The Orwellian manipulations ISO will stoop to in order to gaslight its customers never seem to end. Now comes Paul Simpson, the new Chair of ISO / TC 176 SC 2, the subcommittee responsible for authoring ISO 9001 (and Nigel Croft’s successor), insisting that ISO 9001 doesn’t require inspection.

What, what?

The claim was apparently necessary to defend ISO 9001 from the charge (made by me) that the standard defies Deming’s 14 Points fairly consistently. Simpson likes to defend ISO at every turn, and it’s worked for him (he’s the Chair of TC 176 SC2 now and a CQI darling, so do the math), but sometimes his defenses get pretty strange.

In a prior article I argued that ISO 9001 deserves a failing grade for Deming’s point # 3, “Cease dependence on inspection to achieve quality.” Specifically, I said:

ISO 9001 has always failed horribly on this point, as it still relies on an inspection-based QMS, and says nothing about building quality into the product. Post-2000, the standard was improved by inclusion of the process approach, however; this approach, when implemented properly, helps reduce inspection since each process is assessed in real time to prevent defects before they occur. But poor wording regarding the process approach has plagued the standard, and this wasn’t much improved in the new 2015 version. As a result, there is still a de facto reliance on inspection in the standard.

Because any criticism of ISO must be challenged, rather than thoughtfully absorbed, our first kneejerk response came from another ISO standards developer — Dolf van der Haven — who just outright pissed on the grave of Deming altogether. Van der Haven argued that “so what?” if ISO 9001 violated Deming’s Points, since they were old. Mind you, van der Haven hasn’t come up with any superior ideas of his own to replace Deming’s, he’s just making some random, pulled-from-thin-air counterpoint in order to defend his masters in Geneva.

Keep in mind, that to make his argument, van der Haven has to admit that ISO 9001 doesn’t address Deming.

Now enter Paul Simpson, who — in his need to defend Geneva — took the entirely opposite tack, because consistency is for other people. Simpson full-on contradicted van der Haven (so suck it, Dolf), and said that ISO 9001 satisfies his 14 Points just fine.

(Ignoring the fact that Simpson publicly threw him under the bus, van der Haven nevertheless dutifully “liked” Simpson’s post, because this sort of thing is mandatory between cult members. So long as they were placating their Gods, the fact that they contradicted each other didn’t matter.)

In order to make this point, Simpson had to apply some bizarre logic and outright gaslighting to get to his conclusion. In his article published on LinkedIn, Simpson published this hot take:

Nowhere in 9001 does it require inspection. In clause 8.6 it requires organizations to implement and complete ‘planned arrangements before releasing products and services. These could include inspection but 9001 does not insist on it. The standard requires the organization to use a risk-based approach to quality and to consider risks and opportunities when designing its processes. The emphasis on quality by design encourages the organization to assure the quality of products and services rather than inspect it in.

This is the guy who wrote ISO 9001, folks, and who ISO has tasked with writing the next edition, too.

Let’s unpack this, because it’s a doozy. It’s so false, so wrong, so bad, it really needs careful dissection.

The History of Inspection in ISO 9001

Yes, it’s true that “nowhere in ISO 9001 does it require inspection.” That’s about all that’s true, since the rest of Simpson’s argument relies on him projecting what he wants to believe is in ISO 9001, not the actual words on paper.

You see, what ISO actually did is simply remove the word “inspection” and replace it with the largely meaningless term “planned arrangements.” Otherwise, the surrounding text is nearly identical to every prior edition of ISO 9001, going back to when they did call it “inspection.” Let’s take a trip through time and see.

Starting with the very first edition of the standard, ISO 9001:1987 had this to say about inspection (emphasis added):

4.10.3 Final Inspection and Testing
The supplier shall carry out all final inspection and testing in accordance with the quality plan or documented procedures to complete the evidence of conformance of the finished product to the specified requirements.

So ISO 9001 very early on defined “inspection” as some activity intended to provide “evidence of conformance of the finished product to the specified requirements.” Stick with me on that, because it’s important.

Now let’s hop back in the TARDIS and set the dials for 1994. The next edition of ISO 9001 read thus:

4.10.4  Final Inspection and Testing
The supplier shall carry out all final inspection and testing in accordance with the quality plan and/or documented procedures to complete the evidence of conformance of the finished product to the specified requirements.

OK, so no changes yet. Before we move onto the next edition of ISO 9001, we have to understand what was going on in the world, in response to the first two editions. Over and over, ISO 9001 was being criticized as being cumbersome and burdensome for two main reasons: an over-reliance on procedures, and an over-reliance on inspection. In his seminal work The Case Against ISO 9000, ISO critic John Seddon argued that ISO 9001 could never succeed because of its reliance on inspection and command-and-control philosophy towards quality.

Other critics emerged with a similar focus on ISO’s reliance on inspection, in contrast to Deming. In a paper for the University of Macedonia, researchers Katerina Gotzamani and George Tsiotras pointed out that ISO 9001 contradicted both Deming and Crosby on the point of inspection:

Less encouraging also, is the dramatic increase of incoming materials supervision and control after certification. Although this increase helps assure the quality of the materials, and thus the quality of the final products, it contradicts with the TQM philosophy. According to TQM theory, mutual trust and co-operation between the company and a small number of carefully selected and reliable suppliers should replace excessive quality controls of incoming materials. The same thing holds also for the final products controls, which also highly increase, although to a lower degree, after certification. This increase also adds cost to the final product without really adding value to it and it should ideally be replaced by trust in the production process and things made right the first time. Deming’s (1982) point: “Cease dependence on massive inspection”, and Crosby’s (1979) slogan: “Do things right the first time”, are indicative of the TQM philosophy on this matter. However, before a company reaches the point where it can really trust its operations, excessive quality controls are necessary in order to assure the quality of the products that reach the customer and in order to avoid the enormous cost of dissatisfied or disappointed customers. Only dramatic improvements in the operations process quality can really increase the company’s trust in it and lower the need for excessive quality controls.

And so it went, and ISO was listening. To address these criticisms, ISO directed TC 176 to start with a fresh sheet of paper for the planned ISO 9001:2000 edition. To do that, TC 176 began by developing a set of 8 “quality management principles” that pushed the process approach in lieu of blind inspection. This was an initial attempt to adopt some of Deming’s points, even if they would mostly fall by the wayside when the process of actually writing the ISO 9001 text began.

So when ISO 9001:2000 came out, inspection was addressed thus:

8.2.4 Monitoring and Measurement of Product
The organization shall monitor and measure the characteristics of the product to verify that product requirements have been met.

Here we see two minor changes. First, the term “inspection” was swapped for “monitoring and measurement” while keeping the surrounding text and the same definition. Thus began the ISO practice of gaslighting, where they would later claim the standard wasn’t reliant on inspection because “the word isn’t used,” even if they are still requiring the same physical activity.

Yes, the original definition of inspection was shifted slightly from obtaining evidence of “conformance of the finished product to the specified requirements” to “evidence that product requirements have been met.” Logical people can agree that this change amounts to nothing, and the two sentences are identical in both intent and meaning.

So to recap: ISO 9001:2000 only took out the word “inspection,” and used another term to replace it, while keeping the definition the same.

Jumping forward to ISO 9001:2008, which was issued as not a full revision but instead an “amendment” of the prior edition, the clause read the same:

8.2.4 Monitoring and Measurement of Product
The organization shall monitor and measure the characteristics of the product to verify that product requirements have been met.

Yet again, ISO continued to be criticized for relying too much on inspection, with some of that coming from yours truly. (Seddon had stepped out of the picture by this point, and I stepped in to largely replace him as ISO’s top critic.) But beyond Oxebridge, others were calling out ISO 9001’s “process approach” as being not only too little, too late, but also too damn confusing. So confusing, in fact, that even now — 19 years later! — companies are found to have implemented the process approach by copying and pasting the dopey process diagram from the ISO 9001 standard into their quality manuals, and calling it a day. (And, yes, they still get certified.)

So that brings us to Paul Simpson’s baby, ISO 9001:2015. Let’s see what that version has to say about inspection:

8.6 Release of Products and Services
The organization shall implement planned arrangements, at appropriate stages, to verify that the product and service requirements have been met.

So here, once again, TC 176 has merely pasted in a new stand-in term for “inspection,” calling it (this time) “planned arrangements.” Meanwhile the surrounding text and definition remain the same as when, back in 1987, they called it “inspection.”

Now compare this to the definition of “inspection” from another one of TC 176’s work products, that being the ISO 9000 document on Quality Management System Vocabulary:

inspection: determination of conformity to specified requirements.


Let’s put the three definitions from the various ISO 9001 editions, plus that of ISO 9000, together, so you can see that they are all identical in both meaning and intent:

  • ISO 9001:1987 / 1994: evidence of conformance of the finished product to the specified requirements.
  • ISO 9001:2000 / 2008: verify that product requirements have been met.
  • ISO 9000:2015: determination of conformity to specified requirements.
  • ISO 9001:2015: verify that the product and service requirements have been met.

Every single definition is focused on the same thing: verifying product conformity to requirements. Only the word they use to achieve this definition has changed.

Paul Simpson apparently hasn’t ever read any prior version of ISO 9001, or is so desperate to defend ISO, that he’s willing to erase decades of history in the hopes that you haven’t read them, either.

The Obvious Truth

Here’s the really obvious part, though. Ask yourself if you could literally pass your ISO 9001 audit by telling the certification body auditor, “we don’t do inspection. It’s not required by the standard.

See how far you get.

The number of companies that have gotten ISO 9001 certified while conducting no inspection is a big, fat round number… as in ZERO. It’s not possible, no matter what any ISO gaslighter tell you.

And let’s face it, Deming wasn’t saying to get rid of inspection, he was arguing to reduce reliance on it. Deming gave entire courses on how to properly inspect things (remember those damn beads?) But Simpson’s simplistic reading of Deming ignores this, just to defend the Geneva Gods. He’s even gaslighting Deming himself!

So what we’ve learned is that (a) the authors of ISO 9001 don’t even know what is in their own work product and (b) we really cannot trust anyone from TC 176 to ever give an honest answer about anything, so long as they are more obsessed with their own career advancement — achieved by sucking up to Geneva — than speaking truth.

Hey, want to know what a real QMS standard would look like? Try mine.





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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