Robert King’s article
in the November issue shows that he’s just another
on the long list of people beholden to the International
Organization for Standardization for creating job security.
The principal reason that U.S. firms have sought out ISO
9000 is to be able to sell into European markets where the
designation is required by law. Few good U.S. companies
see any real value from ISO 9000 registration.
Good companies don’t need it; witness Toyota and
its family of companies. They may bow to ISO registration,
but they certainly haven’t needed it in order to ensure
they manufacture and sell a quality product.
ISO 9000 is a European socialist invention. Even the head
of ISO said its usefulness is in “leveling the playing
field.” Companies work hard to create a competitive
advantage, an unlevel playing field. The good ones, like
Toyota, succeed. In a free market economy, the poor ones
fail because customers find better value elsewhere.
ISO 9000 prescribing customer satisfaction surveys and
other details of running a business, which in and of themselves
are not necessarily bad, is ridiculous.
I’m my company’s
ISO management representative and also a senior manager
with other responsibilities. We’ve been registered
to ISO 9001 for six years. Along the way we’ve used
several different consultants, have had extensive training
to the standard, have visited other companies that are registered
and have been members of the American Society for Quality.
Frankly, in retrospect, all of this has been a huge waste
of time and resources. My initial directive was to “do
it right” and gain the maximum benefit from the effort.
What I’ve found instead is a standard that perpetuates
nonvalue-added activities and auditors selling their brand
of management expertise. Please!
What needs to change to satisfy this customer? First,
reduce the nonvalue-added activities; no one can afford
this much waste. Second, simplify the standard; it’s
far too complicated. Even the experts disagree on the interpretations.
Third, a standard should not insist that certain management
tools be used.
The quality gurus preach customer satisfaction while dismissing
any dissatisfaction with their product as due to ignorance.
Given this attitude, chances are good that nothing is going
to change. At this point we’re doing this solely for
commercial purposes, and it seems so are many others. ISO
9000’s time has passed. The name itself has become
synonymous with waste and irrelevance.
--Bruce W. De Bree
This article perpetuates the
delusion that conformity assessment is uniformly competent
and equitably governed.
First-hand experience shouts to ISO user organizations
that competent application of the eight quality management
principles embodied in ISO 9000 series documents has no
relationship to conformity assessment.
Proof of this condition is masked behind years of incompetent
No one really wants to step up to the plate and declare
that certification surveillance audits seek only the path
of least resistance to a declaration of conformity.
To assert that the view from Mr. King’s office represents
the viable future for the ISO 9000 family is a significant
bias to an already seriously confused subject.
King briefly mentions the quality and benefit of using
“certified auditors.” Perhaps an article by
him dealing with the metrics used to validate auditor competency
might lead me to assume a more positive stance on this subject.
--Joseph W. Green
Scott M. Paton’s November
“First Word” was great! I share his pain with
similar instances on American Airlines. I only hope this
article, as well as others, will be forwarded to the CEO
of every airline and they’ll be forced to read it.
On second thought, maybe it should be forwarded to someone
in the airline industry who can actually do something about
While standing at the boarding
gate, I overheard a United Airlines employee speaking to
a gate attendant. “Are we ready to let the animals
on board?” she asked. Delta wasn’t much better.
I asked a flight attendant if our flight was going to be
arriving on time. She snapped, “It will arrive when
it arrives, and there’s nothing you can do about it
so why would you want to know?” Because of their indifference,
the regional connecting flight left without us. I cannot
imagine any business surviving with such attitudes toward
--Daniel E. Beougher
I’ve had similar experiences
with United Airlines. I flew them after hearing of their
bankruptcy, wanting to support them. My experience was also
very disappointing. The crew was openly bitter about the
company and their future. This added to the low level of
service. Rather than rising to the challenge, they took
the course of least resistance by cutting services and burdening
customers with their internal problems. Now I feel if they
go out of business it is their own doing, not a result of
What worries me is that if
the quality of service has declined, what is happening to
the quality of aircraft maintenance?
Your editorial struck a chord
with me. You’re absolutely right about the lack of
quality in the airline industry. Business travelers in particular
are herded like cattle into ever-smaller airplanes and are
expected to be grateful for this “service.”
I fly from Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina, to Washington,
D.C., regularly. In years past, the flights used to be on
B737s and MD-80s, which were generally full. Now we get
DH-8s, CRJs, and those god-awful Embraer regional jets.
You also mentioned food service. Now, it seems that the
airlines want you to pay an extra $10 for a mediocre sandwich
and bag of chips.
JetBlue and Southwest are not the answer. I don’t
like Southwest because I like having a seat with my name
on it, and, as a business traveler, I can’t always
get to the airport early enough to get a card for the first
You weren’t too hard on United. They used to be
my airline of choice through Chicago. After 9/11, United
pulled out of Raleigh-Durham after more than 40 years and
turned what was left over to United Express (and more “toy”
airplanes). Even my personal favorite, Delta, has turned
its back on a loyal customer base and cut back on benefits.
I have flown more than 1 million miles on Delta during the
past 30 years, but I haven’t been on a Delta flight
this entire year. As my grandma used to say, “You
shouldn’t cut off your nose to spite your face.”
Let’s get back to quality service. Then the people
will come back.
--Gary L. Johnson
I agree with John Broomfield’s
“Last Word” in the November issue. My pet peeve
is that today’s media seem bent on talking to those
in charge. The majority of articles are geared toward engineers
and managers--as if they are the only ones who can make
a difference. And in some ways that is true because they
get to rub elbows with management.
But, what about us grunts down in the trenches? Inspectors,
auditors and technicians seem to be largely ignored. I realize
that we don’t have the budgets that attract the big-buck
advertisers, but somehow I have to believe that there are
more of us. We’re important to the big picture because
we take care of all the little things that are so “wisely”
delegated by those in charge.
There is so little on how we can improve processes at
our level. We have little or no management contact. We’re
often either micromanaged as if we are idiots or ignored
except when something goes wrong. We cannot say, “Today
we are going to improve this process with the blessing of
management.” So what can we say or do that actually
makes a difference beyond simply following directions?
The media keep saying we need to drive quality down, but
it never gets beyond showing us the top. I’m tired
of being ignored. Talk to me, guide me, teach me!