Can ISO 9000 Hinder Organization Learning/Innovation LO24261

From: Scott Simmerman (
Date: 03/28/00

Russ Russo in LO24250 said:

>The standard is a ten page, generic, very basic, vanilla quality
>management system. Using it for what it is will help any organization get
>started to develop a basic quality system. Expecting ISO to help a
>basically flawed organization or to work miracles is foolhardy.

As an old quality guy for many years, and having been chair of a service
quality association as well as our local chapter of ASQ, I partly agree
with Russ.

Quality frameworks can work wonders to generate alignment and consistency
of purpose and execution.

But I take issue with what I saw as an implication that they have no

Many of you know me for my Square Wheels cartoons. When I am presenting
on issues of quality, and with large organizations in particular, one of
the illustrations I show is called The Big Book of Wagon Pushing.

This is not a 10 page standard but a massive 3-ring binder full of

And it seems, based on the laughter of the audiences, that this is close
to their experience with ISO standards. Whole departments can be set up
to manage the ISO 9000 initiatives and to maintain the books of policies,
procedures, and practices.

Thus, the bureaucracies can often spring from well-intentioned
documentation practices into a system that can make innovation and change
a highly political and manage-the-minutae-magnificantly process. Small
innovations are difficult to implement due to the sheer multiplicity of

And, in addition to The Big Book of Wagon Pushing, we must of course have
the corresponding volume, The Big Book of Wagon Pulling, a guide for

There is nothing wrong with standards. But the systems must also be
balanced to allow continuous continuous improvement.


For the FUN of It!

Scott J. Simmerman, Ph.D. Performance Management Company - 800-659-1466

Designer of Square Wheels training tools and other team products <>

"The fog of confusion floated around their wagon like wool on a sheep."

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