Things people get wrong about ISO 9001

We recently wrote an introductory article about ISO 9001. It explains the concept of 9001, what it means to businesses, and how to obtain certification. 

In that article, we’ve addressed some common misconceptions about the standard. 

Here, we thought we’d dig a little deeper into what people often get wrong about the popular ISO Standard. 

What is ISO 9001

ISO 9001 is an internationally recognized standard for quality management systems.

The standard outlines how companies can demonstrate how they repeatedly provide thier products and services ensuring that meet requirements. It is structured with several ‘clauses’ which cover areas such as the context of the organization, leadership, performance evaluation, and improvement.

Common Myths about ISO 9001

Despite its widespread adoption (2,000,000 organizations plus) and proven benefits, there are numerous misunderstandings and misconceptions around what people think of the ISO 9001 ISO standard, what it is, what it does, why you need it and how you apply it.

Those misconceptions can hinder an organizations attempt to implement it and, at worst, put off companies who decide against implementation.

Let’s take a look at the most common.

1: ISO 9001 is Only for Large Corporations

Perhaps the most common misconception about ISO 9001 is that it’s only suitable for large organizations.

In reality, ISO 9001 is applicable to organizations of all sizes, from small and medium-sized to large organizations. 

9001 does not discriminate based on an organizations size.

Yes, it requires resources (and time) to implement, but one of the significant benefits of ISO 9001 is that it is flexible and can be scaled to against the actual needs and resources of any organization, regardless of its size or industry.

2: ISO 9001 Certification Guarantees perfect products every time

Let’s get this straight: by obtaining ISO 9001 certification, you don’t guarantee perfection with zero defects.

ISO 9001 focuses on your quality management system and doesn’t certify your products or services.

It provides a framework for you to establish processes and procedures that aim to repeatedly provide products and services that meet thier customers requirements and comply with relevant regulations. 

However, achieving and maintaining high-quality standards requires ongoing commitment and effective implementation of your QMS, and that is down to you and your organization.

Myth 3: ISO 9001 Implementation is Too Costly

“ISO 9001 is too costly and not worth it.”

I’m often confronted with that remark, all too often by those in leadership positions who don’t understand the benefits.

Of course, there are costs associated with ISO 9001 both in your own activities and, of course, any costs incurred by hiring professional assistance – there’s no getting away from that.

However, through its application, it offers significant benefits certification that may even open up markets that may not be attainable otherwise.

The other attribute to consider is that through implementing an effective quality management system and controls, you’ll actually save money through striving towards the right first time and reducing waste and errors (and to help emphasize the point, take a look at the article here

Myth 4: ISO 9001 is All About Paperwork

Ask someone what the first thing that comes to mind when they’re thinking about 9001, and they’ll often reply, “documentation”.

Indeed, some people believe that ISO 9001 is only about creating extensive documentation and paperwork.

The perception is that this is burdensome and time-consuming. 

Of course, documentation is an essential component of ISO 9001 (it’s a Quality management system dummy!); the standard emphasizes the importance of creating documented procedures only where necessary and practical. The focus is on achieving meaningful results rather than drowning in paperwork. 

To help, there are numerous and effective technology solutions that make this side of ISO more accessible and manageable than ever before.

Myth 5: ISO 9001 is for Manufacturing Companies

ISO 9001 is a generic standard that can be applied to any organization, unrelated of its industry or sector. Service providers, educational institutions, healthcare facilities, government agencies, and nonprofit organizations can (and do) all benefit from implementing ISO 9001 to improve their processes, enhance customer satisfaction, and achieve operational excellence.

Myth 6: ISO 9001 Implementation is Time-Consuming

Achieving 9001 certification can take time. It’s not instant. You have to prepare your QMS and prepare for and undertake your certification audit.  

Some organizations are deterred from pursuing ISO 9001 certification due to the perceived time and effort required for implementation. 

Anyone looking at 9001 should consider how they can streamline their certification, i.e. leverage existing resources, employee engagement, and use of 3rd parties. Implementation should be structured at a pace that’s achievable and doesn’t disrupt day-to-day operations.

Myth 7: ISO 9001 is Too Bureaucratic

Despite what some naysayers might tell you, ISO 9001 is designed to be flexible and adaptable, allowing organizations to tailor their quality management systems to suit their unique needs and objectives. 

There are, of course, certain documentation and procedures which are necessary to ensure consistency and compliance, but ISO 9001 encourages a risk-based approach that focuses on prioritizing activities that add value and eliminate unnecessary bureaucracy.

Myth 8: ISO 9001 is only about compliance

ISO 9001 is not just about compliance (please repeat that out loud 100 times!!)

While compliance is an important aspect, your goal should be a flexible and powerful quality management system that enables performance excellence (whether that’s through processes, systems or otherwise).

The end result is to achieve customer satisfaction and have a customer-centric approach to the way you do business, continuously striving for excellence. 

Myth 9: ISO 9001 is Static and Outdated

Some people believe that ISO 9001 is a static and outdated standard that is no longer relevant in today’s fast-paced and dynamic business environment. However, ISO 9001 is regularly reviewed and updated to ensure its continued relevance and effectiveness. The latest version of the standard, ISO 9001:2015, incorporates modern concepts such as risk-based thinking, process approach, and stakeholder engagement, reflecting the evolving needs and expectations of organizations and their stakeholders.

Myth 10: ISO 9001 Certification is a One-Time Achievement

This is perhaps the worst thing people get wrong: reducing the standard to a box-ticking exercise.

Obtaining and maintaining ISO 9001 certification is an ongoing process.

It requires business commitment and continuous improvement to maintain its validity and effectiveness. 

Organizations must undergo regular surveillance audits and recertification audits (after their initial certification audit) to demonstrate their continued compliance with the standard, demonstrating a commitment to quality management excellence.


Given how long ISO has been around, it’s surprising that many people still still understand the standard (and its purpose.

ISO 9001 remains a powerful tool for organizations seeking to improve their quality management processes, enhance customer satisfaction, and achieve sustainable business success. 

By debunking myths and misconceptions surrounding ISO 9001, organizations give themselves a better chance of exploiting its potential benefits. 

Embracing ISO 9001 as a strategic asset and integrating its principles into their operations can help empower organizations to not just survive but thrive in today’s competitive environment and deliver value to their customers.