Sometimes Certifying Half Is Enough

This is in response to Gordon Staples’ letter in the April issue (“Certifying Half a Company: Is It Really Certification?” p.10).

I have found that, increasingly, organizations are certifying only those segments directly generating products or services because of the high cost of continuous internal auditing or be-cause of increasing regulatory requirements. Financial and accounting departments—at least in American publicly owned organizations—have decided complying with Sarbanes-Oxley and related requirements outweighs the need for total organiza-
tional certification.

Even though companies are choosing to certify only select segments of their organizational structures, ISO 9001 still holds top management accountable for ensuring supporting functions are meeting the requirements of the quality management system.

ICF Consulting
Nashua, NH

A Member Reflects On 40 Years In Quality

As ASQ celebrates its 60th anniversary, I reflect on my own 40 years in quality and how things have changed (or have not, as may be the case).

After joining the American Society for Quality Control (ASQC) in De-cember 1966 as a young engineer in Montreal, I soon switched jobs and joined a company in Vancouver, BC. I remember my new boss asking me one day, “What do you know about quality?” I figured this was a loaded question so answered, “Well, I can spell it!”

We had a problem at the time with products coming out of our plants on the East Coast and in the Prairies not matching the quality of products from the West Coast. My assignment—find out why. I turned to ASQC’s Training Division for the answer and ended up in a quality control engineering course in Anaheim, CA, run by Max Astrakan.

This intensive course captured my imagination and sparked a lasting interest in statistical quality control. I was hooked! The first book I bought was Armand Feigenbaum’s Total Quality Control, quickly followed by Juran’s Quality Control Handbook.

After many challenging years in product design and quality control, I went to a similar company in Connecticut to do related work before helping it build a plant in Scotland to serve the European market. More challenges—and more fun!

Looking at today’s shop floors, I still see many of the same problems occurring, but companies are better equipped—with both machinery and personnel—to deal with them.

With the strengthening of ISO 9000’s position in world markets and the acceptance of such business excellence models as the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award criteria and the European Foundation for Quality Management’s Excellence Model, the future looks bright for today’s quality systems managers—as long as they prepare to be converted into business systems managers as they strive for continual improvement in business performance.

I invite other veterans of ASQ to contact me with their stories and views.

ASQ Senior Member
Dunfermline, Scotland

Speak Only When Spoken To During Audits

I just read “Improve Your Audit Interviews” (ASQ’s Quality Audit Division and J.P. Russell, p. 20, March 2006) for the second time, and one sentence jumped out: “After a short time, the interviewee should have mentioned a topic that is of interest to the auditor …”

I have been in quality since the early 1960s and have always been told you never offer anything to an auditor unless asked directly. No matter how proud you are of your work, your background or the process you’re working on, you may put your foot in your mouth, because one small thing may be incorrect or improper. You know Murphy’s law—if something can go wrong, it will.

Ferrotherm Corp.
Garfield Heights, OH

Editor’s Note: This letter generated substantial feedback on QP’s discussion board. Here are some of the responses:

I agree. When we had major customer or third party audits, I always held a short audit preparation meeting for all our employees.

I stressed to them that they should answer the question if they knew the answer and then stop talking. If they didn’t know the answer or were un-sure, they should say something such as “I am not involved with that,” or “I need to ask my supervisor about that.”

The risk of offering any additional information, even off-topic, is that an auditee may get into an area that is not his or her responsibility, or in which the auditee has limited knowledge. This can lead to an audit deficiency, even when it is not deserved.

A person might argue this is deceptive. In my opinion, it is not.


I agree the auditee should never volunteer information. The training I’ve participated in has always stressed the auditee make sure he or she understand the question and answer it to the best of his or her ability—or refer the auditor to a person who can.

There is nothing unethical about this, and it has nothing to do with hiding problems. It is primarily to ensure the auditor gets the information needed without creating confusion due to poor communication or introduction of extraneous issues.

It amazes me how many people feel they need to vent when they have an audience, even if they don’t really know what they are talking about. It also amazes me how many wildly different interpretations there are of words or phrases—two people can be using the same words but mean completely different things.


Sometimes it is not venting, but bragging, that needs to be curtailed. I have always been surprised to hear people tell an auditor how they circumvent the work instructions because they have a better way.

When people are confused by different interpretations of rules, standards and their wording, the W. Edwards Deming fan in me says top management did not do a good job training and orienting employees.

Also, much of the confusion is simply due to management’s not keeping all employees aware of the organization’s big picture. There are still many places in which production employees have no concept of the end product their components are used in—
and sometimes are not even aware of the next step in the production cycle.

I agree employees should be cautious in offering unsolicited information to outside auditors, but that does not prohibit them from asking auditors questions to clarify exactly what the auditor wants to know, especially if there is a language barrier.


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