Last Friday I set out on a quest to find some straightforward information. As is often the way with these things, the result turned out to be anything but straightforward.
We make business transformation systems and one of their applications is the management of business standards. There are lots of these (20,000 in total) and they vary from specifying the size of a sheet of paper (A4 is a standard) to managing a business's operations. It is the latter with which we are involved and the boys in the International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) refer to these as Management System Standards. So technically, part of what we do is to make systems for managing Management System Standards.
Now if your grammatical antennae are anything like mine, you may find this tautology a little uncomfortable. If so, hold on to your hats - it gets much worse.
My quest, was to find a simple list of all of the Management System Standards that have been published according to the latest ISO specification. Since this new specification took effect in 2015 with the launch of a revised version of ISO:9001, most people refer to it as the "2015 regime" and write it as ISO:2015.
So armed with this knowledge I embarked on a journey deep into the heart of the ISO website and after discovering very little, did the same on the BSi's site.
Nothing. So I called them up.
The first port of call was ISO in Geneva and I spoke to a very helpful chap. The conversation went like this.
"The 2015 regime you say. Sorry I don't know what that is."
"Those standards specified in Annex SL of the 2014 Directive."
"Are yes" he said "Annex SL. I understand. You mean the Current Directive".
"Er, yes", I said, "that is if you mean the Directive that was issued in 2014 and became current in 2015. But Annex SL will do. We can agree on that."
"Excellent. But we don't have a list of those. I suggest you speak to the BSi".
So undaunted back to the BSi I went and spoke to another very helpful chap.
"Annex SL you say. I don't know what that is I'm afraid."
"The Current Directive - as it applies to every standard since 2015."
"Oh you mean the 2015 regime. Oh yes, that's easy. We have a list of all the standards in that. Its on our website."
Now if I were a newboy I might take umbrage with such tautology let alone the wild goose chase that ensued. But being older and much more phlegmatic I now let it pass me by. That is with one observation.
It would seem that the system for managing the issuance of Management System Standards, really does need a standard to manage it. Not only that but it should be written according to a Directive which became current 2 years ago and goes by at least four different names.
Now there's a job for the tautologically gifted if ever there was one. Geneva anyone?