Following on from our last fun usage of “word clouds” (where we compared the various drafts of ISO 9001:2015), I thought I’d do the same with the various editions of ISO 9001, going all the way back to its 1987 first release. In all cases, I am going to compare the raw text of the requirements portions of ISO 9001 only, removing the annexes, indices, and introductory clauses (0 through 3).

First up is the 1987 edition, a tiny standard based almost entirely on MIL-Q-9858, the US Dept. of Defense standard that was originally written in the late 1950’s. This first release of ISO 9001 only contained about 3,300 words, and was originally less than 10 pages. Since it was designed as a tool for companies to use to validate suppliers, the word “shall” dominates (as it should), along with the word “supplier,” which in this edition referred to the ISO 9001 user organization. We also see an emphasis on “inspection” and “product,” which makes sense since the original release was an inspection-based quality management system standard.

ISO 9001:1987

The 1994 version only tweaked the scope of ISO 9001, by removing the limitation that it be used as a supplier evaluation tool, and now re-branding it as an improvement tool. It also expanded the scope to no only include product nonconformities, but also those of processes and the QMS itself. The 1994 version landed at about 4,400 words (again, only comparing the requirements clauses.) From a word cloud viewpoint, however, the changes were actually minimal, although we do see the word “inspection” begin to fade into history.

ISO 9001:1994

As everyone likely knows, the 2000 edition of ISO 9001 was a major rewrite which abandoned the old MIL-based language entirely, and started over with a “process based” QMS standard. ISO dropped the word “inspection” entirely, although not the concept: it merely swapped in the words “monitoring and measurement” to fool people into thinking it wasn’t obsessed with inspections, even though it still demanded them. The word “supplier” was changed to “organization,” and the two main words of any proper standard — “shall” and “requirements” — remain dominant. AS you can see, however, the word “product” still overshadows “process,” since the authors of ISO 9001 still were not versed on how to address process management. Ironically, the word count within the requirements section of ISO 9001:2000 dropped to 4,100, while the page count increased to accommodate a growing set of introductory paragraphs, annexes and graphics.

ISO 9001:2000

The 2008 version remains identical, since the text was not changed except for some grammar and punctuation changes. ISO released this edition as an “amendment” not a revision, even as it worked with IAF to demand that everyone buy a copy (of the unchanged document) or risk losing their ISO 9001 certificate. So began ISO’s craven drop into cynical marketing, prioritized over content of their publications. (Learn more about that phenomenon by reading the free chapter “Snikt!” in my book, here.)

ISO 9001:2008

Now we arrive at the lastest edition, that of ISO 9001:2015. Here, the authors changed very few of the actual requirements, opting instead to reword them in what many say are confusing and vague ways. The ISO headquarters then inserted text without the participation of the actual authors, called “Annex SL,” which added the new requirements of risk-based thinking and context of the organization. Now, not only did the word “inspection” disappear entirely from the standard, so did the word “procedure,” as ISO’s HQ attempted to (yet again) cave into critics who claimed the standard was still a documentation-heavy, inspection-based standard. Now the authors routinely padded the page count (thus increasing the cover price) by using longer, tortured terms like  “Review of Requirements Related to Products and Services” to replace “Contract Review” and “Control of Externally Provided Processes, Products and Services” to replace “Purchasing.” Wherever the word “product” had appeared previously, this was replaced with “products and services,” in an attempt to make the standard attractive to non-hardware companies, while not bothering to change the actual hardware-biased requirements themselves. Despite language from ISO insisting that this time they are finally driving top management to take accountability of the QMS, we see the word’s prevalence hasn’t really changed at all since the 2000 version. Now the standard has mushroomed into a 5,700+ word monstrosity, 40 pages long, and supported by more than a dozen “optional” standards and guides published by ISO to explain the whole thing. Obviously, all of this calculates out to much more direct revenue to ISO, and whether or not the standard actually makes any sense is no longer an issue.

ISO 9001:2015

For another fun, graphical look at ISO 9001, see Color Coding ISO 9001:2015 Text Reveals Few Actual Changes from 2008.


    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.