I’ve just heard from different folks in the standards development community in South America that TC 176 is planning a secret vote as early as next week to force an unapproved update to ISO 9001:2015. But full disclosure, whatever documentation was sent around is so heavily marked as “confidential” that everyone is terrified to share it, so I haven’t seen it yet. I was able to verify this with multiple sources down here, though.

José Domínguez

The part that has some of my colleagues in Peru and other countries worried is that ISO shill José Domínguez, the co-author of books alongside the US’ Lorri Hunt, may have engaged in some sneaky shenanigans to spike the vote in his favor. Domínguez reportedly presented a letter claiming to represent a nearly unified bloc of Latin American countries endorsing an “early revision” of ISO 9001, over the objections of a majority of ISO nations that previously — and repeatedly — voted not to revise the standard.

There’s also something very unseemly about the allegedly “transparent” ISO circulating secret letters about secret votes, and threatening anyone who releases them.

Domínguez has been a permanent fixture at TC 176, infecting the proceedings with his own attempts at personal enrichment for years, according to other members. He is the Director of the training organization Plexus’ Mexico office, and often heads the ISO INLAC committee on Latin American quality matters. I’m also told he’s an idiot, but I never personally met him, unlike so many of the others on TC 176 who I can confirm are, yes, idiots. But maybe Domínguez is some sort of genius, and not an idiot. Stranger things, and all that….

The letter itself is likely a violation of ISO rules, which are supposed to disallow outside orgs from influencing standards development. But Domínguez apparently pushed the letter to some willing ISO secretariat (I’m not sure whether at the TC 176 level or subcommittee level), to make it “legal.” Or he may have used his role at INLAC to do so; again, I’m not sure since I haven’t seen it. Whatever secretariat was involved went along with the ploy, in an overt effort to override all prior votes on the revision of ISO 9001:2015.

My contacts down here in South America say that something was “off” with Dominguez’s aggressive, one-man push to get all the LATAM countries in line. Unfortunately, they tell me, most national standard bodies down here are passive and generally agree with whatever position the last person they are exposed to tells them, so a majority signed off on this deal. Given the poor state of democracy in Latin America, a “re-do” vote to override prior votes is not unusual.

Also, the influence of two main certification bodies — SGS and Bureau Veritas — clogs the air so much down here, you can hardly breathe without inhaling one of their logos from the passing trucks, gas stations, or dentists’ offices. And those two CB — like all CBs — stand to make a lot of money when ISO 9001 is updated, by selling “upgrade audits.”

Cosas Inevitables

Driven by the top, ISO has always aimed to update ISO 9001, since that standard is its flagship product, and even a minor update would generate hundreds of millions of dollars in sales. It is expected that the new version may top over $200 per copy, and there are over 1 million current certified companies, each of which would be forced to buy a copy or lose their ISO 9001 certification. (Yes, the IAF and the certification bodies now check if you have a “licensed copy” of ISO 9001, acting as ISO’s de facto trademark police. Is that legal? No, but no one is stopping them.)

ISO and its mouthpieces have insisted that no such plans are underway, but TC 176 has been working on revised language for the standard for at least two years already. They recently completed the “design specification” for the new standard, and were planning more votes on the early revision for the upcoming plenary in Rwanda, this October. Domínguez himself contributed a tremendous number of comments on revising the document already, working alongside Hunt on a massive spreadsheet that discusses the changes.

Meanwhile, TC 176 favorite Nigel Croft — the guy who made up the bullshit “risk-based thinking” branding — is pushing ISO to issue an emergency “amendment” to ISO 9001, to add a single sentence related to climate change to placate ISO Secretary-General Sergio Mujica. Croft suggests the amendment should be released “free of charge,” but historically ISO hasn’t done this. The ISO 9001:2008 version was issued as an “amendment” — and not a revision — and they still charged full price for it.

So, no, ISO fully intends on updating ISO 9001, and charging an ungodly amount of money for it, if only to add climate change or to update it to align with the new Annex SL text. This was never going to end any other way.

Desperate Measures

Now, however, out of desperation to try and come up with a way to do this without obviously violating every procedure on the development of consensus standards, ISO is pulling out all the stops. From Nigel’s demands to Domínguez’s new “latin bloc” letter.

In the end, none of this matters. The formal vote at the 5-year review was tallied from official ballots issued by ISO member nations. That can’t be undone, and it clearly said ISO 9001:2015 should be left alone. But ISO desperately needs the cash, so will update it anyway.

Domínguez, for his part, is anxious for an update because (1) he’s a self-promoting asshole and (2) he has a book he wants to sell. Domínguez has co-authored books alongside Hunt every time there’s an update, and he stands to make a good chunk of change if the standard gets updated; he won’t make any money if it’s not updated, since he won’t be able to write a book.

Both of these conflicted pirates should be thrown off of every standards committee everywhere, but that’s not happening. In the US, Hunt has taken over as de facto chair, with Alan Daniels having relented to just acting as a rubber-stamp puppet for whatever Hunt wants. On the international front, Hunt regularly violates official ISO rules by representing her own interests even when acting as an official “convenor” of TC 176 meetings. ISO rules say the convenor may not represent their nation or themselves and must be neutral, but Hunt also has books to sell.

Hunt chaired this year’s ISO 9000 World Conference, and that event marketed the hell out of the push to inject climate change into ISO 9001. So I suspect in a few years, Hunt and Domínguez will both re-invent themselves as “climate change experts.”

ISO is setting the stage for a massive revolt against its products in the Western world, but likely hopes it can continue momentum in Asia.

UPDATE 18 May 2023: The “secrete vote” was not held, as the May 17th meeting devolved into disagreement over the idea of updating the standard, forcing TC 176 to abandon the vote. Read more here.

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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