ISO 9001:2000 Article Misses the Point

The article "Auditing ISO 9001:2000" (J.P. Russell, "Standards Outlook," July 2001, p. 147) was well-written, but it missed a key point. The reason so many auditors think ISO 9001:2000 is not entirely auditable is simply because it isn't. It is not because we lack some special insight or need some new, clever questions to ask.

If you invent criteria on an audit and start finding deficiencies where there are no requirements, you could lose your Registrar Accreditation Board (RAB) card soon. When the International Organization for Standardization, known as ISO, issues requirements that leave no tracks, there is no way to audit them.

When I am hosting an audit in my company, I am always happy to explain how we approach each of the current standard requirements. However, if records aren't required for a particular activity, and we don't see any value in them, then we won't keep them. Moreover, we would fight any attempt to stick us with a deficiency for a nonexistent requirement.

I agree with Russell about the needle in a haystack problem, but that is what we have been stuck with, and inventing requirements will not solve it. I work as an RAB certified auditor and an ISO management representative, so I see this issue from both sides.

I believe the international committees have the best intentions, and the quality management system described in ISO 9000:2000 is very good. However, I believe the committees lost sight of their goal and lapsed into consulting. An auditor can lose his or her certification for consulting. But who will tell the international committee it blew it?

Talla-Com Industries
Tallahassee, FL

Author's Response: Al Huff raises the very issues that have caused concern about the new standard, but I didn't miss the point. The point is that an auditor is responsible for verifying an organization conforms to requirements. If an auditor doesn't think a standard is auditable, then he or she should decline to conduct audits against it.

The committees that wrote and reviewed the standard didn't lose sight of their goal and lapse into consulting. The very opposite is true: The committees listened to users and customers, reviewed complaints and established goals to address user needs.

I admit to feeling some heartburn from time to time over the last six years as the new standard was evolving, but the end result is a good standard if you think customer satisfaction and improvement are important. Standard writers shouldn't need to write standards for auditors; auditors need to develop techniques for auditing written requirements.

JP Russell & Associates
Gulf Breeze, FL

Juran Misquoted In 'Up Front' Column?

I recently read the "Up Front" column in the June 2001 issue (Debbie Phillips-Donaldson, "Juran on the Future of Quality," p. 6) regarding the 55th Annual Quality Congress and Joseph M. Juran's input on the future of quality.

Many of us senior quality people have known Juran for more than 30 years, and I find it hard to believe he is behind the times in that he foresees quality making inroads in the nontraditional service industries, education, healthcare and government.

While there are a number of healthcare and service industries, governments and education facilities embracing quality and obtaining ISO 9000 registration, it is true there is not the same push as in the automotive, electronic, mechanical and aerospace sectors.

Juran may consider it cultural resistance, but that is his opinion. I believe it is due to a lack of education, and quality practitioners must bear some of the blame.

I consult in the healthcare, education and service industries, and we are not doing all we could be to reach those who are not actively embracing quality.

Chateauguay, Quebec

Gurus' Definitions Portray Evolution of Quality

I disagree with the conclusions the authors of "What Is Quality" (Robert W. Hoyer and Brooke B.Y. Hoyer, July 2001, p. 52) reached. I believe it is wrong to perpetuate the myth that quality is something hard to define or understand. The gurus' differing views portray the evolution of our understanding of quality rather than confusion about what it is or should be.

One of the first things we need to understand from W. Edwards Deming is that everything is a process. It does not matter if you are providing products or services; the value added activities that surround each person as he or she works can be defined as a process.

From there it is a short step to understanding that within a process, as Genichi Taguchi's loss function implies, quality means being on target with minimum variation. The best value proposition is for the product or service to be provided consistently at the target value. By replicating the same thing every time, you can meet customers' expectations. The understanding that consistency is important is rooted in Walter A. Shewhart's ideas on the subjective elements of quality and Joseph M. Juran's view of "fitness for use."

Remember, we now define everything as a process. For these processes to be on target in an ever changing environment, customer oriented goals must be understood and continuously updated. Understanding what customers want is at the heart of Armand V. Feigenbaum's "meet customer expectations" definition. Our need to keep up with the ever changing nature of customer wants and needs was pointed out by Kaoru Ishikawa.

The last element tying this evolving understanding together comes from Deming. He says each of us has many customers, at many levels, and we must strive to understand who our customers are and what they need. Stephen Covey calls them 360 degree stakeholders.

When we combine these evolving points of view, we end up defining quality as being "on target with minimum variation in a continuous improvement environment."

To perpetuate the myth that quality is somehow intangible, indefinable or unknowable allows us to say quality is elusive and routinely unattainable. This does a disservice to our profession and our industries. Quality may be difficult to attain, but is not so difficult to understand.

Andersen Consulting
Boulder, CO

Best Minds Have Similar Ideas of Quality

Hurrah! At last someone got it right (Robert W. Hoyer and Brooke B.Y. Hoyer, "What Is Quality?" July 2001, p. 52).

Over the years I have attended sessions on quality and have had my attention wander as the speaker stumbled over a definition of what he or she was talking about. Now we have proof the best minds have similar, but not identical, ideas of what quality is.

A colleague once told me if people really want to know how a new body of knowledge began, they should read the first publications on the topic. That way they will learn the implicit assumptions as well as the stated ones. I am in full agreement Walter A. Shewhart's definition is the best. The rest of the gurus in the article agree on what constitutes level one quality, and that is a good start.

I plan to order some reprints of the article and hand them out to people who ask me what quality is. At last, we have come a long way toward pinning it down.

ASQ Fellow
Santa Clara, CA

There's One More Way To Define "Quality"

The July 2001 issue of QP was nicely done, especially the article "What Is Quality?" (Robert W. Hoyer and Brooke B.Y. Hoyer, p. 52) because this is such an important topic. The gurus whose writings were selected were all well-chosen, with the possible exception of Robert M. Pirsig. He is hardly a recognized quality guru, and I haven't even been able to find out if he is or ever was a member of ASQ.

But there is a different aspect to the meaning of quality that has not been investigated and reported on. It is simply: What does quality mean to top executives? I believe this is a great stumbling block that must be overcome when selling a quality program.

Londonderry, NH

Beauty Is in the Eye Of the Beholder

I have two comments regarding "What Is Quality?" (Robert W. Hoyer and Brooke B.Y. Hoyer, July 2001, p. 52).

By including level two quality (meeting customer expectations) in the definition, you immediately lose control of any consistency in the thing being defined. As Crosby points out, allowing the customer to define quality guarantees inconsistency because each customer will have a different idea about what satisfies him or her. "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder" works well for the beholder, but leaves the suitor wondering if he or she is beautiful.

If this is the concept you are interested in, then modify the term and refer to it as perceived quality, accepting the fact that the thing being described can simultaneously be good and bad perceived quality. In Robert M. Pirsig's story of Phaedrus and his students, two students thought the disjointed paper was best. Should the writer complain about his "F" based on these two students' perceptions of the paper? In this case the beholder that counts is the teacher.

My second comment concerns the term "value." The authors quote Walter A. Shewhart as saying "value received for the price paid" is an important dimension of quality. Value and quality are related, but value is not a dimension of quality.

Value is the ratio of (what you get) to (what you give). What you get is the perceived quality of the thing, and what you give is what you pay to get it. When the authors use the phrase "value received for the price paid," they are confusing value with quality.

Cincinnati Quality Consulting
Cincinnati, OH


There is an error in Figure 2 in the article "What is Quality?" (Robert W. Hoyer and Brooke B.Y. Hoyer, July 2001, p. 52). The horizontal line should be labeled "minimum loss" instead of "maximum loss."

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