Mission : compliance or quality?

I was recently reading a magazine on quality management. As of this writing, the new ISO9001:2015 is about to be realized to the world.

Some people are excited : 

It has been 7 years since the last version and the world has changed tremendously in this period. They can’t wait to see how the new norm will challenge them to move forward.

Some people are worried : 

It has been 7 years since the last version and the world has changed tremendously in this period. They fear their business will have to adapt at great cost to the new requirements.

Same world.

Same rules.

Different missions.

Different perspectives.

I was strucked at how different people see their business mission. The mission is the reason why theses businesses were started in the first place. The problem is, they were founded too many years ago.

Too many means decades ago in some cases.

Too many means 2 years ago in some others.

Time is relative. Einstein demonstrated that a century ago.

What happened in the time between the creation of a business and now will depend on how the mind set has evolved due to environmental constraints.

Not only the “green” stuff but mainly the green stuff, i.e. dollars.

Any entrepreneur will tell you : the raison d’être, the rational, the drive behind the creation of their project was not money. Never.

Money is always a reward by product of achieving your goal, your business’ mission, be it an excellent product or service.

THIS drove the founders to push forward.

THIS excited partners and associates to invest time and money in this business.

And when money comes in, as it must, the elation of success is the reward.

But the elation does not last. Even when money keeps pouring in.

The mission sustains the business as long as long as it stays true.

The budget, the quarterly bonuses, the metrics, the numbers….those do not sustain a business in the long run.

And neither does compliance to requirements.

Compliance to requirements is a natural tendency for a lot of industries to stay in business. But if the mission is clear, compliance to any requirement will become natural and almost effortless IF, and only IF those requirements do not bend the course, do not alter the mission.

I have seen too many companies trying to be compliant only to gain market shares. They do not believe in the requirement but only in the banner that proudly claims “We are ISO 9001” “We are HACCP “ or whatever other popular and pride inducing management fad.

These banners are shallow.

And so is the apparent compliance behind the wall that holds the banner.

I remember when I was a rookie training manager in the early 2000’s and we were mandated to establish a training system in a large manufacturing plant (1300 employees). We analyzed the situation, interviewed a lot a people, tried a few things, designed a system, wrote procedures and forms and tried some more things and processes for almost 2 years.

At that time, we requested an audit to become certified by the SOFEDUC, a Quebec version of IACET, the International Association for Continuing Education and Training.

The visit was successful and we received the certification. Nothing more to implement. Nothing to change. The “system” was compliant.

The mission was to design a training system that worked.

The mission had never been to get that certification. This came after. Almost an afterthought.

We never planned to stop improving either ! We kept the momentum going until the plant management team clearly indicated that we had done enough. No need to improve anything from now on.

But this stagnant process was our death warrant.

Oh, the system was still compliant !

Everything worked. And kept working.

For a while.

Then, it slowly went downhill.

No system will ever stay compliant by simply conforming to a rule, a regulation or a norm.

Emile Durkheim comes to mind (again!)

When mores are sufficient, laws are unnecessary

When mores are insufficient, laws are unenforceable.

Mores, culture, mission….the real deep stuff.

Dan Pink, in his excellent book, Drive, talks about the components of motivation



and Purpose

I call this the MAP. And such a MAP is useless without a compass, the mission.

Not the rules and regulations. These are only guides to comply to in order to reach the goal.

ISO 9001:2015 is out.


ISO has always been there to inter-relate the needs of the customers, the stakeholders (not only share holders but employees too!) and the regulations. The holy trinity of compliance supports the true purpose of the entreprise/organization.

Oh, but, did you forget about this..the true purpose of your organization ?

Is your mission compliance or quality ?

Why are you in business ? What is your role in this organization?

Think hard before reading the updated ISO9001. Process approach, risk management, increased management accountability, proof of competence and human errors are but a few of the changes included in the new version.

Think hard before reading the updated ISO9001.

This should be an enlightening experience.

Compliance or quality ?

I will always lean towards the latter.

And you?


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