ISO & Quality

We are undergoing our ISO 9001:2000 audit for the next two days here at work. This is always a thrilling and joyous experience. It's right up there with a design verification from one of the major oil companies for excitement. However, we want to maintain our reputation for quality, so we smile and nod at the appropriate times and hide our mistakes.

Let me just point out the ugly truth that gets hidden behind the smoke and mirrors: ISO is not about building a quality product. ISO is about documenting your process sufficiently to meet accreditation standards.

Now, I'll be the first to admit that there are aspects to the ISO standards that will nudge you towards the direction of quality if you're so inclined. If you're not so inclined, it's a paper drill. You can make the biggest malfunctioning pile of crap known to man and be ISO certified. All you have to do is document the process used to make the junk, and use that process consistently.

Of course, my part of the audit is even funnier from a practical standpoint. The engineering group has to follow the processes laid out in the manual. But wait! Ask yourself the obvious question! Who writes the manual? Well, the engineering portion is written by... the engineering group. So we're being tested on our ability to write down what we do. What's even funnier is that if a truly unbiased observer came in, we would probably fail. We have revised the process considerably without changing the manual. Oops. Good thing the auditors are only spending an hour and a half with us.


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