GSA Office Goes ISO 9000

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A General Services Administration division that manages much of the federal government's property has been certified as meeting the ISO 9000 standards for top-quality organizations, GSA announced this week.

The Office of Property Management, which manages 8,329 buildings occupied by federal agencies, became the first real estate operation--public or private--to earn the ISO distinction.

ISO 9000 is an internationally recognized set of standards that measures how well organizations manufacture products or deliver services. Some companies will only buy products or services from ISO 9000-certified organizations because the certification requires regular checks on the quality of how the organization operates.

GSA acting administrator David Barram said Property Management's certification affirmed the value of the reinventing government movement.

"It is an important reminder to everyone that government systems can be held to the same high standards of quality as the private sector," Barram said.

Kemper Registrar Services Inc. conducted the registration process for Property Management. The company will audit Property Management once a year to make sure it continues to meet the ISO 9000 standards. The office will also conduct its own internal audits because ISO 9000 requires organizations to continually identify problems in their work processes and take preventive and corrective action to solve them.

Critics of ISO 9000 say it often creates mountains of paperwork and additional levels of bureaucracy because it requires so many evaluations. Robert Buckley, co-chairman of Property Management's ISO 9000 team, said that the certification process actually reduced bureaucracy in the office. Prior to ISO 9000, each of the office's 12 self-directed work teams had its own way of doing things. Now four tiers of ISO 9000 documentation are used by each team, creating a uniform system.

The Office of Property Management spent about $80,000 in training and related costs for ISO 9000 certification. Buckley said he could not reveal how much Kemper Registrar Services was paid under its contract.

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