History of management system standards


Welcome to this blog in which analyses the management system standards and their requirements.


Management systems based on standards have been revolutionizing, for nearly sixty years, the way in which we visualize the productive, reliability and security schemes of all types of organizations. Today we have a great diversity of management system standards; so many, that it is already difficult to keep up with this type of activity.


For most young people who have joined productive activities in the last years, it may seem that talking about quality, environmental, occupational health and safety, or food safety  management systems, among many others, it is somehow an established and mature scheme. However it is unthinkable, given the great development we have had in this field that three and a half decades ago practically nobody knew, in Mexico, Latin America and many other countries around the world, what a quality management system wasISO (International Organization for Standardization) had just published their ISO 9000 standards, the only ones that existed at international level on quality management systems, and practically there was no participation of organizations from these countries during their early development. Nowadays, millions of people in the world, including of course from those countries, perform their daily activities in compliance with some management system standard, and even further, it is now common talking of and using integrated management systems, in order to meet the requirements of more than one standard of this kind.




It seems somehow simple, but today we have around 81 international standards on management systems, and approximately 45 of them establish requirements and, for this reason, are certifiable. These standards are identified by ISO itself as Type A standards.




I know that for many people, reading o talking about history is somewhat boring, but for me it is always important and interesting to know where we came from and where we have already passed, and in the case of some knowledge or technical advances, knowing their development helps us to understand better their concepts. In the case of management systems based on standards, I am convinced that we may know their history, and if any, some of their stories, referring to stories or experiences of people who participated in some way in certain stages of that development, will help us to better understand the importance of these schemes, their concepts and normative elements, the impact on organizations, the true importance of establishing, implementing, maintaining and certifying / registering a management system, in a proper way.


In this regard, I want to comment about the history of quality management systems development and their use as a standard, since it was the latter, which gave us a stepping stone and a guideline for its extensive use throughout the world, as well as the basis for the development of the other management system standards that we currently have, and others that could come in the near future.


Standards based management systems have had an impressive growth in recent years. When the first standards of this type were developed, at international level, which were those of ISO 9000 family, not many years ago, in the late eighties in the last century (they were issued by the ISO in their first version in March of 1987), generated a revolution in the world of standards, as they established a new aspect of standardization, that of management systems. If we consider that standardization has been carried out, with the support of science, for almost two centuries, and that there is evidence of empirical  standardization activities of several thousand years ago, the knowledge and interest that this field of standardization has generated in forty years, involving millions of organizations and tens of millions of people around the world, it is truly impressive.


Within this type of management system standards, those known as ISO 9000 for quality management are included, which as I mentioned previously were the first to be issued under this concept, followed by ISO 14000 for environmental management, ISO 20000 for technology of informationISO 22000 for food safety, and so on, among which are standards of terminology, guidelines, and those that generate more interest, because they are the ones that establish requirements for those management systems, which identify the minimum objective elements for the appropriate application of said systems, in addition to allowing certification/ registration of these systems in organizations. A common characteristic that these standards have is that of being generic, that is, they can be applied by any type of organization, as they could be of private, public or social sectors, of any size and independent of the type of activities or corresponding industrial or productive sector. Although it is also important to consider that there are still other standards, derived from some of these already mentioned, but that apply in a limited way to some particular sector, when there have particular technical or methodological particularities.


Nowadays, ISO standards are mentioned about in a common way in all the world, however, most of people who refer to these standards have learned about the existence of this International Organization for Standardization, better known by name short of ISO, for having been the publisher of the management system standards, mainly those of quality (ISO 9000), for being the oldest and most applicable, not knowing that it is an organization that began its activities in 1947 and that my country Mexico, as a particular example, was one of its  founding members and that to date it has issued more than 19,500 international standards, in addition to other international  standards  bodies  such  as International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC),  which  was  the  first of these organizations in being founded, the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) or the Codex Alimentarius Commission (CAC), each with its specific fields of activities. Three of these bodies, ISOIEC and ITU are non-governmental organizations, and the CAC is a governmental one, as a joint Program of The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO).


By the way, some curious thing about ISO is that this short name is not an acronym for the name of this organization in English or French languages, as is customary in almost all international  organizations. From these acronyms (IOS, IOFS or OIN), the name of ISO was chosen by a play on words, from the Greek term "isos" which in that language means "equal"  and it  was considered  that ISO  would be a name more related to objectives of  standardization.


The apparent story of how the first management system standards were developed, which, as I already mentioned, were the quality ones, and that it was the British Institute of Standards (BSI) which developed and published the British National Standard BS 5750 of quality management in 1979, hence promoting it to ISO as an international standard, the first of which was first issued, as I mentioned before, in 1987. However, the development of this series of standards was a bit more complex. I do not intend to downplay this institute, which has shown strong global leadership in the field of standardization for many decades, nor detract from the development of these standards. It is a fact that the BSI was the first institution that published this standard in a national level, and that from there it was projected as an international standard, but as far I know, it was not the one that initially developed these concepts. If you think about of the content of this BS 5750 standard  or ISO 9000, in terms of its objective, scope, how were established its requirements and tools for the design and implementation of this kind of management systems, and not even with the complexity it now has, but in the way much simpler in that it was originally published, it would be difficult to think that it arose spontaneously due to an epiphany of someone sitting at a desk, since it was a huge revolution within the common  standardization  schemes at that time.


If we think that for many decades the development of standards focused particularly on product characteristics, or aspects related to products, whether it´s scope was on terminology, codes, materials, test methods, and even some processes standards, but only when they needed certain conditions required to achieve the characteristics expected by some products, as in the case of pressure vessels; it is difficult to imagine a standards technician in those years that he could have said, only because it had occurred to him during a meditation session, or in his nap: "Now we are going to develop standards with  requirements for organizations, instead of requirements for their products." Of course it was a longer and much more complex process, in which many people participated over several decades.


I could say that this type of standards is a natural part of the evolutionary process of  standardization activity, but even so, a great dose of creativity and analytical capacity of those who participated in this development should be required. From the concepts of scientific administration, developed for Frederick Taylor and Henri Fayol, at the end of the 19th century, they generated a growing interest in companies to be more productive and efficient, through better product designs, better process definition, establishment of better working methods, preparation of documented supports for both staff and management, as manuals and procedures, among other improvements that were implemented by many companies.


The developers of quality management concepts


From the third decade of the twentieth century, in the twenties, began to arrive the great developers of quality concepts, such as Walter A. Shewhart, William Edwards Deming, Joseph M. Juran, and several years after those, Kaoru Ishikawa, Phillip Crosby, Armand Feigembaum and several others, who consistently highlighted the relevance of both statistical quality control and that the entire  organization, based on management, should be oriented to prevent failures, not just control them.


As a small tribute to the main developers of quality management concepts, I present, in a much summarized way, what were the main elements these people contributed to these quality schemes.


             Walter Andrew Shewhart (1891-1967)


He introduced the concept of statistical quality control, as well as the conceptual development of the PHVA Cycle (Plan-Do-Verify-Act), the basis of quality management.




Dr. William Edwards Deming (1900-1993)


His philosophy was based on discovering improvements in the quality of products and services. He said that higher quality had lower costs and greater productivity was achieved.


The basis of his philosophy was structured by the following aspects:

  • Discover improvements: Products / Services.
  • Reduce uncertainty and variability in processes.
  • In order to avoid variations, he proposed the use of the cycle developed by Shewhart.
  • The management is responsible for quality improvement.


The Deming Cycle is a methodology of improvements. It was known as the Shewhart Cycle in honor of its founder, but in 1980, as far as I now, people in Japan changed it to the name of Deming Cycle, that now is known as PDCA Cycle.


This cycle is structured in four aspects to be carried out:

  • Plan: Set goals and method to achieve them, what to do? How to do?
  • Do: Generation of Products / Services, provide training, do the planned.
  • Check: Performance Evaluation.
  • Act: Corrective and preventive actions. How to improve next time?


He proposed 14 principles of quality management.



Joseph Moses Juran (1904-2008)


Among his main contributions we have the following:


The Pareto Principle is one of the best known concepts attributed to Joseph Juran, who channeled it into the area of ​​quality and productivity. Juran said that in a production process and in the resulting quality level, a small percentage of factors (positive or negative) can lead to a large percentage of the possible effects. Juran estimates that 80% of the problems that arise are the result of 20% of the possible causes.


Regarding quality management, through his book Management Breakthrough, Juran presented his vision about the possibilities of quality management so effective that it was capable of impacting the income and productive levels of companies. Juran recognized that a rearrangement that would lead to higher levels of demand would lead to a large internal reorganization. Joseph Juran addressed his management theory based on the previous concepts of quality, focused mainly on the finished product. Juran then decided to delve into the previous stages of production, adding labor as an important and influential part in these processes. Through his postulates, Juran advocated the formation and training of the main administrators and managers of certain productive areas, of medium and even high rank. Juran did not conceive that the training was only for low-level workers, but also their superiors should be trained to better perform their duties.


The Juran trilogy is one of its most important disclosures that complements everything discussed in its quality management ideas. The dimensions of this trilogy allow a much more practical perception of Juran's thinking. The divisions managed around quality are quality planning, quality control and quality improvement.


- The quality planning consists of reaching certain objectives that allow starting towards a global project of eventual materialization. These objectives are to identify consumers, determine their needs, add to the products qualities that can meet those needs, determine that the processes necessary for the creation of the product are within the scope of the company and, if not, create them; and finally, carry them out.


Quality control is perceived as a feedback process in which aspects already directly related to the finished product are observed. The actual performance level of the product is evaluated and compared with the goals and objectives set at the beginning, in order to monitor the differences and solve them in the future.


- Quality improvement occupies a priority position in the Juran trilogy, and consists of a series of responsibilities; These are reflective situations that will allow an objective look at each new action plan. It is about having an effective awareness for improvement. Quality improvement should be present at each stage and function of a process.

Juran determined that the suitability for use can be broken down into four elements:
design quality, quality control, availability and after-sales service; He also contemplated the concept of the internal client, related to an organization of more than one person. Internal customers were individuals who came from downward processes.

Juran's focus was always towards
quality improvement. The goal was to increase the performance to levels never before achieved, so he suggested that in order to make a project on this, working on a problem, companies should go through a break in attitude, organization, knowledge, cultural patterns and results.


Kaoru Ishikawa (1915-1989)


His main contributions were the development of the concept of "Cause-effect Diagram", or fish bone diagram, as well as the use of methodological tools in quality circles.


In addition to these pillars of the development of the concepts of quality, there were many more that were developing some interesting approaches and complementary concepts, among which Philip Crosby and Armand Vallin Feigembaum also stand out.


Quality management system standards


From this growing information on quality concepts, and with the experience of applying that kind of knowledge in Japan after the end of World War II, by Deming and Juran, in 1951 the Deming Prize was instituted to Quality in Japan, with which a quality management model was established. Little by little was permeating this information and the use that was given to it in that country, which were created throughout the world other national quality awards, as well as the European quality award, each of which established its management model of quality, although practically based on the Japanese one. However, one of the characteristics that these models have, up to date, is that many of the elements they contain are of subjective type.


It was the US Army that created the so-called "Military Specification Mil-Q-9858" in April 1959, since its use was intended as a contractual specification required for army contractors. The great importance of this document is that, for the first time, it identified objective quality elements that could be enforceable and auditable, as requirements to be met. In fact, no new concept was invented, only those that were already taken, related to the valuable elements for quality management, mainly the 14 principles of Deming and the 10 steps of Juran, were taken and identified as regulatory requirements. This was the most valuable. From here, the concept of quality assurance began to be used, which was subsequently extended to quality management. The concepts considered in this military specification were used by other government agencies, such as NASA in the United States, or in Canada, using supplier qualification programs, initially in the electricity sector, later expanding to others where it was required to generate “Reliability” by part of its suppliers.


The Government of the United States incorporated that military specification Mil-Q-9858 into the support they gave to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), which was of great interest to the other NATO participating armies, as such so that in 1968 NATO issues and adopts the AQAP specifications ("Allied Quality Assurance Procedures"), among which was the one derived from the US military standard. The British Institute of Standards (BSI) had access to these documents through the British Army, involved the industrial and business associations of Great Britain, and began the process for generating the British national standard BS 5750, which was issued in 1979 and shortly after BSI itself promoted the development of the international standard  before ISO.


The process within ISO to generate these first standards was interesting and slow, because there were no comparative management system standards at that time, there was not much experience in that subject, and less with the type of management requirements and the way to present them, to reduce as much as possible the doubts about their understanding, application and verification. The development time of these standards was more than double what other international standards required. In order to generate three requirements standards, which at the time were called ISO 9001, ISO 9002 and ISO 9003, since three quality assurance models were originally considered, other support standards  were created, including one of terminology (ISO 8402), which was published one year before the others, and two guidelines, one on the application of the ISO 9000 standards themselves) and other on quality management elements, including some additional to the requirements of ISO 9001 (ISO 9004 ).


ISO 8402 was published at the end of 1986, and the others (ISO 9000ISO 9001ISO 9002ISO 9003 and ISO 9004) in March 1987. Within this scheme, the 90019002 and 9003 were considered to be certifiable, as they established requirements, but not ISO 9000 or 9004, since it did not establish requirements.


Within the information that was handled at the time about the development of these standards, something interesting for me is that during the years that it was elaborated, there were participation of more than twelve thousand  organizations from more than fifty countries, something that had not been happened in the almost forty years in what had been operating ISO and that generated an enormous expectation on all the people involved in the development of these  standards.




Ernesto Palomares Hilton