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Management Systems – Back to Basics

February 12, 2015 - Kestrel Management

A management system is the organizing framework that enables companies to achieve and sustain their operational and business objectives through a process of continuous improvement. A management system is designed to identify and manage risks—safety, environmental, quality, business continuity, food safety (and many others)—through an organized set of policies, procedures, practices, and resources that guide the enterprise and its activities to maximize business value.

The management system addresses:

  • What is done and why
  • How it is done and by whom
  • How well it is being done
  • How it is maintained and reviewed
  • How it can be improved

Creating an Effective and Valuable Management System

Each company’s management system reflects its unique culture, vision, and values. To be effective and valuable, the management system must be tailored and focused on how it can enhance the business performance of the organization. It must also be:

  • Useful to people in the operations
  • Intuitive—organized the way operations people think
  • Flexible—making use of methods and tools as they are developed and documented
  • Valuable from the outset—addressing the most critical risks and processes
  • Linked to the business of the business (not “pasted on”), with ownership at the operational level
  • A means to better align operational quality, safety, and environment with the business

Attributes of an effective management system are senior management expectations and guidance coupled with employee engagement. Importantly, a management system involves a continual cycle of planning, implementing, reviewing, and improving the way in which safety, quality, and environmental obligations and objectives are met. In its simplest form, this involves implementing the Plan, Do, Check, Act/Adjust (P-D-C-A) cycle for continuous improvement.

mgmt_sys_cont_improvement

Auditing for Ongoing Compliance

The connection between management systems and compliance is vital in avoiding recurring compliance issues and in reducing variation in compliance performance. In fact, reliable and effective regulatory compliance is commonly an outcome of consistent and reliable implementation of a management system.

Conducting periodic audits is a practical way to test a management system’s implementation maturity and effectiveness. One of the many advantages of audits is that they help identify gaps so that corrective/preventive actions can be put into place and then sustained and improved through the management system.

Audits also help companies with continuous improvement initiatives; properly developed audit programs help measure results over time. To achieve best value, audits should emphasize finding patterns that can yield opportunities for learning and continual improvement, rather than “gotchas” for exceptions that are discovered.

Management System Standards

Several options are available for structuring management systems, whether they are certified by third-party registrars and auditors, self-certified, or used as internal guidance and for potential certification readiness.

The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) standards are some of the most commonly applied. The ISO standards for quality (ISO 9001), environment (ISO 14001), health & safety (OHSAS 18001), business continuity (ISO 22301), and food safety (FSSC 22000) have consistent elements, allowing organizations to more easily align their various management systems. Aligned management systems help companies to achieve improved and more reliable quality, environmental, and health & safety performance, while adding measurable business value.

Certification

Companies can become certified to each of the standards discussed above. Certification has a number of benefits, including the following:

  • Meet customer or supply chain requirements
  • Use outside drivers to maintain management system process discipline (e.g., periodic risk assessment, document management, compliance evaluation, internal audits, management review)
  • Take advantage of third-party assessment and recommendations
  • Improve standing with regulatory agencies (e.g., USEPA, OSHA, FDA, and state programs)
  • Demonstrate the application of industry best practice in the event of incidents/accidents requiring defense of practices

However, if there is no market or other business driver, certification can lead to unnecessary additional cost and effort regarding management system development. Certification in itself does not mean improved performance—management system structure, operation, and management commitment determine that.

Business Value

There are a number of reasons to implement a management system. A properly designed and implemented management system brings value to organizations in a number of ways:

  • Risk management
    • Identify risks
    • Set priorities for improvement, measurement, and reporting
    • Provide great opportunity to identify, share, and learn best practices, while recognizing operational differences
  • Protection of people
    • Send people home the way they arrived at work
    • Protect the public and the environment
  • Compliance assurance
    • Improve and sustain regulatory compliance
  • Business value
    • Continually improve quality, environmental, and safety performance across the organization (employee, public, equipment, infrastructure)
    • Reduce incident costs and accrued liabilities
    • Protect assets
  • Reliability
    • Assure processes, methods, and practices are in place, documented, and consistently applied
    • Reduce variability in processes and performance
  • Employee engagement
    • Help employees to find and use current versions of all procedures and documents
    • Provide a ready reference for field management to structure location-specific procedures
    • Enable the effective transfer of standards, methods, and know-how in employee training, new job assignments, and promotions

Submitted by: Tom Kunes

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