Sally Swingewood’s brief stint at ISO so far isn’t going well. You may recall Swingewood — a BSI staffer — briefly took over for the retiring Charles Corrie as official Secretary for TC 176. She then quit BSI and took a job directly in Geneva, working for ISO. She hasn’t been there that long, but she has a long history of supporting ISO committees through BSI, so any ignorance of history and facts isn’t easily explained away as rookie mistakes.
In what is clearly a (somewhat panicked) response to my article Nigel Croft’s Coup Attempt, which showed how Croft is proposing that his Joint Technical Coordination Group (JTCG) be given new powers to take away even more authority from ISO technical committees (TCs), Swingewood posted a lengthy memo on social media, trying to debunk the facts presented therein. She doesn’t name the article, nor Oxebridge, in her post, but it’s pretty clear what she’s talking about.
The post was clearly written by Croft himself, and it’s somewhat skanky that Croft had to reach out to Swingewood to get his comments published, and worse that Swingewood agreed to be used in such a fashion. The trick was exposed even further when Swingewood originally posted the memo with Croft’s photo, then deleted it, and reposted it (as below) without his photo. But let’s be clear: Croft wrote this, and Swingewood agreed to put her name on it, while simultaneously tossing her own reputation under the bus.
So, let’s just call them “Swingecroft” to make it easier.
The Swingecroft Timeline
In the post, Swingecroft gets some of the facts right, but leaves out just enough so that their version of history belongs in some alternate timeline within the Marvel Cinematic Universe, alongside the version where Thanos wins and Loki is an alligator.
The post is here, and it’s worth reading in full:
The attempt by Swingecroft here is to present a reality where the usurpation of Technical Committee powers to create standards, by the TMB and JTCG, is something that occurred under quite normal, banal, and totally democratic procedures. This has been the go-to talking point whenever the issue of the TMB comes up, and folks such as Paul Simpson and Dick Hortensius have often parrotted the point, claiming — with straight faces — that the entire Annex SL thing was totally the result of comprehensive world approvals, obtained through voting.
That happens not to be true, however. Some votes were held, yes, but the holding of the votes themselves was a violation of key ISO and WTO principles. This is a key point that is never spoken about by Croft or Swingewood or Simpson or Hortensius, or any of the other lackeys whose careers largely depend(ed) on ISO.
Why? I’ll make this simple: ISO procedures, and WTO regulations (see right), demand that international procedures be developed:
- by participating stakeholders and subject matter experts, and
- be developed through consensus.
None of what Swingecroft is talking about complies with this.
ISO originally tasked the JTCG to develop a style guide for ISO standards, so they had a consistent appearance and format; this was called the High Level Structure (HLS). But that committee then requested special powers to add “core content.” That was a huge violation. Content may only be written under the two principles above.
Nevertheless, ISO granted the JTCG these powers, and in doing so, violated both its own procedures and the WTO regs. Under these new rules, the TMB would be empowered to write mandatory text for standards, bypassing entire Technical Committees, subject matter experts, and official delegates nominated by ISO member countries.
No subject matter experts, and no consensus.
In its first attempt, the TMB and JTCG issued this HLS (with core text) as ISO Guide 83. But doing so meant that the Guide would need international approval, which ISO assumed it would get. In the end, ISO Guide 83 only received 25 actual votes, with six of those being against it. Worse, those six were major ISO players, such as Australia, Canada, France, Germany, and the US. ISO did the math, and that came out to 76% approval, so ISO called it a win. They ignored the fact that more than 140 ISO member nations didn’t even bother to vote on the document; ISO never had a quorum.
So ISO claimed victory, but behind the scenes, however, the poor participation of ISO members, and skin-of-the-teeth passage meant ISO knew it had a problem.
So, ISO opted to drop Guide 83 entirely, and insert the HLS/core text into an obscure internal procedure, colloquially called the “ISO Supplement,” and placed it physically in the Annex “S” section, used to contain rules specific to ISO standards and not IEC standards, numbering it “Annex SL.”
Later, an attempt to move Annex SL into section “L,” making it applicable to both ISO and IEC standards, but IEC rejected it, and so it was put back into section S. ISO couldn’t even convince its own sister organization into adopting Annex SL.
But the placement of Annex SL into the ISO Supplement required no international voting, since the ISO Supplement is an internal ISO procedure, not a standard. It’s a scummy, scammy way to allow ISO executives and folks like Dick Hortensius and Nigel Croft to write entire thirds of standards without going through the formal ISO standards voting process.
Now, back to those two principles. Because Annex SL was written without subject matter experts, and without consensus, ISO thought it would try to get those things after the fact. So ISO engaged in some post-mortem theatrics. First, they allowed key TC Chairs and some other hand-picked lackeys to “comment” on Annex SL (again, after it was already written), and then — second, they held some votes. But these votes were (a) poorly attended, and (again) without a quorum, and (b) entirely non-binding.
It was all fake. But ISO could claim that Annex SL was “voted on,” giving the pretense that it was built by stakeholders and under consensus.
Now, ISO looks to repeat history. Once again, Dick Hortensius and his TMB crowd have updated Annex SL without participation by subject matter experts for the 50+ standards that will be affected. Once again, ISO is holding totally non-binding votes on ISO Guide 83 to give themselves cover later.
Once again, it’s all fake.
The problem, this time, is that people know the trick and are paying attention. The new ISO Guide 83 will have a harder time getting a positive vote. If it fails, ISO will really be screwed because they will publish the new ISO Supplement anyway, proving the votes never mattered to begin with.
Clubs, Not Committees
Next, the Swingecroft memo pretends that committees like the TMB, JTCG, and the various Task Forces (TFs) are somehow comprised of a valid number of international representatives, and therefore their deliverables are the product of the consensus of stakeholders. This is false on its face.
First, the number of representatives defies Swingecroft’s claims that this is somehow representative. They openly admit that TF 15 comprised “50 experts,” but pretend that’s a high number. It’s not. In Croft’s own recent memos, he boasts that ISO has “over 50” Type A management system standards subject to Annex SL mandated text.
For those not familiar, this does not mean that each Type A MSS technical committee sent one member, so that “50 experts” represented “50 standards.” Not at all. The US alone sent a large contingent, as did the UK. We don’t know how many actual TCs (and, thus, standards) were represented (because all of this is done in secret) but my estimate is that only about ten of the 50 management system standards were represented, leaving the vast majority not represented.
Next, in document N717, Croft presents a version of history similar to that reposted by The Swingecroft Amalgam, in which they say the remit for the JTCG “was NOT to look at specific changes that might be needed to Annex SL or to The Harmonised Structure.” But in the very next document, N 77, Croft writes, “The TMB … has asked the JTCG to provide recommendations for the revision of the Harmonized Structure.” So which is it?
Note that Croft said “asked,” not “conducted an international vote authorizing” his team to abandon its remit.
But — second — it’s all moot. It doesn’t matter if they had 100% representation, because (I’ll put it in red this time) no one voted to create TF 15 in the first place. So once ISO created TF 15, it was already off the rails. Anything coming out of that Task Force was polluted from the start.
Voting is Not Writing
Another key point lost on figures like Croft and Swingewood is that “voting” is not “writing.” ISO standards are supposed to be written by experts and delegates, not written by others and then merely voted on afterward. This should be put on t-shirts and worn around the ISO offices.
By having text written by ISO’s hand-picked cronies, ISO can then use its machinations, labyrinthine procedures, scammy tactics, and brute-force threats to get votes over the line. To get Annex SL implemented, TMB threatened to disband any Technical Committee that refused. That threat worked, which is why TC 176 willingly adopted Annex SL for ISO 9001:2015, without so much as a peep.
That’s not how consensus works.
Voting is Stupid, Anyway
So where ISO will use votes to cover up stuff later, it won’t use them at all to make major decisions that impact on Technical Committees and the entire world economy. It doesn’t trust people enough for that.
In fact, no one voted to create the TMB’s JTCG. No one voted to create a HLS. No one voted to put Nigel Croft in the JTCG. No one voted to give Dick Hortensius the right to write entire sections of Annex SL by himself. No one voted to grant Croft’s team the right to violate its original “remit.” No one voted to allow the TMB to add “core text” to Annex SL and alter the scope of its work from creating a style guide to inserting actual mandatory content.
The amount of work being done outside of votes, outside of consensus, outside of Technical Committees, represents the majority of ISO’s work. Now go back and read those WTO regulations above, and see if that all squares up.
Instead, these were executive decisions made by ISO execs, aimed at improving ISO’s sales. These are decisions outside of the scope of member authority. ISO decided these things, pushed ahead, and held symbolic, non-binding votes later to cover their tracks, or to approve clearly non-democratic acts after they were already committed.
This is the common ISO tactic. They know they are hamstrung by procedures and WTO regulations which demand that standards be written by consensus of formally-nominated delegates. That slows down publication speed, which slows down sales of books on the ISO webstore. So to get around it, they form non-elected, all-powerful “committees” and “task forces” and “working groups,” and then have their outputs “voted” on by a handful of pre-selected, friendly lackeys. They know that no one does the math to prove they didn’t have a quorum, much less a majority of member nations participating, so claim the (unsurprisingly) positive votes equate to “consensus.”
Again, that’s not how consensus works.
Gotham by Gaslight(ing)
And that gets to the core of the Swingecroft memo. They rely on assertions that this clearly non-democratic process, in open violation of ISO principles, is fine. And that anyone saying otherwise is spreading misinformation that is “not entirely accurate.”
Then, Nigel asks Sally to use her formal position as ISO Technical Program Manager to put her memo in front of ISO’s 280K followers on LinkedIn, so he can spread his “alternative facts,” knowing that the army of ISO lackeys will do just that.
The problem that ISO has now, in 2023, is that the Oxebridge following has grown to some impressive numbers, and can compete with the likes of ISO and ASQ. It’s getting harder and harder for ISO to get away with its shenanigans because they are under a spotlight, and a lot of people around the world are paying attention.
I hope one good thing comes from this: that Swingewood, who seems otherwise to have been a fairly respectable player until her new ISO gig, learns not to carry Croft’s water in the future. Nothing good ever comes from that.
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.