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Letters

The Tragedy of ISO/IEC 17024

Although it is true that ISO/IEC 17024 is currently working to harmonize applications internationally, Laura Smith misunderstood the target audience and need for this standard ("Harmonizing ISO/IEC 17024," News Digest, November 2006). ISO/IEC 17024 applies to personnel certification bodies. These bodies include organizations like the American Society for Quality that provides 14 different certifications, including quality auditor, quality engineer and Six Sigma Black Belt. It applies to the fairness, reliability and validity of the certification examinations and to the organizational structure, policies and procedures of the organizations that provide such examinations. It is not a standard for training ISO 9001 auditors--in fact, the standard requires training to be independent of the certification and testing process.

The real tragedy of ISO/IEC 17024 is not the slow road to harmonization, but rather the minimal recognition of the desirability of meeting the standards. In the United States there are approximately 3,000 personnel certifications bodies. Less than 1 percent of these programs have received accreditation to date. Even ASQ, an organization that promotes quality auditing, is not at this time attempting to achieve accreditation. Certification testing experts within the United States generally agree on
what represents "fair, valid and reliable" certification. The tragedy of ISO/IEC 17024 is that few certification organizations see the value of accreditation and meeting the international standards unless their customers demand it, and customers often don't know about the standards or have the political clout to demand it.

--Cheryl L. Wild, Ph.D.

 

Fasteners Flying High

Having provided threaded fasteners to the space program for years, I have seen the problems with fasteners from many angles ("Threaded Components Keep 'Em Flying," Stanley P. Johnson, December 2006). Fasteners for critical applications must be produced by known sources with traceability back to the original material manufacturer. If the fastener comes through a distributor, the distributor must be certified. Upon receipt, a sample of the fasteners must be tested to certify the lot. Fasteners are serious business.

--Darriel Wilks

 

Your article cited "GAO/NSID-91-309" but the correct report is "GAO/NSIAD-91-309."

--James Ritter

Editor's note: James, thanks for the correction.

 

Lean on Me

In "Lean Today, Here Tomorrow" (Allen Huffman, December 2006), the author uses the one trait that seems to be lacking today--common sense. After dumping tons of resources into training, project scopes, plans and implementations, they realize a little lean manufacturing and a dose of common sense will take you far. We need more articles like this to bring us all back to reality!

--Mark Bullington
 

It was heartening to read an article proposing common sense actions that can be done by people without Ph.D.s in statistics or in companies with limited manpower and money. I've been in the big-company, big-bucks, lots-of-resources world and in the small-company, do-it-all-yourself, no-money-for-anything world. The quality in both could have been better (it always can be), but it was pretty damn good in the small company without fancy quality programs. Lean is something people can do without knowing they are doing it and it has tangible results that are understandable to ordinary people.

--Kathy Olson

 

Election Repairs

In addition to the problems of the election of 2000, along with the supposed numbers of disenfranchised voters, the author should have also listed the number of voters who voted more than once, or who voted illegally ("Fixing Broken Election Processes," Larry English, www.qualitydigest.com/qualityinsider).

Some of the improvements [he suggests] are good and worth considering. One of the best is to make election day a national holiday.

--Stephen Mundwiller

 

Hiding in Plain Sight

As a former competitor of InfinityQS, and currently a systems consultant to the online learning industry, I appreciate the distribution of viable, useable information in an easy, concise format ("The Unknown Vendor," Douglas C. Fair, December 2006).

The online learning community has yet to embrace tactical feedback, corrective action, maintenance and service documentation/specification as "learning opportunities," but there is a grass-roots movement to upgrade its focus to give the quality discipline its rightful place in the education arena.

--Cliff Veach

 

Mending Holes

Regarding his column "Hole in the Heart or Hole in the Head" ("Performance Improvement," H. James Harrington, December 2006), I am not sure to which vision of the 1990s or beyond Mr. Harrington is referring.

It seems to me that the "work" box is larger than any other by far. For any working parent--mothers especially--the "self" box is most likely the smallest. Choices are really not as available as they seem--work is work, and when the job calls, it needs to be done. Cell phones and Blackberries ensure one is further tied to the organization's needs. Sure, a person can choose to be financially strapped and work in a fast-food restaurant or a similar job, but that is pure fantasy for educated professionals to consider--especially those with a family to support. Unless we invent a new type of economic system, I don't see this balancing act really achieving anything resembling real balance. Everyone talks about "work-life" balance, but few employers mean it as long as maximizing profit is the principal objective.

--Christopher P. Grosso, MBA/TM