First in the world
by Jay Holtzman
“If you can't describe what you are doing as a process, you don't know what you're doing.”
—W.Edwards Deming, Ph.D.
Quality management theorist,
consultant and author
Deming's brief statement coincides with the ideas and principles behind the ISO 9000 family of management standards. ISO 9001 certification, an internationally recognized mark of a quality management system, means an organization has demonstrated that its management system has met the criteria set by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). By conforming to ISO standards an organization can ensure consistent delivery of products or services. This means that an organization has thoroughly documented its practices and procedures as well as had an on-site review and evaluation by a certification organization accredited to make ISO assessments.
PMI's PMP Certification Program Department earns ISO 9001 certification.
While no professional credential in the world can fully guarantee its value and its merits to individuals or employers, only one can boast that it has met or exceeded the ISO quality management standards. Only one certification program department can assert that its processes and procedures have passed the test and have been affirmed by an independent auditor as ISO 9001 certified. In October, the Project Management Institute (PMI®) announced that its Project Management Professional (PMP®) Certification Program Department had attained ISO 9001 certification from The National Registry and the Dutch Council for Accreditation (RvA), signaling international recognition of its quality management system. This is the first professional certification program in the world to receive this distinguished and respected mark.
According to Jim Earnhardt, director, Corporate Program Management Methodologies of United Airlines, the ISO 9001 certification, “adds credibility to the program. It says that the program has well documented, reliable, and consistent processes that they follow.”
The ISO 9001 certification process took six months. The independent audit was conducted by The National Registry, which is accredited by the RvA to perform ISO assessments.
“That the organization is internationally accredited adds credibility,’ said Robert Lackland, president of The National Registry. “And if I am a project manager in the field, I think it is a good thing knowing that this organization has its management practices certified, knowing their practices are documented, and that they are working to continuously improve their processes. Good organizations have good people doing good things, but when you are subjecting yourself to a certification such as this, you have to be able to objectively demonstrate that you do things, and do them consistently.
Jay Holtzman, a journalist for 30 years, specializes in business topics. He has twice received the Jesse H. Neal Editorial Achievement Award, the highest honor bestowed by the American business press. Direct comments on this article to [email protected].
And the name is …
You may be wondering why the International Organization for Standardization abbreviates its name “ISO.” Why isn't it “IOS”? A visit to ISO's website (www.iso.ch) reveals that ISO is not an acronym:
“In fact, ‘ISO’ is a word, derived from the Greek isos, meaning ‘equal’ which is the root of the prefix ‘iso-’ that occurs in a host of terms, such as ‘isometric’ (of equal measure or dimensions) and ‘isonomy’ (equality of laws, or of people before the law).
“From ‘equal’ and ‘standard’ the line of thinking that led to the choice of ‘ISO’ as the name of the organization is easy to follow. In addition, the name ISO is used around the world to denote the organization, thus avoiding the plethora of acronyms resulting from the translation of ‘International Organization for Standardization’ into the different national languages of members; e.g., IOS in English, OIN in French (from Organisation internationale de normalisation). Whatever the country, the short form of the organization's name is always ISO.”
—Joanita M. Nellenbach, news editor, PMI Publishing Division
In addition, by making consistent and ongoing records of its activities and procedures, an organization, such as the Institute, can check itself for consistency, more easily spot problems, and identify things that can be improved, Lackland said. Perhaps most important is to have senior management committed to the process.
“This requires commitment in the organization from top to bottom. If you don't have that commitment at the top, it will never happen,” said Lackland, adding that senior management must empower the process, hear the feedback from the internal auditing that the process requires, explore opportunities for improvements revealed by the audits, assign people to make the changes and, finally, follow up to see that the actions taken are effective.
As a result of the certification process itself, good organizations tend to get better, he said, and this has already happened in PMI's case: “PMI has already made improvements in the organization as a result of using this vehicle, from going through this process. They are noting things and using mechanisms that this process provides to document opportunities to improve. They are now able to capture things rather than make ad hoc changes. By making these things part of a documented system, they have permanently raised the bar.”
Certainly PMI, as an organization, benefits from ISO certification. But so do its members and other project management professionals. ISO certification supports and enhances the standing of PMPs in the eyes of the global business community, which already identified the credential as important to its employees in the marketplace.
“The PMP certification helps ensure that project managers have the requisite knowledge and skills to oversee customer projects,” said Carol Wright, PMP, director, IBM Project Management Center of Excellence.
The ISO is a worldwide federation of national standards bodies from some 100 countries. It was founded in 1946 to develop, coordinate and promote international standards for a wide range of business sectors. ISO standards include technical subjects, procedures, and guidelines for services, management system standards for quality management (ISO 9000 series), and the environment (ISO 14000 series). More than 270,000 ISO 9000 certificates have been issued to organizations in 143 countries, with over 85 percent of those certificates awarded outside North America.
“Global businesses and employers can now be assured that PMI's PMP Certification Program Department standards are equal to ISO standards,” said Paul Grace, PMI's Certification Program manager. “The message to the corporate world is that the products and processes that PMI's Certification Program Department utilize meet the standards of quality systems management as set by the ISO.
“The PMP credential is truly the profession's most global and portable credential. With today's multinational companies, organizations can be assured that their PMP-certified project management practitioners are speaking the same language within the practice of project management. More and more industries are looking to PMI for leadership in the project management field, and the ISO 9001 certification further verifies the international nature of the PMP credential.”
“PMPs can be proud of the fact that they are part of a certification program that has achieved ISO certification, one that will enhance their international recognition.” said MaryGrace Allenchey, PMP, chair of PMI's Certification Board Center, which is a semiautonomous body that operates independently of the PMI board of directors and sets policies and strategic initiatives for PMI in the area of certification.
“We assure that the implementation of all products and services is designed to meet the Certification Program's strategic initiatives,” Allenchey said. “The Certification Board Center approves the ‘strategic ends’ and the PMI Certification Program Department develops and deploys the tactical methods and procedures to realize that strategic approach.” She added that the board's independent status assures that credentialing decisions are made independently of any organizational influences that could negatively affect the value of the PMP credential to practitioners and the marketplace.
The fact that ISO certification is for PMI's PMP Certification Program Department as a whole has far-reaching effects.
“The certification is for the entire PMI Certification Program and all its products and processes,” Allenchey said. “Those include the PMP, the Professional Development Program (PDP), the basic examination, the self-assessment test, all of these things and the procedures associated with them. ISO 9001 certification gives the PMI Certification Program Department international recognition and certainly answers any question about whether the program is a sound one.”
According to Allenchey, ISO certification is “external verification of the very disciplined approach” PMI habitually takes in its certification program: “These weren't just arbitrary methods and procedures. They were well thought out and executed with a high quality of implementation standards, and they comply with the principles of a variety of credentialing organizations. You can't guarantee anything, but if you follow a logical progression, if ISO certification is recognized and valued internationally, and if the PMI Certification Program is ISO certified, then the person who receives certification through the program should also be valued.”
December 1999 PM Network