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Sunday, February 13, 2011

Measuring ISO Objectives

In the world of standards development there are folks that participate at every level, from institutional, to regional, to provincial to national to international.  At each level the documents developed become more generalizable, more applicable in a greater cross-section of environments.  That doesn’t necessarily make them better, but it does create a closer connection to international truth.  

At the top of the pyramid is the International Organization for Standardization.  
The ISO has been the crown of the standards development structure since 1946 (or 1926, depending on when you start counting).  It has as one of its mandates to create voluntary consensus standards that once applied assist the World Trade Organization promote international trade in the absence of non-tariff barriers.   I have been a volunteer Canadian representative on ISO technical committees since 1995 and am currently a member of ISO TC 212 (the committee responsible for 15189) and ISO TC 176 (the committee responsible for 9001).  Over the years I have seen both the positives and challenges of developing high level documents.  

Which brings me to the recent publication of the official ISO magazine known as ISO Focus+. This is a great magazine that I suspect most of you have never seen or heard of, much less read.  It is available at www.ISO.org, or is available through your national standards body.  In Canada that is the Standards Council of Canada (SCC); in the US it is the American National Standards Institute (ANSI).  The January 2011 issue is all about the ISO Strategic Plan for 2011-2015.  Within it are the defined strategic objectives that ISO has set for itself over the next 4 years.  

If you are interested in Quality, you need to read this magazine.  

ISO has defined the following objectives.

1: ISO deliverables meet customer needs
2: Promote innovation and provide solutions to address global challenges
3: Enhance capacity and participation of developing countries in international standardization.
4: Reach out to and engage with stakeholders.
5: Foster partnerships that increase the value of international standards
6: Improve ISO processes
7: Improve understanding of the general public, stakeholders and customers of value of voluntary international standards.

But for those of us that have set objectives for our own organizations in the past, we recognize that objectives need to meet a number of tests:
A: Are they appropriate? Are they consistent with the organization’s Quality Policy?
B: Are they measurable?  Can you by the end of the time period objectively document if you met the objective?
C: Are they achievable?  Does the organization have the resources and capabilities required to meet the objectives in the time frame that has been defined?

So how, in my opinion, do the new objectives measure up, and what will ISO need to do to meet the objectives successfully.

Objective
Quality Policy
Measurable
Achievable
CHANGE MANAGEMENT
Meet customer needs
YES
YES
YES
Process improvement
Promote innovation
YES
YES
YES
Process improvement
Developing Countries
YES
YES
NO
Communication
Engage stakeholders
YES
YES
YES
Communication
Foster partnerships
YES
YES
YES
Communication
Improve processes
YES
YES
YES
Process Improvement
Improve understanding
YES
YES
YES
Communication


Most of the work that ISO needs to do focuses on improved communication.  ISO certainly needs to do that.  The organization has become elite and presumes far  too often that the world will come banging on their door  Congratulations on recognizing that is not how it works any more.  
The other changes will come from acknowledging tat ISO has some internal work to do to tidy up its own processes.  Where there are rules, ISO needs to make sure that (A) they make sense, (B) the communicate them and (C ) they are applied consistently.

About the “NO”.  ISO can ask developing countries to be involved, but small countries don’t have the resources to attend and participate meetings. Fixing that is by-and-large outside the power of ISO.

So congratulations to the ISO.  This is a big step forward.

We will watch to see if this is "just words" or a "call to action".

m

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