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First ISO 10018 Convener Believes Time is Right for a Certification

It took years for the creators of ISO 9001 to understand the importance of culture and people, and several to create the ISO 10018 People Involvement and Competence standard for the ISO 10018 Quality People Management certification being launched at the ISO 10018: Enterprise Engagement in Action conference, Dec. 7-8, at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, TX. 

Almost six years have passed since the ISO 10018 People Involvement and Competence guidelines were created, so why has it taken this long for someone to create a formal certification? After all, the standard addresses one of the clauses required of companies seeking to comply with ISO 9001 - clause 7.1.2.: People. To find the answer, ESM recently contacted Peter Merrill, who was convener of the original Working Group that created ISO 10018. Merrill is currently a speaker and consultant on innovation: See
“The standard hasn’t caught on because nobody knows about it," he explains. "ISO doesn't publicize its works. No one has picked up and run with it. There were a few articles in ISO magazine, and I did an interview with a U.S. human resources magazine, and that was about it." One of the difficulties in ISO, Merrill says, is that many people think their job is just to write standards - "that if they build it, people will come.” 
Although it took five years for ISO 10018 to go from concept to publication, and another six years before the first formal certification process was launched by the International Center for Enterprise Engagement, Merrill believes the Quality Management and related Innovation field have a growing respect for the role of people and culture and will be receptive to an accredited certification. 

People Are Important. Now What?

“I think that there’s an understanding after all these years of the importance of people involvement and culture. If you look at 9001-2015, there's the clause 7.1.2. that says 'people' but provides little other guidance," says Merrill. ISO 10018, he adds, is specifically designed to fill in those gaps. “We reviewed the requirements of the 9001 standard line by line to determine what gets in the way of getting the people involved with achieving the requirements of this standard. That took a lot of time. We went through every requirement. Once we understood the obstacles, we systematically looked for the solutions by gathering the practical experience of the people in the working group to list potential actions that people take. We tried to leave enough room in the standards to provide organizations with flexibility.”  
These various actions include the concept of linking customers, employees, distribution partners, employees and communities, as well as processes related to culture and brand, leadership, assessment, communications, learning, innovation and collaboration, rewards and recognition and analytics that are the foundation of the Enterprise Engagement framework. 
Merrill points out that quality pioneers understood the people factor all along, but many of the ISO 9000 committee members came at quality from a technical standpoint. "Quality pioneer Philip Crosby in particular placed a lot of emphasis on creating a culture of quality. The American Society of Quality (ASQ) now emphasizes the importance of culture. When 9001 came out originally in 1987, it was very much a technical and purchasing standard, until 1994 when the word customer was included for the first time. Originally, it was based on a purchasing standard from the military. Also, during the 1990s, a period of rapid economic growth, it became apparent there was no quality standard for a non-manufacturing company, which in developed countries make up the majority of organizations.” 

The Shift to People

In the early 2000s, Technical Committee (TC) 176 introduced eight principles, three of which involved people. Merrill, who served on the strategic advisory group at the time, says he pointed out that “we’ve got these eight principles but three of them address people aspects, not just people involvement but leadership and also the customer. All these are human issues we didn’t address in the standard.” There was a lot of discussion at the time, he says, but it took a couple years to come to a consensus that a standard on people involvement was required, and then another five before the actual guidelines were published in 2012. 
“That is an inordinate amount of time, even for ISO," Merrill says. "In the early days, we suffered from shortage of head count in the working group, but also fundamental disagreements from different countries related to the scope of the standard, since some already had standards in place they felt could be used instead. But once we got past that and produced our preliminary documents, people saw what we were doing and we experienced tremendous engagement and enthusiasm. We received lots of content and valuable input, with exceptional contributions from Canada, Brazil, South Africa and New Zealand among others. Once we went beyond the working draft, the standard moved forward very well. We achieved the broad consensus that is the great power of ISO.”
So what difference does Merrill believe ISO 10018 can make for an organization? “What we've learned from IS0 9001 is that there's a benefit to having a system. The internal and external audit functions, if they're done properly, can instill system thinking. The way they do that is not just auditing a system, but encouraging people to think of a system as a set of inter-related and interacting elements. Success depends on processes, people and technology. Good auditors will look at how the elements are inter-related. In ISO 9001, most companies have their individual processes for each element of the audit down pat, and now they've stalled in terms of performance improvement. The next phase is to understand the integration of these elements. I ask my clients, ‘are you looking at the linkages?’”
Merrill, who is no longer on the ISO 10018 Technical Committee and who says his main professional focus now is specifically on innovation, notes that “The best ideas come from inside the company, when most companies think they come from universities and consultants. They come from your own people engaging with customers and suppliers.” 

Quality People Will Get It

The ISO 10018 certification has potential, he believes, “because the broad audience of quality management understands the important role of people, and there's a growing audience for a systematic approach to human resources. There's no question that the human issue is unfamiliar to some people in the quality management field more focused on the process compliance issues of 9001, but there's a significant audience outside the purely technical people focused on process compliance that totally understands the importance of culture. No, I don’t think this people issue is going to be an obstacle.” Merrill points to the field of performance assessment as an example. “There was almost no understanding about how to measure performance assessment a dozen or so years ago, and now there are established HR methods.” 
His major concern about an ISO 10018 certification: “You have to be careful about rogue certifiers who claim to offer certifications for ISO guidelines. You have to make sure the certifiers are in turn certified by their national certification authorities.” Editor’s note: As part of the Healthcare Management Institute of the University of Texas Medical Branch, ICEE is accredited by the American National Standards Institute to create certifications for ISO standards and guidelines. 
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