack Up Against Deming’s 14 Points” on LinkedIn (here), I got the usual responses: quality managers were mostly surprised, and ISO’s usual apologists were indignant. TC SC2 Chair Paul Simpson insists the standard does align with Deming, and he’s prepping an article proving it (good luck with that, Paul). But Van der Haven’s replies were the most telling.

At first, Van der Haven suggested that ISO 9001 did align with Deming, at least for the PDCA model, which Van der Haven rightly pointed out isn’t really Deming’s model anyway. (It’s often attributed to him, though.) A few posts later, however, Van der Haven reversed course entirely and fell back on his main priority: defending the TMB and Annex L no matter what, even if pesky facts get in the way. Then he dropped this bomb:

The real question being: should 9k correlate with Deming? So what if it does? So what if it doesn’t? Is Deming the Holy Grail of Quality Management?

Yeah, he went there. A major author of Annex L just admitted that ISO doesn’t really care if its standards collect proven, universal methodologies and standardize them. Instead, ISO is about shitting on entire industries and history in order to get its publications out. Quality management standard that adopts actual proven quality management principles? Fuck that.

Without a shred of self-awareness nor any understanding of history at all, Van der Haven doubled down, suggesting Deming is obsolete:

In how far are Deming’s 50-year old insights still the gold standard for quality management in today’s age? I’m not saying 9001 is, but it’s only fair to explain why we should still follow Deming’s every word.

Van der Haven then refused to say which of Deming’s 14 Points he felt were now obsolete; it appears Van der Haven doesn’t really know the points, despite writing mandatory text for what will appear in the next ISO 9001 standard. Apparently, we should be required to follow the TMB’s “every word” even though we have no idea who they are or what their quality credentials are, while throwing out the world’s most influential quality management professional.

Van der Haven also doesn’t realize the nearly cultish following that “gurus” like Deming, Juran and Crosby have in the quality profession, rightly or wrongly. To quality managers, suggesting that ISO knows better than Deming is akin to a Catholic pissing on a church wall. It’s just not done, and it’s near blasphemy.

It also reveals that supporters of Annex L are not only ignorant of quality management principles, even as they write mandatory text that will be shoved into the ISO 9001 quality management standard, but they can’t even be bothered to learn those principles afterward. Instead, they just say the principles don’t matter. This exposes ISO’s prioritization over publishing books quickly rather than getting standards right.

So there you have it: ISO authors don’t really care if its management system standards adopt widely known and respected practices. It would rather invent bullshit memes like “risk-based thinking” and then force them down your throat.

Welcome to the era of alternative facts.

Feel free to jump into the conversation directly on LinkedIn, if you have an LI account.

CORRECTION 19 Aug 2019: A prior version of this article incorrectly identified Van der Haven as an “author” of Annex L. He is, in fact, an author of the ISO 20000 standard and other related publications.  He has demanded this article be removed entirely, calling it “slander.” He has still refused to name which of Deming’s 14 points he feels are no longer applicable to the modern world.



About Christopher Paris

Christopher Paris is the founder and VP Operations of Oxebridge. He has over 30 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 and Surviving AS9100. He reviews wines for the irreverent wine blog, Winepisser.


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