ISO TC 176 has approved an early revision of ISO 9000, the guidance document on quality management system “concepts and terminology.” 30 countries voted for the revision, while 13 voted against it. 2o nations abstained from the vote entirely, allowing the effort to pass, despite having a minority of support.
The move comes after ISO rammed through a forced revision of ISO 9001 over the objections of the world’s ISO members. To overcome that rejection, ISO engaged in a series of “re-votes” until they obtained the result they wanted. In the end, the revision of ISO 9001 was voted on six times, with a vote to approve the early revision only being won in the final round. The exercise violated both ISO internal procedures and the World Trade Organization’s regulations to ensure ISO standards are developed based on “consensus.”
Behind the scenes, TC 176 had already been working on the draft of the ISO 9001 revision despite multiple world votes telling it not to.
Given the vote on ISO 9001, it was largely seen as inevitable that ISO would also push through an update on ISO 9000, even though it is not expected that any new terms or concepts will be introduced in the ISO 9001 standard. Nevertheless, key nations that pushed for the ISO 9001 revision, such as the UK, USA, and Netherlands, did likewise for the ISO 9000 revision.
Only one nation chastised ISO for its move. In a published comment attached to its vote to reject the early revision of ISO 9000, Namibia wrote:
It would serve no purpose to do anything now after we have voted overwhelmingly to confirm this standard and to have the next systematic review in 2026. It would not be prudent to do any amendmend to the standard now and then be engaged in the systematic review in 2026. Define specifications can be done without necessarily commencing with the review.
The major nations supporting the revision of ISO 9000 and ISO 9001 are represented nearly entirely by private consultants and national standards publishers, who stand to generate significant revenue if the standards are updated. ISO has long since stopped enforcing internal rules that were designed to prevent the influence of any single, conflicted stakeholder group, allowing consultants to ram through changes for their personal financial benefit.
In 2015, multiple private consultants working on the US TAG to TC 176 launched an effort to make the purchase of ISO 9000 mandatory. One consultant, George Hummel, falsely claimed that companies would be required to have a copy of ISO 9000 on hand during any third-party ISO 9001 audits. Former US TAG Chair Paul Palmes then wrote an article proposing that third-party certification body auditors issue audit nonconformities against any company that refused to buy the standard. Both claims set up the US committee for potential fraud lawsuits, and the claims were taken down.
ISO 9000 has been criticized for being nearly impossible to use, as it does not present its definitions in alphabetical order, the way a dictionary would. Instead, ISO 9000 lists them in clusters based on obscure conceptual groupings. In some cases, the definitions provided in ISO 9000 conflict with other ISO standards, and some key ISO 9001 terms — such as “opportunities” — are not defined at all.