Recently it was learned that Sheronda Jeffries, a rising star in the ISO 9001 scene and an influential member of the US TAG to TC 176 which authors the ISO 9000 series of standards, had polled members of her other organization, the Telecommunications Industry of America  (TIA), for votes related to TAG matters. TIA recently merged with the QuEST Forum, the authors of the TL9000 standard for the telecom industry.

In response to at least two requests for interpretations (RFIs) sent to the TAG 176, Jeffries sent emails polling the TIA members for their votes. (The RFI is a process which allows ISO 9001 users to ask for official clarifications from the standard’s authors.) It’s not clear if this is a violation of any rule, but it does seem odd that members of TIA and the telecommunication industry should have special access to voting on issues that fall under the sole aegis of the TAG, which is tasked with representing all industries, not just telecom.

The problem worsens when we think of the influence of consultants. The TAG 176 already has a decades-long problem with consultants dominating the decision making process and leadership ranks, despite ANSI rules of procedure which prohibit the dominance of any “interest category” group. To get around this, the TAG has violated those rules by falsifying the interest category of certain key consultants, listing them under some other category to reduce the appearance of a consultant majority. They have refused all demands to correct the numbers, and then assigned another consultant to oversee the process.

Now the TAG loses further control over this, by allowing TIA to influence votes, without knowing just how many of the people polled at TIA are, themselves, private consultants. Emails from Jeffries show a number of the people she wrote to are telecom consultants, with others coming from telecom providers such as Fujitsu and Ericsson. But none of these people are included in the TAG’s consideration of interest category, nor is it clear if any of these people should have this special access to begin with. While the TAG allows for organizations and groups to have “liaison” roles, there’s nothing suggesting they should have voting rights, nor be able to influence votes.

Jeffries, whose name is appearing on more and more committees, is walking in the path of her predecessor, Alka Jarvis. Both work at Cisco, allowing that company unprecedented control over the TAG, and both act as de facto consultants while using their employment at Cisco as a shield. Even her AQI biography — which she probably wrote herself — essentially admits that while she is a Cisco staffer, she’s actually “a consultant to Fortune 500 companies” (although, like many of the other TAG consultants, there’s no list of any of her “Fortune 500” consulting clients, so there’s no way to verify that claim.) Cisco benefits from the arrangement by having its name attached to her standards development activities, as well as the promotional work by Jarvis and Jeffries, while also giving the company unprecedented influence in the committees themselves. But at the same time, the company now faces a black eye as Jarvis’ legacy crumbles in the wake of her recent bizarre behavior, including collusion with a YouTube conspiracy theorist who accuses ISO of terrorism, and the unraveling exposures of corruption in the TAG during her reign.

Jeffries has also been keen to insert herself in nearly every related body in the standards scheme. She appears on the boards, staff or committees within the US TAG, ISO CASCO, ANAB, AQI, Exemplar Global, IAF, ASQ and, of course, the QuEST Forum / TIA. She was given a “Meritorious Service Award” by ANSI. She’s part of the team working on the IAF’s new universal ISO certificate database. Only ANAB’s Randy Dougherty has held more positions than Jeffries, by my accounting, and she may soon overshadow him, if she hasn’t already. She seems incapable of turning down anything that’s thrown at her, but with each new role, Cisco gets a little nudge in promotion, so they seem happy having her focus on those duties rather than her actual day job.

It’s likely Jeffries, either from pure naivety or a yet-nascent willful blindness to her own growing conflicts, sees granting the TIA folks sway over the TAG as a way to poll her colleagues so that her vote is an informed one. But end users will recognize that something doesn’t pass the smell test, and it totally contradicts prior decisions by the TAG. When Oxebridge attempted to do that very same thing, and provide the TAG members with information to inform their voting, the TAG Administrator along with Alka Jarvis and other key leaders, went ballistic. So much so, they took the unprecedented step to tell TAG members to stop communicating with the public, and then pulled the member list from the TAG’s internal portal so members could not even talk to each other.

The current ASQ leadership, led by William Troy, has no appetite to ensure the TAG operates in accordance with the ANSI rules of procedures, and it appears ANSI doesn’t either, since it sells the resulting standards and benefits when they are rushed to print. (ASQ is tasked with managing the TAG, and the TAG is accredited by ANSI, so both organizations have oversight over the group.) So we are likely to see the “swamp” only worsen in coming years, as certain key players allow their personal friends, colleagues and contacts to have influence in the ISO standards development process, while other entire stakeholder groups and industries are left in the cold.

Anyway, if you don’t like the new ISO standards, at least you have a clear picture of who to blame. Those scrambling for fame and recognition, like Jeffries, need to saddle up to receive the blame when things go wrong, too.


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 9001:2015. He reviews wines for the irreverent wine blog, Winepisser.