What is a management system?
According to AS/NZS ISO 9001:2008 (the latest version of the Quality Management System Standard and forerunner to the OHS management system (OHSMS) standard AS/NZS 4801:2001 and the environmental management system (EMS) standard AS/NZS ISO 14001:2004), organisations must identify and manage numerous linked activities to function effectively. It goes on to discuss the need for managing resources, inputs and outputs etc, making the point that only through a systematic or process approach will an organisation be able to maintain control. Put simply, a management system is the structure that enables organisations to manage the way they operate.
Some may argue that organisations exist, possibly even flourish, without a management system. However, upon closer inspection, this is not the case. All successful organisations have values, policies, procedures, standard processes and practices. Whether documented or not, these are the components of that organisation’s system of management. By formalising this system, an organisation has the opportunity to review its performance, determine what works and does not work, agree to the preferred processes and proactively manage its performance.
Pitfalls of buying a system
An all too common response is for an organisation to seek to buy a management system ‘off the shelf’. Without the necessary contextualisation or engagement of relevant stakeholders during the design, are not only likely to be a wrong fit for the business but they will fail to gain the momentum to survive or could even be sabotaged from within the organisation.
A management system needs to be owned and operated by the organisation. No CEO worth their salt would dream to publish company vision, values or policy which they had simply downloaded from the internet and yet they may consider managing workplace health and safety, quality and/or environmental management this way.
Pitfalls of designing a system
Unfortunately interpreting standards and developing a system can be quite complex. Even practitioners highly skilled in their relevant discipline can find it difficult negotiating the process and producing something that meets the relevant criteria. Alternatively, many organisations end up with a system that meets all the requirements but results in a situation where their people are slaves to documentation without seeing any added value to their processes or improvement in their performance.
So if an ‘off-the-shelf’ system is not the right approach and your organisation does not have the internal expertise then what is the answer? In the same way CEOs and boards of directors would seek independent legal advice, due diligence from an accounts auditing firm or the expert opinion of an engineer, there are many instances where the design, development, implementation and review of management systems can require external experts.
When seeking this expertise, consider the providers background, experience, qualifications and past successes. If the consultant isn’t qualified to audit the applicable standard, then how could the design a system to meet it. If they have no actual industry experience then how will they adapt the cold hard pages of generic requirements to your business need? Seek referrals, do background checks, ask for references.
As a professional Environmental and OHS Consultancy, OSHEM Solutions, provides a range of Occupational Health and Safety (OHSMS), Environmental (EMS) and Integrated Management System services including design & development, implementation, audit & inspection and review.
Click on this link to find out more about the type of services we provide, including case studies. If you would like more information on management systems, including how we can assist your organisation in developing something to meet your unique needs call us on 1300 657 279 or by email: Contact Us.