Thursday, March 13, 2008


Much of what we do in Quality is review specifications and requirements, then interpret what they mean and eventually verify that the product or service is provided in accordance with the specifications. Now here is where we get into trouble. Interpretations may vary between author and reader. Therefore, it is critical that all involved parties communicate to determine exactly what the intention is when there is a perceived deviation in order to prevent 'fuzzy' interpretation. Here are some examples of fuzzy interpretations that are easily resolved through active communication:

1. On one of my projects we are working toward Beneficial Use. This is a customer's contractual term that allows us to put the system into operation with them taking partial ownership and our organization managing the system. We will still have a significant amount of work left on completing the system, yet it may be put in operational mode. Our contract states that once 30% of the test records are submitted, we can request / declare beneficial use on 30% of the system. Next milestone is at 75% and the final is at 100%. We've already achieved 75%+ based on our interpretation. Customer is now telling us that it must be based on the 75% of the system that they determine is necessary, not based on our submittal of the required documentation. To resolve this issue we are completing the final 25% negating any 'fuzzy' interpretation.

2. I recently reviewed a manuscript for a book that explains the upcoming release of ISO 9000 in simple language. The author interpreted the section of the standard that refers to the Management Representative's position differently than I did. He stated emphatically that the Management Rep must be an employee of and member of the organization's Senior Management Team. I disagreed. The management representative must be a member of the organizations senior management team, however (s)he can be a consultant or contractor. So long as the rep has the authority and responsibility of a member of the organization's senior management, then his employment status is irrelevant.

3. I've been auditing Quality Management Systems for about 20 years. I've been trained extensively in the art and science of auditing QMS's. Recently, one of my clients was issued a minor Corrective Action from their ISO 9000 Registrar based upon the lack of credentials for their Internal Auditor - namely me. I argued that my credentials were sound and provided sufficient evidence. I even questioned another registrar's auditor with whom I've worked for nearly 10 years regarding my credentials and he confirmed that I am fully qualified and meet the requirements of the standard. The interpretation of this particular auditor was based on the fact that I have no evidence of receiving specific training in Process Auditing in accordance with ISO 9000:2000. I resolved this one by achieving my RAB-QSA Provisional Auditor Certification.

These are just a small sample of 'fuzzy' interpretation examples. Each was clarified by communication between the involved parties. So my advice for today is do not hesitate to open lines of communications between involved parties in order to prevent incorrect actions based upon 'fuzzy' interpretations.