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Scott Paton

Transitioning to ISO 9001:2000


This month's cover story focuses on ISO 9001:2000, which was released in December of last year. The standard's release has been met with a surprisingly muted response. With more than 350,000 registered sites worldwide, including 45,000 in North America, you might have expected it to provoke a little more fanfare.

When the ISO 9000 series was first released in 1987, it faced a barrage of criticism, including attempts to label the standard as merely an attempt by Europeans to restrict trade. Others embraced the standard for the solid quality management system model it provided.

The 1994 revision to the ISO 9000 series resulted in a more refined and sophisticated quality management system model. Critics nevertheless lambasted the standard as too manufacturing-focused and either too complex or too simplistic. Despite this, the standard flourished, reaching into nearly every manufacturing and service segment.

The latest iteration of the ISO 9000 series, which dropped the ISO 9002 and ISO 9003 standards, will undoubtedly face criticism as well. Some of the criticism is fair, but most is not. The committee that revised the standard took great pains to incorporate as much of the feedback generated as possible. The resultant standard is much more comprehensive, much more customer-focused and much more dependent on top management support.

ISO 9001:2000 has also been completely restructured. ISO tossed out the infamous 20 elements and replaced them with five major sections: quality management system; management responsibility; resource management; product realization; and measurement, analysis and improvement.

The previous 20-element structure led many organizations to compartmentalize their quality management systems according to those 20 elements. The intent behind ISO 9001:2000's new structure is to focus the entire organization on all aspects of the quality management system, with top management leading the way.

It's a noble goal, but one that might prove to be the biggest challenge to ISO 9001 since the standard debuted. The revised standard demands that top management be intimately involved in the organization's quality processes, requiring them to actively demonstrate this commitment in measurable ways.

Quality gurus have long demanded top management's attention, claiming that it's essential to the success of quality initiatives, but ISO 9001:2000 mandates it. Will senior-level executives rise to the challenge? Will they commit the time and resources needed? I think that organizations which have fully embraced the standard as a roadmap to an effective quality management system will have no difficulty meeting the requirement for top management commitment. Organizations that registered to the 1994 version of the standard simply to meet a customer mandate or because it was the trendy thing to do could face major challenges in meeting the revised standard's requirements.

 Kathy Roberts and Jeanne Ketola's article "Transition Planning for ISO 9001:2000," beginning on page 24, offers organizations a starting point in their transition to the new standard. With the revision's complexity and increased demands on management's time and less than 36 months to go to register to the revision, organizations had better get moving. There's certainly no shortage of registrars, consultants and software companies to help.

 E-mail your thoughts on ISO 9001:2000 to me at .

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