Friday, November 9, 2012

Modern Time Wasting Quality Management Systems !

Way back in the Nineteen Seventies, when I was an engineering student, computers had been making a big appearance in the world, emerging from their secret production sites located mainly in the United States of America.

The majority of people knew nothing of computers. But many of them had heard about this magic machine of the 20th century. But those who knew a bit more had apprehensions too. That is why some of them kept warning those top optimists about the dangers of  the 'rubbish- in- rubbish- out' (RIRO) kind of situation that is likely with the computer dominated world.

In my life time I have seen this transformation taking place. I have also seen the riro situation also that got developed in the world in most of the work areas. The computer helps in reducing work loads of some and simultaneously enhances the load in other areas !

Anyway, that is what I wanted to write in this blog. It is some thing else which got developed in the 20th century in a big way for giving benefits to the society. Here too I find it as a coin having two sides !

I refer to the modern Quality Management Systems generally now known as the ISO 9000 series.

Before starting what I am going to say, let me apologize sincerely to all the modern management consultants , consulting companies and a host of their institutions and organizations worldwide who keep producing massive documentations and presentations so vigorously and painfully that have helped immensely to make the Art of Management of the past to the Management Science of the present !

I honour their dedicated works. Because they who do it are doing it sincerely with full devotion. If I say some thing without much knowledge about their great works that might appear as foolish criticism to any thing coming under the domain of  management experts and gurus, even inadvertently, I should make the apology in advance.

During the initial years of my professional career, for a couple of years  I was a first line manager of a chemical process plant which operated on a semi-continuous manner. The plant operating staff who manned the various operations of the plant were required to maintain the quality and quantity of production in the desired levels. As the chemical processes kept happening inside the process vessels and pipes, for an outsider who visited the plant at any time could only see the plant personnel in the plant sitting here and there without doing anything. Apparently they appeared to others without any work ! Their actual works were all momentary that it was difficult for outsiders to know more about their jobs by watching them for some time. During those days I found it as one of the difficult task for me to make the top management of the company and the management systems departments such as the Industrial Engineering Department (IED in short not to be confused with the present popular IED which stands for Improvised Explosive Device which is of prime attraction to the mass media!) to understand the nature of the jobs of my people and the justifying the need of those plant operating personnel. The work of justifying the work often hindered the efficacy of the actual work ! This Industrial Engineering in itself was a great fad in those days in India that many industries had powerful IEDs which decided how many people were required in other works departments. Good or bad, the IEDs have almost become a non-existent thing in 21st century India. I do not know much about other countries !

The practice those days was something like this. If I needed a person to be recruited for doing a work in my department, I make a projection for 5 people, get it studied by the IED who eventually cut it to three based on their 'scientific work-time studies' and the two got further bargained at higher levels and ultimately I getting a minimum two instead of the one I really needed. A win-win situation for all concerned ! Had the management trusted the actual man concerned they never would have needed all those management time wasting carried out for months to decide 100 percent extra man-power !

But trust is a word which does not exist in the management dictionary !

Modern management and management systems are devised on the presumption that people cannot be trusted ! If you say that a wild lion cannot be trusted it is understandable. But if you say that a human being of the 21st century cannot be trusted then what is being said ultimately would equate man and beast on the same level.

The IED of the 20th century has reappeared now as various systems of management now emerging under one umbrella called the ISO 9000 series .

Is it doing any good ?

Of course! But that is perhaps for its practitioners and advocates !

Recently, a customer asked an expert opinion from an engineer working in an ISO 9001 certified engineering consultancy company.

Our engineer knows how to satisfy his customer by giving his expert advice in a moment.

In earlier years he had done that many times.

But now his organisation follows approved systems and procedures in accordance with the ISO certification. Unfortunately this kind of an advice is not listed now in the approved procedures .

Our engineer explained in detail his helplessness to the customer.

Poor customer ! He is slowly understanding what ISO means !

It is time for all those companies who pay through their nose and keep spending their time and efforts to get and maintain this ISO certification to do a rethinking.

I am just initiating a thought process !

[A special note added on 20-11-12: Mr Gunnar Rundgren, former CEO Grolink AB and the present President of IFOAM has authored a blog ' Quality management is a management fad elevated to divinity' in support of what I have written above. He has made a comment below giving the link to his article which I am providing here, conveniently clickable.

The major problem why the QMS under ISO 9001 would eventually bring about disasters for the organization is because of the luke warm or half hearted approach of the top management. QMS under ISO 9001 is envisaged as a management system standard where top management commitment, honesty and competence is of prime importance. I would like my readers, who are interested, to read this article : The Rise and Fall of ISO9001 written by Mr Ashok M Thakkar, President & CEO of ITTI Llc Roswell, Georgia.]


  1. Rajan, I am not aware of anything in 9001 which would prevent the engineer you mention from helping his customer but someone writing a procedure that prevents it is not a reason to criticise the standard. 9001 talks about the need to meet customer requirements so the engineer in question would be justified in raising a non-conformance to have the relevant procedure changed to to allow him to do that.

    1. Dear Mr David,

      I naturally expected a reaction of this kind from those who are supporters of the ISO.

      You rightly said, there is nothing in ISO 9001 which would prevent the engineer of the story to act like that. But you also said it right about the possibility of someone writing a procedure that could do it. Then ISO has the mechanism to rectify such problems.

      But remember, what I have written is in the context of a country like India. Everyone knows about the rule of the law and the remedy they could get from the courts.

      But in practice how much of that is true ? We know the time, efforts and money that is required for that.

      Now if that is true, then it can happen with ISO 9001 too. That is more so when ISO is not legally binding on any one. It is done for the so called prestige.

      Imagine the situation when that is used by ignorant and unethical bosses just for the purpose of pure publicity and nothing else !

      It is common knowledge that companies in India, barring a few, try to get the ISO certification without actually knowing what it is all about. They are doing it because some others have done it and boast about it. So they too want it. That's all. They are least bothered how the company or its people are performing under this system !

      I know scores of companies who are just doing this the way I have described. I can cite scores of examples where the employees are faced with hardships that their managements are not willing to listen or act. I know cases of all manipulations within the organisation including the mandatory internal audits and undue favours to the external auditors just to maintain the certification intact somehow.

      The more rules, the more we are destined to get ruined. That is the law for unethical people who are not guided by the spirit of goodness from within.

      Perhaps that could be the reason some one wrote this some time ago : Rules are for fools !

    2. "It is common knowledge that companies in India, barring a few, try to get the ISO certification without actually knowing what it is all about. They are doing it because some others have done it and boast about it. So they too want it. That's all. They are least bothered how the company or its people are performing under this system !"
      I love that quote - and I can assure your that this is not only the case in India!

  2. Hi, you might find this blog post relevant...

    1. Thank you Mr Gunnar Rundgren for this prompt response and also writing a very detailed blog in support of what I have written.

      I suggest readers here to have a look at this blog using the link given above.

      Hope to read all that is written by you at your blogsite shortly.


  3. Today I happen to read some experiences that people shared over the web about this topic. [Use this link: ] Some companies have begun to de-ISO because of the suffocation the QMS has invariably caused. Another experience is about the existence of two parallel systems coming into existence in companies that had adopted the ISO QMS certification. One for the purpose of certification and the other the culture by which work is actually done. Also shared here is the existence of companies where there is no formal certification in existence but quality is the unwritten culture. Very interesting!

  4. And another article on this topic here:


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