Re: ISO9000 credibility

Subject: Re: ISO9000 credibility
From: "Walker, Arlen P" <Arlen -dot- P -dot- Walker -at- JCI -dot- COM>
Date: Mon, 1 Dec 1997 11:24:57 -0600

That all said, how does ISO9000 help produce quality art? After all
(speaking for the multitudes in the software industry), creation of
software is an art unto itself. You can't mechanize it, you can't
streamline it, you can't force it into a box.

I'm not convinced software is an art, at all. It used to be that bridge-
building was considered an art, that all forms of engineering were
considered an art. Anything we lack specific knowledge of at the moment is
considered an art.

But we'll leave that question aside, because it really isn't germane to the

Personally, I think you *can* apply ISO9000 to the creative process. An
underlying structure is essential for creativity to blossom. And wherever
there's structure, ISO9000 can apply. Company style guides, for a specific
TW example.

True coders (true documenters, or even all us engineers) do
their best work outside the process--indeed, they live outside the
process, and from that, the rest who don't have that artistry

This sounds a lot like "Real Programmers don't write to specs." It's bogus.
Professional programmers deliver a program that resembles the program
requested, or they go back to being amateurs. ISO9000 gives you a framework
to be sure the program delivered more than coincidentally resembles the
program requested, in addition to easing the maintenance burden.

What would ISO9000 do to a fertile environment such as that one?

Why would ISO9000 do anything "to" it? ISO9000 is documenting what you do
and doing what you document. How is that different from what IBM is doing?
They set up the environment, and I'll even bet they wrote down how they
going to set up the environment before they did it. I'll bet they could get
it certified in no time flat, if they haven't already.

You seem to think ISO9000 requires rigorous, lock-step marching. Well, it
does, but only for what is documented. The solution is simple. If you don't
want a specific procedure adhered to, then don't write it! ISO9000 doesn't
require you to give detailed instructions all the way down to how the
workers should tie their shoes every morning. What it *does* insist upon is
that if you write such a document, then all the workers' shoes have to
actually *be* tied the same way.

ISO9000 can be a real help to a business, not only in helping you produce
consistent goods, but in helping you find out just which rules and
procedures are necessary and which ones get in the way of getting the job
done. Sometimes the best thing you can do for a company is force them to
follow their own standards and procedures. It throws into sharp focus those
procedures which are completely outdated and which most workers have
to work around. And it shows you who "didn't get the memo" and is still
following them. In these cases especially, less is more.

And TW's are in a good position to help out in this effort. After all, who
knows better than we what procedures are in the manuals? We wrote the
furshlugginer things! It can also help us, because it forces us to be aware
that whatever we write will be followed to the letter, so we'd better be
sure we've got it right before we include it.

One statistic I heard some years back was that a company might spend
10 percent of its resources in ISO9000 compliance. That's 10 percent
of a company's resources diverted from producing a salable product.

There's a couple of problems there. The first is the money spent. From
I sit, that kind of expenditure is only necessary out of ignorance. True,
I've not seen a company that was 100% ready for certification right up
front. But the more you know about your processes, the easier and cheaper
it will be to get certified. When you don't know what you're doing, then
process can be expensive, because first you have to find out what you're
doing before you can document it. But that kind of ignorance about your own
business processes is already expensive.

Which segues nicely to the second problem. Quality doesn't cost money; it's
free. It's the lack of quality that costs money in warranty returns,
disgruntled customers, and scrapped production. Companies who have to spend
that kind of money on certification were probably already losing a lot of
money to poor quality, although, depending upon the level of ignorance,
they might not be aware of it.

Using ISO9000 as a tool, a business can reduce the costs caused by lack of
quality and more than recoup whatever they invested in certification. After
all, their biggest investment in certification was a one-time up-front
expense, while they savings they realize continue to pile up with each
production run (and with every new customer).

Sorry about the length. I'll shut up now.

Have fun,
Chief Managing Director In Charge, Department of Redundancy Department
DNRC 224

Arlen -dot- P -dot- Walker -at- JCI -dot- Com
In God we trust; all others must provide data.
Opinions expressed are mine and mine alone.
If JCI had an opinion on this, they'd hire someone else to deliver it., or

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