The one useful thing I learnt from ISO9001

Just one.
On the week long “boot camp” training course to train to be a lead auditor for ISO, at a lovely hotel with some shady looking oil engineers, a pair of really annoying Rolls Royce supplier auditors and a kind Danish man who worked for an industrial refrigeration company. None of this relevant.

The trainer said that when on an audit the best place to look for problems wasn’t to audit a process, but to check what happened between processes.
Where one documented process led onto another documented process, don’t look first at either. Look at the undocumented blank space between them as that is where the problems will be. That caught my attention.
Blank spaces between processes! How can this be? “Undocumented!” thought my ISO brain to itself. “Clearly dangerous.”.
Now I know why the blank space is dangerous, and it’s not because it is undocumented. Where there are two processes and the two are not designed as part of a coherent system with one collective purpose with staff working together to achieve that purpose, then that blank space will be full of dirty work wrongly being handed on, work lying in piles waiting for Hell to freeze over, all sorts of everything.

If there are blank spaces between processes you don’t have a system, a set of activities connected in an organised way to achieve a purpose.

If there are blank spaces between processes you have a broken uncoordinated and unconnected system. It is broken because it is not the processes that are the important thing, it is how the processes work together to achieve the purpose of the system. If they don’t work together, it doesn’t matter how well they work alone.

This idea that it is the performance of the whole system that matters not the performance of the individual component got me interested in this thing I had been hearing abut with the opaque name of “systems thinking”, I started learning about why ISO9001 and a whole bunch of other thinking is quite frankly WRONG and for that reason….

ISO9001 rules!

Keep systems thinking and have a lovely day!

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