The High Level Structure (HLS) is a standardized way of drafting future ISO management system standards. It is defined in Appendix SL of the ISO/IEC Directives, Part 1. All new standards should respect and share a common consistent core:
- A common general structure (table of contents): identical chapters, article numbers, and chapter, article or clause titles, etc.
- Introductory texts for identical articles
- Identical wording for identical requirements
- Common terms and core definitions
The characteristics and requirements specific to each standard are inserted into this structure in the appropriate chapters. This standardization aims to foster compatibility among various management system standards to facilitate their integration and implementation by certified organizations.
From an internal viewpoint, ISO also seeks to ensure quality in the production of its own standards: consistent texts that remain applicable to organizations of all sizes, in all sectors and operating in any culture. The HLS provides for a framework that ensures a conforming output of ISO standard development process that is a heavy and complex process involving a large number of different committees and intervening parties. Lastly, ISO would like to guarantee that the standards produced are not overly prescriptive.
These standards must provide organizations the flexibility to differentiate themselves and support competition, while preserving each organization’s ability to improve management systems above and beyond the standard. The first standard drafted in compliance with the HLS was ISO 55001 – Asset Management System.