Mailbag:
Who's the Enemy?

May 5, 2003
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Dear Editor,

I read your recent editorial with much interest, since I have been battling in the ISO trenches for about 10 years now. I have noticed one thing about the "enemy" in all this, and to paraphrase the cartoon strip "Pogo," it is us!

If there has been one constant complaint about ISO 9000 though the years, it is the tired refrain about drowning in the waves of paperwork that implementation of the standard has forced us to create. While attempting to put in place and implement those elements of a good quality system (things we arguably should have been doing anyway) many of us somehow managed to translate the requirement for adequate documentation into documenting everything from complicated test procedures to sharpening pencils. It didn't have to happen that way.

In my capacity as a quality professional (I'm also a lead auditor, and Chair of the Syracuse Section of ASQ) I've been exposed to many company ISO systems. I'm sure I'm not alone in this, but I've seen the 200-page quality manual, the training classes on the most mundane and simplistic of procedures, overwritten procedures, unnecessary procedures and audits that were a mile wide and an inch deep. The standard requires none of this, and good auditors will recognize that. We have nobody but ourselves to blame. We once had a manager at our company circulate a 40-page procedure on component obsolescence. I returned my red-lined copy to him, and remarked that the main problem was that it was just too darn long. He came up with a novel solution. He edited his document down to 20 pages or so by decreasing the font size! As humorist Dave Barry says, "I am not making this up." We have to recognize the certificate on the wall for what it is -- not the end of a registration process, but the beginning of an improvement process. I think education is the key. By that, I don't mean simply training your internal auditors.

We have to recognize what the standard was created to facilitate in the first place, and spread the word. Unfortunately, we still can't proceduralize common sense.

Bill Busher
Quality Systems Engineer
Inficon Inc.
Chair, Syracuse (NY) Section, ASQ

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