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This write-up is a personal opinion based on my own experiences. If you own a GOOD company that has got these certifications, my advice is: Don't take the hump! Instead, take the certificate and tear it up!

ISO9002 accreditation
and BS5750 - You might imagine that to see that emblazoned on a company means it is good. NOT SO! In fact, if I see a company advertising "We are ISO9002 accredited" I consider almost a mark of SHAME.

Now, let's get a few things straight before I explain why this is.

Now, here's what's wrong with ISO9002 (BS5750):

It is not a measure of a good business. It is a measure of sticking to things BY THE BOOK. Admittedly the companies themselves can write the book, but once written it's very expensive to alter it, and they have to STICK TO THE BOOK. This makes it a rule-based system rather than an good-sense based system. It stifles any spark of initiative and innovation which gives class and star quality.

The whole affair of applying and doing all the paperwork and bureaucracy is VERY EXPENSIVE and involves paying a lot of people a lot of money to do a lot of boring work and/or not a lot of work. This fact alone excludes most small businesses, ie the type of companies that really are a good idea and are the sort of people you SHOULD be doing business with!

The initial idea behind BS5750 / ISO9002 was to accredit companies who were of a "quality". Now it's all too easy to assume that works. But what happens is that it in effect results in being DOWN TO a specified level of quality. The result is BOG-STANDARD rather than STAR QUALITY.

This works perfectly ok for some things. I mean, if you wanted to buy a piece of rope, and you wanted to make sure it wasn't "money for old rope", and the important thing was it had to be possible to hang a 1 ton weight on it, then if you bought an ISO9002 standard piece of rope, you could be absolutely assured that someone somewhere would have at some time hung a ton and a half on that piece of rope and it would definitely not have broken. (And they'd have written a nice neat report about it). So, great for things that are measurable objectively!

But supposing, for the sake of discussion, that you went to commission a POET to write some quality poetry, and you selected a poet who was "ISO9002 accredited", you'd be paying them PER-VERSE, so to speak, and they'd be guaranteed to churn out stuff as per some predefined rate of writing per hour, and all the spelling would have been looked up properly in a school dictionary. However, the resulting quality of the artistic work would be BOG-STANDARD and probably lack any spark of brilliance or excellence of lyrical masterpiece. Plus, most of the most startlingly powerful poets would scorn such a standardised way of working, because the artistic temperament has an aversion to conformity, so you'd be missing out on the best people for the job!

Most classes of business are inbetween these extremes and have a mixture of the aspects of these two aforementioned examples. As a result, the types of companies that are BS5750 certified tend to be good on the things that can be put to the test, and not very good on things where a bit of common-sense or star quality is required.

The whole philosophy of ISO9002 / BS5750 discourages any initiative and "THINKING OUTSIDE THE BOX". Also, because of complacency and reliance on the rule-based system, any unusual circumstance or situation leaves the staff of companies looking like rabbits in the car headlights when something unexpected crops up. It's like relying on a boat being unsinkable and then finding it has insufficient lifeboats. I stayed at a posh hotel which had ISO9002, and yes, it was on the surface all quite nice. But ask about any special dietary requirements, and there was a cluelessness and a disbelief. Later when the fire alarm went off in the middle of the night, although all the fire safety equipment was undoubtedly safety-checked and recorded as acceptable and all the sirens rated at loud enough correct decibel levels, many of the staff had no idea how to deal with people, or to turn off the alarms, or to do sensible things generally. And they ignored good commonsense. Strict compliance with the rules was actually putting people's lives at risk.

Even in lines of business where you might think that a by-the-rules standardisation would be good, such as where the product is technological, it often fails miserably to deliver anything First Class. Although, it will be guaranteed to produce something guaranteed to be second class, and no worse. If that's what you want, well, maybe it's ok. But let's suppose you want to buy the ultimate top-of-the-range computer. The sort of places that will be ISO9002 / BS5750 will have a required depth of carpet pile to a defined level, and will have salesmen who wear conformist suits of a required 1950s / 1980s style, and the computers will all be electrically safe. But if you want a computer with some power, style, and character, and the latest LINUX operating system and you want to be able to quiz some boffins about how to write computer programs and to do things YOU want to do rather than do things that are just mundane, then forget ISO9002 ! You go to a place that actually knows what they are talking about, the sort of place where there's junk all over the place and computers being dismantled and assembled right in front of the customers! No way would a proper computer shop like that have ISO9002 , because it goes against the grain for anyone with any individuality about them!

If you work for a company that has too many rules, whether because they've gone for ISO9002 , BS5750, or just because they've got an antiquated way of working, remember that I'm not knocking YOU here. You probably do your best, and are exasperated at the way your employers stifle your ingenuity and cramp your style.

And if you OWN a business that is ISO9002 / BS5750, try not to be too offended. I'm talking GENERAL CASE here, and you're company is probably one of the good companies that manages to do a good job DESPITE having Albatross9002 around its neck. But you don't HAVE to continue to suffer it. I have heard you can have the certification removed. It is quite painless. Plus, you may be able to get some free publicity in the news media by calling for a grand public certificate-burning ceremony. Most of your customers will respect you for it, because you are proving that your are good anyway, in your own right, and are pro-individuality, and do not need a certificate to prove you are just "standard".

Plus, I'm not suggesting boycotting companies that have got ISO9002 / BS5750, I'm just pointing out what happens, and advising that you make your own mind up. And, owners of companies who would like to tell me that they are good even though they've got these things, talk to me! If you can show me you're the exception, not the rule, let me know and I'll most likely give you a free advertisement (and link) from a business category page on my site!

I believe in good practice, good quality, good customer service, and good value for money. I believe that for a business, the type of accolade worth having is customer commendation. Customers who speak well of a business are the true certification body.

You don't have to agree with me. You decide for yourself what you think. You might think ISO9002 or ISO9000:2000 is the best thing since standardisation of thickness of sliced bread! Then again, you might feel that innovation is born of individuality. Maybe you have experiences that back this theory up. I'm doing well, and I can change my working methods, opinions, websites, etc because I live by my own rules and not "by the book"!A straight banana - normally banned by bureaucracy

Talking about A BOOK, there's a book about BS5750 available at Xyroth's site. See BS5750 Quality Systems Handbook by David Hoyle

Meanwhile, this write-up at Zyra's site has been read by many people, and it has now been responded to by a few. So now you can read an account by someone who has had first-hand experience of BS5750, and I think this makes interesting reading. Plus, ISO9002 - a small company speaks out is a classic comment which typifies the feelings of a great many free thinking entrepreneurs. Also see Straight Bananas which were banned by European bureaucracy.