ISO and BSI are ramping up the trial balloons to start gauging reactions to their future plans for ISO 9001, and things look grim. An obscure ISO TC 176 task force, known as “TF4” has been secretly working to develop future concepts for the entire ISO 9000 family of standards, and it reveals that TC 176 remains with it head firmly planted in the sand, unaware that the world is rejecting their product in record numbers. Those numbers are so bad, in fact, that ISO has already begun dismantling the reporting of them.

It would be fine if TC 176 — silently — acknowledged the resounding data that proves ISO 9001:2015 was a massive failure, and just stopped tinkering. Heck, maybe go back to text from prior versions that people liked. But no, they can’t stop because doing so would be an admission of their own personal contribution to that failure. So they just….. keep ….. going….. and they are about to make ISO 9001 much, much worse.

A document called “Future Concepts Final Draft – 1st concepts” (published as TC 176 document #N0042, if you’re counting) was worked up in December of 2019, which is already over six months ago as I write this. Notice two points. First, you never heard of this document. Second, by December, it was already in its final draft.

So you had no say in this whatsoever, despite its importance.

(You can grab a copy here.)

Keep in mind, while the document is being credited to TC 176 Task Force 4 (sounds like a Bruce Willis sequel), it’s being written ostensibly by BSI. Their fingerprints are all over this thing, as you will see.

The document lays out the roadmap for what will appear in various ISO 9000 standards, but also — more importantly — ISO 9001:202x itself. (I call it “9001:202x because we still have no idea when it will be published.)

To know that the document is serious, TC 176 more recently released a PowerPoint presentation on the subject, putting it in easier-to-understand bites for the general reader. That means they have already moved past finalizing this stuff, and are gearing up for marketing it.

But, as we know from previous encounters with ISO, their public “feedback” initiatives are theater. They are not actually asking for your feedback on this — if they really cared, you would have known about the TF4 document before reading my article — they are merely preparing you for the inevitable. If you tried to provide feedback, they’d only respond with a canned response directing you to have your country’s national ISO member body submit the feedback, saying that ISO cannot take feedback from average Joes and Janes anyway.

Back to the Future Concepts

But let’s look at the document.

Essentially, ISO is pitching eight new “concepts” for the ISO 9000 family:

  • customer experience
  • people aspects
  • change management
  • integration
  • knowledge management
  • emerging technologies
  • ethics & integrity
  • organizational culture

The N0042 document then goes into detail on each, explaining how different ISO 9000 standards –including 9001:202x — will be affected.

Two of the concepts are already within ISO 9001:2015 — “change management” and “knowledge management” — but TC 176 got scared in both cases, and dropped the word “management” from their names. Instead, they appear as “Control of Changes” and “Organizational Knowledge.” This, a TC 176 rep admitted to me, was done so that potential buyers of ISO 9001 wouldn’t get scared, and think they had to hire credentialed “Change Managers” or “Knowledge Managers.” It seems that TC 176 and BSI are trying to double down on those, but they are unlikely to alter the final ISO 9001 document too much.

“People aspects” is ISO’s perennial face-saving move to make it seem like they care about employees, but as usual, it’s theater. BSI and ISO have already insulated themselves, saying that this will not be put into the text of ISO 9001 anyway. God forbid ISO 9001 should address “workers,” the Leninists might revolt.

Yes, ISO intends on adding “culture” to the standard. Oxebridge has already proven that this is feasible with its Q001 standard, but we tackled it as “Quality Culture” and as a means of showing — in demonstrable, auditable terms — the role of leadership by top management. ISO intends on adding more vague platitudes. The N0042 document literally discusses bullying and racism…. I’m not kidding. Imagine how your idiot CB auditor is going to tackle those during your next ISO 9001 audit.

(It’s hilarious that Paul Simpson the Chair of TC 176 SC2, insisted on LinkedIn that ISO 9001 couldn’t address “culture,” when this document shows his own committee — SC2 !! — recommended it be inserted into ISO 9001! It’s clear that Simpson is so busy promoting himself, he doesn’t even know what his own committee is doing.)

BSI’s fingerprints become evident once again by the inclusion of “Integration.” This is the never-ending attempt by the CBs to sell multiple audits “in bulk” through “integrated management system” certifications. You’d think that the original “ISO 9001 / ISO 14001 Alignment” activities of the early 2000s, followed by Annex SL  / Annex L in the 2010s, would have killed this horse already. But they’re still at it. How many decades will it take ISO to get this right?

Worse, this document’s vision of “Integration” continues to push for the QMS to take over the entire corporate suite, or as they say, “business processes.” Once again, we see disgruntled former QC Managers taking out their frustration in a standard, trying to grab the boss’ attention by hardcoding it into an ISO standard.

“Emerging Technologies” attempts to address Industry 4.0, but does so in vague terms, so this should be fun to see. The roadmap says this should be included in ISO 9001, but then doesn’t give any meaningful advice on how. We can expect a cut-and-paste “Note” that includes phrases like “quantum computing” and “internet of things,” but doesn’t translate into any actual, auditable requirements. But more pages = higher cover price for ISO 9001!

Part 2: One of the most unethical organizations in the world wants to teach you “ethics.”  This should end well.

Part 3: The ISO 9001 Brand Integrity Group also has, um, … thoughts.


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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