Applying this metaphor further, the relevance of our standards, and thus of our work, depends on how efficiently we tackle emerging challenges in a world that is changing at an ever-increasing pace. Mapping the course for change is not easy, but ISO has many tools at its disposal, a key one being the ISO Technical Management Board (TMB) which helps ensure the continual improvement of the standards development process.
The TMB, which I have the honour to Chair for my fourth and final year, is responsible for ISO’s more than 3 000 technical bodies whose job is to build international consensus on nearly everything from screw sizes to supply chain security. Managing all this work is an intense job, evident from the fact that over its 17 years of existence, the TMB has held 50 meetings !
Throughout this time, our role has evolved from dealing with strictly technical issues in the “ engine room ” of standards development, to also spearheading strategic matters. The TMB helped shape the ISO Strategic Plan 2011-2015, and we are heavily involved in the ongoing realization of its objectives and vision.
Being close to the hands-on development of standards generates ideas to help chart ISO’s future course, supporting the market relevance of its work. The TMB has a unique access to, and dialogue with, ISO’s customers. So although we are still responsible for “nuts and bolts” issues, we also provide our colleagues on the “bridge” (the ISO Council), with strategic advice and recommendations for continual improvement.
To avoid reinventing the wheel, and to ensure ISO commits its resources to standards for which there is a clear market requirement, the TMB often test drives” or carries out extensive studies of initiatives and programmes before engaging in some activities. These efforts contributed to the publication of standards such as ISO 26000:2010, Guidance on social responsibility, and ISO 50001:2011, Energy management systems – Requirements with guidance for use.
Through the TMB, ISO promotes cooperation with other standards developing organizations, where working together enables us to better meet the needs of our customers who benefit from a coordinated approach in international standardization. One example is the World Standards Cooperation which promotes collaboration amongst ISO, the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) and the International Telecommunication Union (ITU).
To cope with a changing world, ISO strives for continual improvement. Never resting, always moving forward ! For this purpose, ISO deployed the Living Lab project to test out ways of improving the standards development process. The TMB will take an active part and a leading role in deploying innovations arising from this project. These may involve skills development of key functions, leaner procedures, or ways to better address the needs of specific sectors, to name a few examples of low-hanging fruit and quick wins.
Most importantly, we are working to increase the usefulness and user-friendliness of our products. It is no longer enough to say that our job stops at the publication of a standard. We need to get more involved in promoting and facilitating their implementation, for example, through the development of value-added guides on how to promote their optimal use. When we buy products (be it a car or a computer), these come with user manuals, perhaps some spare parts or additional software to support their use – that is the idea.
There is always room for being simpler, faster, better and ISO must constantly reinvent itself. Our goal is never ending self-improvement. It is better to ride at high speed above the waves than get caught in a storm and capsize.