As has been reported here for some time, the leadership of the US Technical Advisory Group to ISO TC 176, the official group that develops the US drafts of the ISO 9000 family of standards, is comprised largely of private consultants to benefit financially from making the standard as confusing as possible. This is because once the standard is published, they immediately sell books, seminars, webinars and conferences intended to decipher the very thing they worked to complicate. It’s a good gig, and few have mastered it to the level as former TAG 176 Chair Jack West and his perennial co-author Charles Cianfrani.

West and Cianfrani, along with other TAG leaders NAME, then work with a company called the American Quality Institute (AQI) which hosts an annual ISO 9001 conference, publishes their books, and sells their seminars. If you’re getting confused between AQI and ASQ, that’s probably not an accident, since AQI benefits from people thinking it’s actually part of the American Society for Quality; it’s not.

Anyway, West and Cianfrani have since branded their convention appearances and seminars as untangling what they call the “ISO 9001:201 5 Sticky Clauses” which is as insulting to your intelligence as it is unintentionally gross. West and Cianfrani say these “sticky clauses” may be “difficult for organizations to picture in their operational environment.”  Yes, their books are written as if they were pumped out by early machine language AI test bots. They also conveniently forget to tell anyone that it was Jack West and Charles Cianfrani that actively worked to make those clauses “sticky” in the first place, and now they’re raking in the dough as they profit from the sins they imposed on entire industries.

That was ironic and cynical enough, but now West and Cianfrani are giving training on an ISO 9001 clause that doesn’t even exist: one on “innovation.” Here’s a screenshot from a recent AQI spam mail that went out to exactly everyone on the planet:

The exact quote says “Sticky clauses that will be addressed include… (5) knowledge, competence and innovation.” As you likely know, there’s no “innovation” clause anywhere in the ISO 9001 standard, nor has there ever been.

The word appears a few times in the notes and introduction, but only in passing; it does not appear in any “clause” nor are there any requirements related to innovation whatsoever. In fact, the lack of addressing innovation has been a major criticism of ISO 9001, which is often seen as stifling innovation. Apparently, to get around this criticism — and sell bullshit webinars — West and Cianfrani hope you won’t notice that they just made up an entire clause that doesn’t exist.

The gaffe isn’t limited to their spam mails, either, it appears on the AQI website right here, too.

Here’s a fun game you can play when attending a West/Cianfrani webinar: ask either author when the last time they actually worked on an ISO 9001 quality system, but not as a consultant. The answer will be interesting. Then ask them when the last time they did an audit was. Again, should be interesting.

    About Christopher Paris

    Christopher Paris is the founder and VP Operations of Oxebridge. He has over 25 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 9001:2015. He reviews wines for the irreverent wine blog, Winepisser.