Problems and solutions for Management Systems

Too often we forget that the ISO 9001 Standard, like any other standard, is a tool and like all tools it can be used well or badly.

Most of the problems that afflict management systems are the result of a fundamentally wrong or, at least, obsolete approach in light of the evolution that has taken place over time

In 85% of cases the effectiveness of a Management System is closely linked to its history and largely depends on who, and when, designed it:

  • When dealing with ISO 9001 Quality Systems created before the 2000s, it is very easy to understand that they are just rehashes of what was a real nightmare of bureaucracy at the time.
  • Quality Systems created before 2015, on the other hand, can be recognized at first sight as they contain a series of procedures with a review date that is at least 10 years old.
  • The most recent Management Systems, in the vast majority of cases, have a very similar approach, as they are the offspring of models created in the 1990s and updated based on the new provisions of the Standard.

The first concrete result of using obsolete tools is that their management takes up time and makes bringing value into the company very complex.

So why do companies continue to use the same organizational tools as 30 years ago without taking into account the technological, methodological and regulatory evolution that has occurred all around?

This is what leads the enterprises to run under Audit to put things in order, reinforcing the idea that “the Quality System is just bureaucracy”. By analyzing the main problems that afflict Management Systems it is possible to identify the causes of a self-reinforcing vicious circle that has dragged Small and Medium Enterprises into a sea of bureaucracy from which they struggle to escape

High costs

The objection on costs is as old as the world and high costs represent the father of all the other objections we will talk about. Anyone with a minimum of commercial training knows very well that cost is never a problem when contrasted with benefits.

Limiting the advantages of a management system  only to the commercial sphere, automatically leads to the idea that the company is paying the toll booth to be able to enter the motorway and run its business. Seen from this perspective, any euro more than strictly necessary to obtain the “sticker” is perceived as superfluous and we all know very well how competitive the certification market is.

If you are a consultant you will also understand well why negotiations with the client are always downwards. The customer is not buying the Quality System, he is buying the certificate he needs to run his business

Complexity of the Standard

If costs are the father of all objections, complexity is the mother.

The ISO 9001 standard is a document hard to understand. However, we can compare it to a car: there are people who know every detail of it, people who limit themselves to driving it occasionally, up to those who drive it to the limit on tracks full of curves or rough roads.

In the same way, the Standard can also be read and applied at different levels to get different benefits: the more you study and delve into it, the more you practice and use it, the more natural it becomes to get on board and set off.

It is very different to drive a car from the 90s and get into a modern car: in addition to comfort, design and ergonomics, the driving aids provided by electronics have improved safety and performance.

Quality systems have also evolved over the years and today benefit from methodologies and technologies that have revolutionized the approach: just as long as you don’t decide to change your car you will complain about the fact that it consumes too much, doesn’t hold the road and causes back pain after a few kilometers of travel, even the Management System will be a burden and will not help to achieve results using thirty-year-old methodologies


Here is the first child of costs and complexity. Continuing the automotive metaphor, bureaucracy is the result of those who want to race a grand prix in 2023 with a racing car from the 1990s.

It is very true that ISO 9001 in 1994 called for procedures worthy of NASA (just think of the fact that the first methodologies for applying ISO standards come from the nuclear world) but probably many people were not informed that the standard has been revised four times , the “High Level Structure” was introduced and digital tools that in the 90s were pure science fiction came to the rescue.

The secret to eliminating bureaucracy is to transform the Management System from a reactive tool to a proactive one, simplifying and organizing the data so that it flows automatically and is transformed into useful information for the business

Limited resources

Whoever spends more spends less

As long as Management Systems are perceived as a cost and the perception is that they do not bring concrete benefits other than being able to compete in a market that does not recognize a premium price for certification, but penalizes if you don’t have it, every euro more it is thrown away.

The central point, therefore, is not how much you are spending, but how the money is spent and what you are taking home. Innovating a management system is a path that can be approached in many different ways with very different tools. In a micro company or an SME, where resources are limited by definition, the choices are limited, however, very interesting options remain, such as the Cloud technology.

This is able to help Entrepreneurs and Professionals to innovate the approach to Management Systems and introduce new interpretations regarding the use of the ISO 9001 Standard. In this way the Quality Management System, from a cost, becomes an integral part of generating value in the Company without pharaonic projects and significant investments


If you have ever tried to turn a screw with an electric screwdriver but usingthe wrong bit, you’ll know how frustrating it can be. Now, imagine if every day you had to extract screw after screw with that screwdriver. Your reaction would be to look for a solution to the problem. In all likelihood you would no longer use the electric screwdriver but the old manual screwdriver that has always worked very well.

In the same way, the result of a bureaucratized Quality System without adequate tools is to distance people from a culture of Quality which, when correctly applied, would be a valid ally for doing things better and with less effort, but since it doesn’t work , is set aside