Dilbert and Wally will rejoice: ISO 9001 is being updated for 2008

There’s a new version of the ISO 9001 quality standard coming. The proposed draft, ISO 9001:2008, is an incremental evolution over the previous version, ISO 9001:2000. It should be out in October or November.

The ISO 9000 family addresses quality management. There are three specifications in the family, of which ISO 9001 is the biggie:

ISO 9000, Quality management systems — Fundamentals and vocabulary. Last updated in 2005, it defines terminology for talking about quality.

ISO 9001, Quality management systems — Requirements. This tells you what you have to do in order to have quality in your products and services.

ISO 9004, Quality management systems — Guidelines for performance improvements. This tells you how to continuously improve quality.

(In case you’re wondering, ISO 9002 and ISO 9003 were rolled into ISO 9001 with the ISO 9001:2000 update.)

Dilbert cartoons lampoon many aspects of ISO 9000, such as the insistence that everything be labeled, and every process be documented. In one set of strips, a character was putting a sign next to the coffee maker, saying “Coffee Maker,” in order to satisfy ISO 9000 requirements.

In large part, a company’s auditable compliance with ISO 9000 has to do with the thoroughness of its documentation: the standard is all about how you manage quality, not quality itself. To put it succinctly:

• It doesn’t matter if your products suck, as long as you follow well-documented processes to make them.

• It doesn’t matter if your processes are inefficient, as long as you carefully measure how closely you adhere to them.

What’s new in ISO 9001:2008? According to the ISO, not much.

ISO 9001:2008 will be the fourth edition of the standard which was first published in 1987. The third edition, published in 2000, represented a thorough revision, including new requirements and a sharpened customer focus, reflecting developments in quality management and experience gained since the publication of the initial version.

ISO’s rules for the development of standards require their periodic review to decide if they need revising, maintaining or withdrawing. Compared to the 2000 revision, ISO 9001:2008 represents fine-tuning, rather than a thorough overhaul. It introduces clarifications to the requirements existing in ISO 9001:2000, based on user experience over the last eight years, and changes that are intended to improve further compatibility with the ISO 14001:2004 standard for environmental management systems.

I can’t wait to see what Dilbert and Wally have to say about it!

Z Trek Copyright (c) Alan Zeichick
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