A Cartoonist’s perspective of ISO Management System Certification Standards

The standard, in its most common form, is defined as norm, convention, requirements. In essence, these are mutually agreed way(s) of doing something. As such, the standards would cover any activity under the sun, provided the concerned interested parties agree to a way of doing that thing.

The standards can be categorized into 4 major types:

    1. Fundamental standards – which concern terminology, conventions, signs and symbols, etc.;
    2. Test methods and analysis standards – which measure characteristics such as temperature and chemical composition;
    3. Specification standards – which define characteristics of a product (product standards), or a service (service activities standards) and their performance thresholds such as fitness for use, interface and interoperability, health and safety, environmental protection, etc.;
    4. Organization standards – which describe the functions and relationships of a company, as well as elements such as quality management and assurance, maintenance, value analysis, logistics, project or system management, production management, etc.

For the subject of today’s article, we have confined our discussions to the technical standards, in general, and Management System Certification (MSC) standards published by ISO, in particular. We have also consciously stayed away from explaining the subject specific terminology, since we intend to address the article to non-ISO–MSC- standards practicing people as well.

The trigger for compiling the cartoons on ISO MSC is the  World Standards Day  – Each year on 14 October, the members of the IEC, ISO and ITU celebrate World Standards Day, which is a means of paying tribute to the collaborative efforts of thousands of experts worldwide who develop the voluntary technical agreements that are published as International Standards.

Every year a very relevant theme is selected around which the celebrations of Day are planned.  The theme for World Standards Day 2019 is Video standards create a global stage – The video compression algorithms standardized in collaboration by IEC, ISO and ITU have been honored with two Primetime Emmy Awards, recognizing that these standards are central to industry’s ability to meet rising demand for video, one of the most bandwidth-intensive applications running over global networks.

International Standards meet industry demand for powerful compression capabilities. They also enable smooth transitions to the next generation of video compression technology, helping industry to maximize return on each wave of investment.

Having standards recognized and respected all over the world means that video encoded on one device can be decoded by another, regardless of the device being used. This introduces economies of scale that help to grow the market, giving innovators the confidence to invest in new video applications and services.

To create the innovations of today and tomorrow we have to work together, but first we need to understand each other. To exchange knowledge, to make things compatible, ISO standards are the solid base, the common language that humanity can rely on. (EN, ES, FR, DA subtitles)[1]

ISO has published around 22812 International Standards on wide ranging industries and subjects.

With so much of the background information, we will now gradually switch over to our core topic.

Cartoon, being a medium to communicate in a humorously graphical art form, this tool is now very systematically and highly professionally is used to promote and popularize ISO standards .

 

One of the cartoonists who do such graphics for ISO, Cartoonist Alexane. Rosa, tells: “With a little imagination and humour, the human dimension of technical standards can usually be communicated through cartoons and colourful graphics.”

The cartoon graphics are also very effectively used as training aids for easily explaining the contents of the standard as well as an aid-de-memory for maintain that understanding for a longer time.

Source credit: ISO Training Institute

These graphical curation-oriented tools are also used to convey the practical benefits of implementing the ISO standards in the organization.

The following graphic is used to covey the concept – “New standards become new ideas”. It graphically conveys what is textually conveyed as “Once we have found new ways of doing things, we incorporate them in our Quality Systems. ISO 9001 was the foundation, now we start to build the house.’

Source credit © Richard Duszczak

And now we take up the cartons that inherently have a satire embedded into the message it conveys. The message may be a soft satire or a pithy punch, but in the ultimate analysis, it tells ISO-MSC practicing professionals what to-do and, generally, what not-to-do.

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Here a famous fable of an elephant and five blind man is used as a metaphor. This picture is used to convey that different people will look at the standard in their own -subjective-way. It is also used convey that different people in an organization will have different perceptions of risks and opportunities that organization needs to address at any given time.

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As is the general prevailing practice, every country has its own standard, and some times several industries, and several organizations in an industry will have their own standards.

Source credit: https://xkcd.com/927/

This is the genesis of ISO coming into existence, to act as a central, international confederation that builds and publishes common, universally applicable, international, standards.

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Many professionals (mistakenly, of course) treat the standard as a gospel!

Source credit: ISO Standards – The backlash Martin Wakeman

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One major intent of the way the international standards are written is to present the content of the standard in as easy as possible manner to understand, leave the minimum possible room for too many possible alternative interpretations. But, by the time that gets explained and / or and implemented by The Experts, it becomes more and more garbled.

Source credit: Summarized ISO Standards = Levi Roundy

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The most telling satirist commentary comes from the Dilbert (which incidentally is a subject that can be taken up for an independent, full-scale, discussion). The following strips are self-explained punches:

source: http://dilbert.com/strips/comic/1996-10-04/)

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As the years of implementation of the standard build on, the practice of application of the core principals of the standard become more cliched, which then (so unfortunately) gets demonstrated as the ‘Philosophy of BIG corporations’.

Source credit: gnurf

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The organizations associated with practice of implementing, auditing or certifying the management system standards must keep questioning about the outcomes of application of management systems – . “Is certification benefiting the operation of business operators?” “Isn’t certification processes obstructing the real ISO mission? …In other words, unless it is a system to improve and create sustained success for your business, management system is worthless.

This positive attitude, performance oriented and people centric guideline sparked the revised design of new structure of the ISO standards to come up for revision or being published first time after 2012. The new High Level Structure now seeks to make the standards proactive, responsive and wider-eyed than was the case of the standards designed before.

Before 2012:

Expected post-2012

Source credit: https://www.enms-doc.com/index31.html

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As we reach the celebrations of Deepawali, I take this opportunity to wish a bon voyage to the ISO MSC fraternity in their search for the sustained success of the organization by implementing the standards in their true spirit….

[1] Dare to dream BIG: Standards empower innovators

 

Published by

ASHOK M VAISHNAV

In July 2011, I opted to retire from my active career as a practicing management professional. In the 38 years that I pursued this career, I had opportunity to work in diverse capacities, in small-to-medium-to-large engineering companies. Whether I was setting up Greenfield projects or Brownfield projects, nurturing the new start-ups or accelerating the stabilized unit to a next phase growth, I had many more occasions to take the paths uncharted. The life then was so challenging! One of the biggest casualty in that phase was my disregards towards my hobbies - Be with The Family, Enjoy Music form Films of 1940s to mid-1970s period, write on whatever I liked to read, pursue amateur photography and indulge in solving the chess problems. So I commenced my Second Innings to focus on this area of my life as the primary occupation. At the end of four years, I am now quite a regular blogger. I have been able to build a few very strong pen-relationships. I maintain contact with 38-years of my First Innings as freelance trainer and process facilitator. And yet, The woods are lovely, dark and deep. But I have promises to keep, And miles to go before I sleep, And miles to go before I sleep.

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