Just Another Day
Is it me, or did the entire quality world miss something nearly three months ago? Didn't a much anticipated and ballyhooed event go by virtually unnoticed?
I'm not talking about Christmas, Hanukkah or Kwanza and definitely not about the capture of Saddam Hussein. No, I'm referring to the Dec. 15, 2003, deadline for companies registered to ISO 9001 to transition to the 2000 version of the standard.
Despite much hand wringing and alarm sounding by registrars, accreditation organizations and editors of quality publications, the deadline came and went with most organizations registering to ISO 9001:2000 in time. Among those companies that didn't make the transition, many instead registered to a sector specific standard that includes ISO 9001, such as TS 16949 for the automotive industry.
So why all the fuss leading up to the deadline? Cynics--which journalists are often accused of being--would say those fussing the loudest were the ones who stood to gain financially from companies reregistering to the updated standards. But as a supporter of quality concepts and practices, I prefer to think all those people urging companies to make the transition fervently believe in the core benefit of compliance to the standards: ISO 9000 can be an excellent guide for creating and maintaining a quality management system that allows your organization to perform at optimal levels.
Even if companies let their registrations lapse, the hope is the standards still serve as a methodology for ensuring customer needs are exceeded and processes are the most efficient and effective they can be. ISO 9000 is not the only methodology that can help organizations meet those goals, but for many companies, especially in manufacturing, it's a proven, accepted model.
Companies that did reregister had little reason to trumpet meeting the deadline. For today's consumers, quality in products and services is an assumption and expectation. A company that offers a product or service with obvious defects or without meeting basic customer needs won't be in business long.
Most organizations recognize this fact and, accordingly, see using a quality tool or methodology like ISO 9000 as a given. True, there will always be companies whose top management views such tools as mere marketing: "We have to hang an ISO 9001 certificate in the lobby to win key accounts." And, as many of our readers will attest from experiences in their own companies, we still have a long way to go.
But I believe more organizations are moving beyond giving lip service to quality and embracing it as at least part of the way they do business. For them, Dec. 15, 2003, was just another day of striving for excellence.