Meet Jeroen Vanlerberghe of Belgium. He’s a “Senior Expert Management Standards and Systems” at the Bureau voor Normalisatie, the official Belgian standards body. Prior to becoming an “expert” on standards, he worked as a Business Development Manager for two private consulting companies, Allanta and Amelior, so it’s not quite clear how a sales guy could get “expertise” in standards, since he’s not an actual user of them. But he managed to get into TC 176 to help write ISO 9001 — and no, he has no quality assurance expertise, either — a position he then used to get into the new TC 279 on “innovation management.” Remember, his sole professional experience is in sales, not product design, not process engineering, not entrepreneurship. Now he’s an “innovation” expert, too.

So it comes as no surprise that Vanlerberghe should be selling a “masterclass” on a new standard called ISO 50501 on Innovation Management.  You automatically can sense the bullshit when anyone labels a seminar as a “masterclass,” which used to mean something (a course given by a respected “master” in a subject, usually theater), but which now means they just charge more for the PowerPoint slide deck. But what’s particularly problematic is that the ISO 50501 standard isn’t even published yet, with the DIS version not even completed yet, and the final standard to be released in 2019.

It’s a black eye for Belgium as a nation, since it’s official standards body is behind this scam, allowing it to be led by their overnight expert Vanlerberghe. It eradicates any and all credibility for Belgium when it comes to its role in developing international standards, since it exposes them as a mere puppet for private consultants.

Vanlerberghe then published a photo on LinkedIn of the TC 279 “team” meeting in Porto, with a post promoting the “masterclass.” The team consists of exactly 11 people — tasked with representing the entire planet on “Innovation Management” — and of course nearly all of them are private consultants, or were private consultants but who now work for their nation’s standards body. I saw one person who may have been an actual standards user, but that wasn’t clear. What’s clear is who is not involved in TC 279 and the development of a standard on “innovation”: there are no entrepreneurs, no company founders, no inventors, and not a single person who created a successful product or company. These are all low- to mid-level employees for standards bodies or sole proprietor consultants. Not much “innovation” here.

The NBN “masterclass” is being given by (master?) consultant Leopoldo Eduardo Colombo from Argentina. Like Vanlerberghe, Colombo’s experience comes largely from the consulting/certification industry. Back in the 1990’s he had 5 years experience in quality assurance, but then spent the next few decades working for Argentina’s standards body, IRAM, and then 13 years as a private consultant. Again, there’s nothing in Colombo’s CV that points to any level of expertise in “innovation management” other than he got on TC 279 without anyone checking.

In response to my question to Vanlerberghe about how he can sell a class on ISO 50501 before it’s even complete, his answer is the usual standards-seller nonsense:

It is maybe early Christopher, but the first Master Class is scheduled after the DIS ballot and after Tokyo meeting where comments will be treated (normally). The standard will be published early 2019 with event + final Mastertclass Christopher in April

Colombo then chimed in as well, to which Vanlerberghe  then posted another link to his “masterclass.”

It’s clear that to Vanlerberghe and Colombo and their ilk this all makes sense, and to everyone posting around him. To those of us on the outside, however, we have a sense of reality and know that you can’t do training on a thing before the thing is published. This didn’t stop TC 176’s Jack West and Lorri Hunt, of course, who were caught selling ISO 9001:2015 training seminars years before that standard was published.

Anyway, this means ISO 50501 is dead before arrival; given this crew and its conflicts of interest, there’s no possible way the standard will have any value.

It’s shameful that ISO has allowed itself to be so corrupted by private consultants, who now generate garbage standards that serve no one other than the authors who write them. It’s more shameful that the world’s governments have sold their citizens a lie that “privatizing” standards development to ISO somehow benefits their economies.

But at least when I say that ISO publishes standards written by consultants to benefit those consultants, you can see the evidence unfolding in real time, right before your eyes.

Correction: a previous version of this article incorrectly identified TC 176 member Richard Hadfield as having worked on the committee responsible for Annex SL; this was not the case, and the reference to Hadfield was removed.

 

    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.