The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) was formed in 1946 by a small group of people with a big idea – to standardize the world. That is, get nations worldwide to participate and, in some cases, contribute to a generally accepted course of business and stakeholders of every variety in everyplace are more prosperous. Standardization is a means by which businesses in any country are afforded the opportunity to participate in global commerce without an unfair advantage. A seemingly tall order, but seemingly attainable since in the approximate 85 years since its inception, the ISO which began with the support of 25 countries, currently has the support of 162 nations. Clearly, the idea was a welcome one.
The appeal of the ISO may be that it not only offers a recommended guideline for business ventures to follow towards realizing a higher profit but included in the ISO are standards to positively impact the social benefits within the ecology of lucrative commerce. ISO’s theory is that with quality assurance must come employees, vendors, community, and environmental welfare. ISO maintains that quality by constantly reviewing, updating and/or adding standards to avoid them becoming outdated or irrelevant. To that end, the ISO offers a more efficient, safer and cleaner production process; facilitates fair trade; provides a basis for countries to follow when implementing local regulations; networks countries; protects consumers; and troubleshoots common business problems. The benefits to companies around the world can almost be summed up in three words: efficiency, productivity, and marketability.
The ISO 9000 entitled “Quality Management” provides specific guidelines to follow ensuring products and services meet the global needs. Among other things, ISO 9000 sets forth a total quality management system; the concepts behind the system; improving the system; and how to audit that system (International Organization of Standardization, 2014). Since its inception in 1986 through 2002, approximately 400,000 firms from 150 countries had implemented ISO 9000 standards (Corbett, 2002). That is not to say there are no critics of the ISO 9000. However, those critics were hard-pressed to prove their accusations and as such lacked credibility. Most literature revolves around success stories and statistics. The ISO 9000 may not boost the bottom line as exponentially as business owners would like, but inflated expectations may have something to do with that. Nevertheless, the consensus among business owners is that the ISO 9000 does offer increased access to different markets and a solid foundation upon which to network with other businesses – both of which promote goodwill and positive stakeholder relationships (Corbett, 2002).
The ISO 9000 has not been substantially revised since 2000, with some minor revisions to its included subsections 2004 and 2008. Therefore, true to form, the ISO is working on a major ISO 9000 overhaul expected to be released in 2015. In 2000, the standard was majorly changed in that instead of it being geared towards manufacturing it was revised to be more industry nonspecific (International Organization of Standardization, 2014). In addition, ISO 9000 was changed to group sections of it to form a process rather than just a string of clauses making it less disjointed (International Organization of Standardization, 2014). Finally, ISO 9000 did away with a substantial amount of required documentation that the previous version had included (International Trade Centre, 2001).
In 2015, ISO 9000 will again undergo some serious revisions taking into consideration technological advances, management styles, and the overall environment of quality management systems as they operate today. Clearly, this is only based upon the draft currently being considered for approval and until ISO 9000 2015 is released, the extent of the overhaul is unknown.
Nevertheless, it appears that the ISO, along with its standards, is here to stay. Overall reception and adoption of the ISO is positive and steadily climbing every day. It appears that little committee with a big idea has successfully brought and continues bringing the businesses of the world closer together.
Corbett, C. J. (2002). Global survey on ISO 9000 and ISO 14000: Summary of findings. Los Angeles: The Anderson School at UCLA.
International Organization of Standardization. (2014, March 21). ISO 9000 - Quality Management. Retrieved from iso.org: http://www.iso.org/iso/home/standards/management-standards/iso_9000.htm
International Trade Centre. (2001). An introduction to ISO 9000:2000. Geneva: International Trade Centre.