ISO & TQM are not the same


Clarity of ISO hype:

ISO came in with much fanfare and expectation and by now many companies have experienced the thrill of certification and the frustrations of expectations that did not fructify. ISO clauses were initially formulated as a set of systems that protect the purchaser and guarantee to some degree, reduction in inspection at the customer’s end.

In India, in the initial stages, the ISO certification was seen more as a passport to exports and the benefits of export earnings. Some companies have gone just short of purchasing a certification. There are however a few, who seriously thought that the ISO certificate would give them the edge for Quality, part from providing a banner for exports. Many of these companies have also been frustrated.

One CEO said that you can almost certify a manufacturer who claims to make life jackets from concrete, as long as the jackets are made as per the documented procedures. Such a remark from a CEO heading an organization reputed for Quality reflects the reality of the situation which most ISO certified companies go through.

It is quite evident that, while ISO is genuinely helpful to those companies that have been weak on systems orientation, it does not necessarily help, in bringing out cheaper or superior products and services.

The varying standards of certification bodies are also becoming more and more evident, and we have come across cases where even after certification, a company cannot claim to have even the rudimentary customer complaints records in place.

Companies which have achieved certification are focusing on post-certification audits, and non-conformities, where the documentation takes an upper hand on the usefulness and improvement of the system, defeating the very purpose of the certification.

ISO is not an end to continuous improvements:

Total Quality assumes that improvements are the core building blocks of a dynamic customer oriented organization and all activities in its implementation are designed to create such improvements on a mass scale. Improvements, by their nature, have a direct impact of modifying and simplifying the existing system. An improvement that does not impact a system positively cannot be termed as an improvement The ISO certificate can only be meaningful if there is a constant change taking place in the systems, that were approved at the time of certification, at a fast pace. The tendency, however, is to hold onto the old systems and follow them as being meaningful.

ISO and problem solving:

ISO combined with problem solving, becomes a dynamic tool. Corporations have yet to realize that there is a dynamic relation between Total Quality implementation and the systems evolved under ISO. While many companies understand that changes do need to take place, they are not aware of how to go about it.

In Total Quality implementation we follow the Quality Control steps as the basis for problem solving. One of the steps of the QC indicates the necessity of standardizing the procedures after any improvement. The standardization of these procedures implies that old procedures have to be jettisoned and replaced by those written down as part of the problem solving process.

Our organizations are inherently weak in standardization procedures, s our cultures are till person dependent. Many good systems o the past have been carried way by those who have resigned, retired, or left, thereby putting a block on the organizational learning process. It is not infrequently heard “we used to do this before,� after new procedures have been set down though problem solving processes.

We have come to a stage now where we cannot relearn what has already been learnt before for there is a genuine constraint on companies to show superior performance in the market place.

It is this context we stress on the necessity for strict documentation. Many companies and perhaps even consultants, feel that too much documentation should be avoided if the real benefits of Total Quality are to be seen. The improvements under Cross-Functional teams problem solving are standardized, as are those under departmental goals. Similarly every problem will have to pass through the process of standardization if it is to be meaningful for continuous improvement the existing systems certified under ISO becomes a vibrant and dynamic document. In the case of Internal Customer Interfaces, actions taken after agreement between departments and which have been implemented are also converted into departmental procedures, so that the problems do not recur.