Dear Editor,

I read the October and November 2002, “Probing the Limits.”

One question to ask is, “What existed prior to ISO?” Some countries had civilian equivalents to this system. There were also military equivalents. Some industries had their own self-imposed or agency-imposed systems. Most countries had no national civilian quality systems. Who imposed what on whom was a question of who was paying. However, everybody wanted quality.

Another question is, “Who defines the quality activities of quality managers and engineers?” ASQ does a terrific job, however its mandate is essentially educational. Its English-only documentation has resulted in a predominately English-speaking only membership. Non-English speaking quality societies exist, however, they don’t have a global reach or mandate.

Finally, like many management positions, there are few laws governing what constitutes a good quality manager. I would guess an engineering degree from a chartered university and a membership in an engineering professional association is a start. One could tack on some certifications such as CQE, CQMgr and so on. What about quality professionals with no credentials? They have rights. What about companies that rotate their management? One day you’re a marketing manager the next day a quality manager. Just like science is what scientists do: quality is what accredited quality professionals do.

The old ISO mantra still stands: universality and flexibility. It is a big world out there. ISO and its mandate may be a headache for many people, but not for all. We must remember that not all ISO auditors and audits are perfect, but the trick is to be effective. A combination of knowledge, tact and good public relations can go a long way in curing headaches.