HUMOR IN UNIFORM
THE “ISO VIRUS”
“FAUJI” BRAIN – “OUT OF THE BOX” THINKING
Unforgettable Vignettes of My Navy Life
This story happened around 25 years ago – in the 1990’s – when the Defence Services were suddenly afflicted with the “ISO virus”.
Because “International Organization for Standardization” would have different acronyms in different languages (IOS in English, OIN in French for Organisation internationale de normalisation) – the founders decided to give it the short form ISO.
ISO is derived from the Greek isos – meaning equal.
Whatever the country – whatever the language – the “International Organization for Standardization” is known as ISO.
ISO is an independent, non-governmental, non-profitable, worldwide organization which develops and publishes international standards. It provides a standard for products and services. These standards are accepted worldwide and provide a surety that the products and services are safe, reliable and of good quality.
The ISO 9000 family of standards and Quality Management Standards pertaining to various aspects of quality management. Of these, ISO 9001 Standards are the most popular and well known ISO Standards that deal with the requirements that organizations wishing to meet the standard must fulfill.The standards provide guidance and tools for companies and organizations who want to ensure that their products and services consistently meet customer’s requirements, and that quality is consistently improved.
Originally published in 1987, ISO 9001 underwent revisions in 1994, 2000, and again in 2008. The latest revision was published in September 2015.
A few other important ISO Standards are ISO 14000 (Environment) ISO 22000 (Food Safety) ISO/IEC 27001 (Information Security) ISO 13485 (Medical Devices) ISO 37001 (Anti-Bribery) etc.
(I wonder if there are any organisations in India which have implemented ISO 37001 Anti-Bribery Management Systems to to help organizations fight bribery, eradicate corruption and promote an ethical business culture…?)
Dear Reader – as usual – I have digressed from my story – so – let me get back to the story I was telling you.
As I was telling you – this story happened around 25 years ago – in the 1990’s – when the Defence Services were suddenly afflicted with the “ISO virus”.
Everyone was bitten by the “Quality Bug” and suddenly became “quality conscious”.
The ISO Quality Management System was certainly relevant to industrial organizations – like Naval Dockyards.
But for most others – it was a fad – a craze to jump onto the “ISO Bandwagon” – just to earn “brownie points”.
Getting the ISO Certification became a “status symbol” and a “feather in the cap” for the Head of the Organization.
Most of the “Top Brass” were quite clueless about ISO.
But – Senior Officers insisted that units under their command obtain the “ISO Certified” Status Symbol – despite being told that the existing Naval Maintenance Management System was far superior to the ISO Quality Management System (QMS).
The “ISO virus” infected the “powers-that-be” at the Institute of Armament Technology (IAT) Pune too.
So – it was decided that IAT Pune must get itself ISO Certified.
At our Naval Wing Weekly Meeting – I expressed my dissent – saying that IAT was running fine – that – IAT was an efficient organisation – and – it was recognized as a “centre of excellence” – and hence – IAT did not need ISO Certification.
My boss gave me a curious smile – and he said to me:
“You better keep your thoughts to yourself. Once the Big Boss (Dean) has decided – ISO is going to happen – so you better like it or lump it.”
(Those days – the designation of the Head of IAT Pune was “Director and Dean” – colloquially called “Dean”…)
“Oh…” I muttered, “so ISO is being forced down our throats…”
“Yes…” my boss said.
Then – my boss looked at me triumphantly – and – he delivered the coup de grace:
“Dean has directed that you will the Officer-in-Charge for ISO implementation. So – it will be your job to ensure that IAT gets ISO Certification…”
I was taken aback – so – I stammered incoherently:
“What…? Me…? Officer-in-Charge ISO…?” I said, dazed.
“Yes – You have been selected by the Dean to implement ISO Standards in IAT – you are tasked to get IAT ready for ISO Certification and ensure that we get ISO Certification…” my Boss said to me.
“Sir – I don’t even have a clue about ISO…” I protested.
“We know. That is why you are being nominated for the ISO Lead Auditor Course…” my boss said.
Then – he handed me a folder containing details of the ISO Lead Auditor Course for which I was being nominated.
As I read the contents of the folder – my low spirits turned into high spirits.
The ISO Lead Auditor Course was quite a pricey one week residential course in a luxurious hotel in the nearby hill resort.
So – I was looking forward to an enjoyable week in a luxurious hotel at the salubrious hill station.
When things are going fine – there is always a hitch.
Next morning – the Dean called me to his office – and he said to me:
“Lieutenant Colonel “X” wants to go for the ISO Lead Auditor Course.”
I was disappointed to hear this.
It seemed that the Pongo Dean was favouring the Army over the Navy – his Olive Green (OG) Loyalty prevailing over Institutional Interest.
Thanks to parochial politics – I had been “de-selected” – and in my place – Lieutenant Colonel “X” was now being nominated for this 5-Star Course.
I then thought about the exact words the Dean had used.
The Dean had said:
“Lieutenant Colonel “X” wants to go for the ISO Lead Auditor Course…”
I was quite confused by the way he had worded it – so – I asked the Dean:
Sir – you nominated me. And now – you are saying that “Lieutenant Colonel “X” wants to go for the ISO Lead Auditor Course”. Sir – I don’t quite understand…”
“Lieutenant Colonel “X” has put in his papers for premature retirement…” the Dean said.
“Oh…” I said, still confused.
Seeing the confused look on my face – the Dean said to me:
“Lieutenant Colonel “X” wants to quit the Army. That is why he wants to do the course. He says the ISO Lead Auditor Certificate will increase his “market value” and help him get a good job in the civilian industry after he retires from service…”
On hearing this – I said to the Dean:
“Sir – but how will his doing the ISO Lead Auditor Course be of any use to IAT…? Lieutenant Colonel “X” will do the course and he will retire. If I do the ISO Lead Auditor Course – I will use the knowledge I gain for getting ISO Certification and implementing ISO here in IAT…”
The Dean looked at me and said:
“I have thought about all that.
Here is the best solution.
You want the knowledge – so you attend the course.
Lieutenant Colonel “X” wants the certificate – so let him have the certificate…”
At first – I was taken aback on hearing the Dean’s words.
I thought the Dean was joking – or – he had gone crazy – or maybe – I had not heard right – so I asked him:
“Sir – are you saying that I have to attend the ISO Lead Auditor Course – but the certificate is to be issued in the name of Lieutenant Colonel “X”…?”
The Dean smiled and said to me:
So – you will have the knowledge of a ISO Lead Auditor – which you can use here to get ISO Certification for IAT.
And – Lieutenant Colonel “X” will have the certificate of being an ISO Lead Auditor – which he can use to get a job in the civilian industry after he retires.
A true “Win-Win” situation – isn’t it…?”
I said to the Dean:
“Sir – how is that possible…? Attending the course is mandatory for getting the certificate…”
The Dean said to me:
“In India – anything is possible.
It is called Jugaad…
You talk to the ISO guys and tell them to be a little flexible.
Tell them that you will attend the course – but the ISO Lead Auditor Certificate is to be issued in the name of Lieutenant Colonel “X”.
You are a bright officer and I am sure you can work it out.
It will be a win-win situation that will satisfy everyone…”
I marvelled at the “Fauji” Dean’s “out of the box” thinking.
As he said – anything is possible in India by jugaad
But – I did not have the guts to call up the ISO course organizers with this absurd proposition.
In the Defence Services – all issues are decided on the basis of seniority – and though I held the same equivalent rank as Lieutenant Colonel “X” – he was miles senior to me.
So – Lieutenant Colonel “X” went for the ISO Lead Auditor Course – and I am sure it helped him in his second innings after his retirement – since he retired soon after becoming a Certified ISO Lead Auditor – courtesy the Dean of IAT.
Of course – a few months later – I too did the ISO Lead Auditor Course.
In my case – unlike Lieutenant Colonel “X” – for whom the ISO Lead Auditor Course was a “resettlement” course (to “rehabilitate” him in civilian life) – I had to put the knowledge I gained in the course to good use in implementation of ISO Quality Management System in my organisation.
Dear Reader – do you know how ISO 9001 was implemented in a crazy “multicultural” place like IAT Pune…?
Well – that’s another story – which I will tell you some other time…
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