Is the ISO quality approach incompatible with the one proposed by the Reengineering theory?

The Reengineering concept (M. Hammer & J. Champy) is born at the beginning of the seventies and is always very present in the Consulting Community but also in Organisation and Methods departments of many companies.

One of the pillars of this theory consists in eliminating in a customer oriented process any activity not contributing to the value of the service or product delivered to this customer. Once this is admitted, what can be the attitude towards quality: does the quality control exercised on some activities of the process have an added value for the final product? According to the Reengineering theory, it doesn’t. If, indeed, the persons operating the process do their job correctly, the quality control is unnecessary. Therefore, when a company will reengineer its processes, it will make sure to integrate in the activity itself the controls necessary for its correct execution and give the operators a sense of responsibility by enhancing their contribution within the whole process.

Nowadays, many companies are ISO/9001 certified. For many between them, it is a necessary evil. They recognize, indeed, that in terms of image and credibility in the market, this certification is mandatory but at the same time, they complain about the complexity created from the procedures and quality controls of all kinds. Why is it so? Because their quality procedures are established in such a way that they only apply once the activity or the process is executed. This is namely the case for quality reviews or quality audits. The ISO system that a company is implementing can be perceived this way if it is conceived as an a posteriori control system of activities. The ISO norm does not force at all the companies to define their quality system this way. It is quite possible to define it from the viewpoint proposed by the reengineering theory as mentioned above in this article. In this case, the perception of the quality system collaborators will have will be totally different because they will be convinced by the added value the system brings.

Does that mean that quality audits are useless? Of course not. In the same way, it is not possible in a process to eliminate all control activities. Let us take an example of a finished good whose value of the raw materials is representing only a small part of the total value of the product with respect of the manpower to manufacture it: it is obvious in this situation that control activities should take place in some points of the production process in order to detect non conformities as soon as possible in the production chain and avoid working on assemblies not compliant.

Tetrade Consulting has developed a huge expertise in process reengineering and has consolidated it in its “Enterprise Navigator” methodology. It uses also the SADT Modeling technique that is very well suited for modeling Business processes.