Wednesday, November 23, 2011

History of Quality - part 2

I was recently invited to participate in a meeting focused on the process of renewal and continual improvement for an organization responsible for Quality standards.  I assume that this is standard practice for all organizations committed to Quality, but there is that old adage about what happens when you ASSUME.  I won’t go there, but I will say full credit to the Canadian Standards Association for being prepared to both talk-the-talk and walk-the-walk. 

Anyways, during the introductory part of the meeting, a comment was made about CSA and Canada and its role and prominence in international Quality.  Not that Canada takes the responsibility as Secretariat for the ISO Technical Committee 176 (which it does) and not that Canada is a leader in Environmental Quality (which it is) but rather that ISO 9000, the cornerstone of all modern Quality Management was based upon a Canadian document specifically Can3 – Z299: 1985 Quality Assurance Program. 

That’s interesting, I thought that the source was another document, specifically BS5750.  Not only had I read that elsewhere but it was supported by information from the modern purveyor-of-all-knowledge (Wikipedia).  Wikipedia clearly and definitively states that the seed document to ISO9000 (first published in 1985) was the standard BSI 5750 published in 1979.  

The provenance of that document was the (US) Mil-Q-standard 9858 which was provided first to the pre-NATO structure (ABCA – America, Britain, Canada, Australia) and then to NATO where it became part of the Allied Quality Assurance Publications (AQAP) quality series.  

British Standards Institute (BSI) borrowed it from NATO to create its own quality document (BS 5179) which was later changed to (BS 5750).  [note: According to Joseph Juran: A History of Managing for Quality – 1995, 5750 was essentially a direct copy from NATO].  Britain then offered BS5750 as the  seed document for ISO9000.  Canada doesn’t come up anywhere, with the exception of being a part of ABCA and NATO.

What is missing here is that if you spend the time going to other sources, especially deep inside, you find the following: " When ISO/TC 176 embarked on the development of generic quality management standards for worldwide application it was able to take advantage of a substantial base of national experience notably in the United Kingdom and in Canada.

In the United Kingdom the BS 5750 standards were well on their way to broad acceptance and in Canada a series of national standards known as CSA Z299 were also widely used.”  

As I pursued further, it is clear that Z299 was a document developed from Mil-Q-9858 through NATO AQAP although, in contrast to BS5750 it was substantially changed to accommodate the new audience.  

I suspect what happened was that the ISO technical committee went on a search for seed documents Britain offered BS5750 and Canada offered Z299.1:1985.  Japan apparently also offered a document.  Based on these seeds, ISO 9000:1985 was created as a collective amalgam.  

All this basically makes sense.  The Quality seed document of note  was the US Mil-Q-9858, created by the US Military to improvement the Quality of companies selling products for military use.  By the language and structure, one can say almost definitively it was written either totally by W. Edwards Deming, or persons strongly influenced by Deming.  NATO used the document for similar purposes, but its potential value for civilian commercial guidance was acknowledged around the world.  Many countries, probably not limited to Britain and Canada created national documents.  I suspect (but can’t say with certainty) that Japan got to the same point not through Mil-Q- and NATO, but more likely from Deming directly.

CAN3 Z299.85 was first designed and written in the 1970’s but was published for the first time (?) in 1985, two years before ISO9000 series.  It is still available and still in circulation, and indeed is still being used as a certification standard today.  (Note that the US Military has dropped Mil-Q-9858 and replaced it with ISO9000).  Z299:1985 is not found in the current CSA catalogue.

So while perhaps the introductory comment was a bit of an overstatement, Canada’s role here has been under-recognized, probably by our own actions. 
It is not surprising that Canada’s role in this process has been missed in history.  It is a common Canadian trait to be at the forefront, but to hide in the background and let others take credit.  It is not a healthy trait.  

There are a few lessons here for me:  First off, the historical forefront and record of Quality does go through Canada and in particular through the Canadian Standards Association.  And second, don’t trust Wikipedia as an absolute source.  It is only as good as the author without a fact checker.  

As a final comment, someone at CSA or Standards Council of Canada could and should correct the Wikipedia record.  Credit when and where credit is due. 

Originally posted Nov 23, 2011.  Edited for grammar and spelling Feb 6, 2015


  1. Why don't you send the correction to Wikipedia? Sounds like you've already got all the research done.

  2. Thanks for this informative article. After spending days/weeks searching quality definitions on the web I know it is very difficult to find accurate references.

  3. Health standards have to be reviewed. They need to come up with ideal solutions.

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.


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