Management System Success is Management Success


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FAQ - Frequently Asked Questions


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) include questions and answers related to management systems that someone like you may have. So I tried to imagine what your questions could be and I provided the answers. If you have questions that are not listed below or if you are not satisfied with my answers, please let me know via . Your help will be much appreciated to improve the FAQ section of my website.


What is a management system?



A Management System ....

is a plan indicating: "this is where we want to be and the way we will get there".

That can be orally or in written form on paper or electronically.

To make your management system effective to reach desired objectives you need three things:

The Process to make and execute your plan, Content and Structure

Of course there several definitions to be found, one being more "scientific" than the other and the more scientific, the more complex and the more difficult to understand and communicate.

A contact of mine in Australia said: "When I first started to work in this industry I asked the question "what is a management system" to so many people, from auditors to my operations manager and everyone had different ideas and definitions, so at the end I only had a vague idea of the concept. I think from now on, when I get asked the question by my friends or family, I'll simply use your definition, it is much simpler and it makes sense! Thanks for that."

And basically, that is what a management system is: management saying and documenting what the objective is and how to get there. The process will involve people needed to make it a success and the structure will stimulate implementation as well as periodic assessment and evaluation to make sure that the right things are being done and results obtained. 

Why a management system?

Like it or not but you will always have some kind of a management system in your organization. It may not be written down though which will make it more difficult to communicate to stakeholders, even if your company or organization is small. It may not be very good and it may not produce much or any results. But there are at least some activities there that can form the foundation of a management system that will produce results.


So the question may be "why should we have a management system that works?" The answer is very obvious to me: "why not have a management system that produces results that you want?" You are doing certain things anyway that are part of a management system, so why not doing them in a way that they work better? And involve people who know what to do, when and how?


You may also want/need a management system because your customers require you to obtain a certain certificate. That is not the type and quality of a management system as I see it. If you are just looking for a certificate, you will be able to find a consultant who will help you to set up a management system to meet minimal certification requirements. And that consultant may also help you to make use a certification institute that will issue a certificate meeting those minimum requirements. That will provide you with a certificate but that may not produce the results you could have and which your customer may expect.

Does the Management System have to be in writing?

No, not necessarily.


But if your organization is a little larger than (very) small it may be difficult to communicate the contents - who shall do what, when and how - to others.


And it may also be difficult to close to impossible to communicate to external parties if it is not put on paper.


And if you want a certificate based on your management system it is a requirement to have it on paper.

Does a Management System make the working of your organization rigid?

Could be, depends how complex you make it and sometimes that is even needed depending on the type of industry you are in. If you cannot afford unwanted events, no matter what, then your management system may have to be rather detailed and, if you want to call it that: rigid.


For the average industry if you start small and let your system grow based on results you may just end up with the management system that fits your organization: not to large and not too small, just right for you.


If you develop the management system using the 17-step process detailed in my book, it is very likely that you end up with a system that is supported all the way down in the organization. The detail will depend of the qualifications of the people. That would fit in nicely with a concept such as empowerment.

When is a management system a MANAGEMENT SYSTEM?

A management system includes management activity areas or "elements" which you may also want to call "chapters". The management activity areas - such as purchasing, design, training, management of change - include management activities which indicate WHAT shall be done, WHEN and by WHOM. The management system would be backed up by more detailed procedures, work instructions, etc. describing HOW the work needs to be done.


A management system is a MANAGEMENT SYSTEM if:

  • there is a clear objective to which combined management activities are directed 
  • the system has been developed through a process to allow participation at all levels in the organization 
  • there is enough content - a sufficient number of management activities to reach the objective 
  • the activities are embedded in a structure to stimulate activities and results
What to expect of your management system? 

Short answer: everything you expect from it. If only certificate, then your management system should deliver that. If you want your management system to comply with legislation, then that should be the results of your management system. If you want more than a certificate or compliance with legislation then it all depends on what you want and you should make your management system to deliver. My book shows you the way.

What form or shape should a management system have?

It does not really matter as long as it is clear on what shall be done, when and by whom. And if it has the structure to make sure that necessary activities are carried out and desired results obtained.


Many organizations build their management system parallel to the certification requirements. That is OK for getting a certificate and could be enough if you want other results on top of that. In that case your management system got to have the management activity areas necessary to obtain the results wanted and needs the structure to also get those.


If you build your management system different from the layout of the certification reference, then it may help - for certification purposes - to make a matrix showing where the certification issues can be found in your management system.

What should be in a management system?

The content of your management system will be determined by what you expect it to do. If you want an ISO 9001 certificate, refer to ISO 9001, if you want an OHSAS 18000 certificate, refer to OHSAS 18000, and so on. If you want your management system for other reasons, include the management activity areas and management activities that you think will bring about the desired results.


In most cases you will include management activity areas that are more or less generic to any objective that you may want to reach. Those include areas like: hiring and selection of people, design of installations and work environment, design of products, training of management, training of operating personnel, purchasing, management of change, etc.

What structure should a management system have?

Any structure that you think is suitable as long as the structure would support implementation of activities and obtaining results. To facilitate execution of management activities that are part of your system, it would certainly help if you build your management system along a process that will facilitate implementation. The 17-step process is a route to management system success.

Does a management system always mean improvement?  

Not necessarily so. Management systems are often set up top obtain a certificate such as ISO 9000, 14000 or OHSAS 18000. In fact I think that certification often forms a road-block to improvement. 


Why do I say that? He are some of my arguments:  

  • Management systems are normally set up to obtain a certificate.  
  • A certificate normally represents an indication for a minimum level of performance. Once a company has reach that level, the certificate will be issued. 
  • But even the minimum level may be less than what you expect because there may be quite a bit of interpretation as to what is acceptable to get the certificate. That may very well depend on the qualifications of the auditor and the policy of the certification institute and the level of what is “minimally acceptable” may therefore vary quite a bit.  
  • Certification institutes are normally competing for business in a commercial market so price is always an issue and the lower price may mean lower auditing quality resulting in lower certification quality and a certificate for less than minimal efforts. 
  • Combination of potentially conflicting roles in one (certification) company or person: consulting, training and auditing/certification. While formally the consulting will be separated from the auditing/certification, the people involved may still be working for the same company.  
  • Relations between auditors who often operate as independents. “You scratch my back and I scratch yours”. One auditor doing the consulting for company A while the other will do the certification audit. Next time, for company B, it may be the other way around. 
  • Relations between consultants and auditors/certification institutes. Often certification is on demand of a third party so the thinking may be:  it has to be quick, easy and should not cost much. So if those are the margins for the consultant needing the income, the consultant will know what is minimally acceptable to get the certificate from the certification institute that is also eager to get the business.   
  • Use of an external consultant may provide a “management system” that is certifiable but that system may not have been set up with much or any involvement of company personnel who will have to do the work. So there is no “emotional ownership” within the company, it is not “our system“ because “we have not been involved in making it”. The “principle of participation” applies here as well as the “principle of emotional ownership”.   
  • Getting the certificate may be understood by company management as “we are doing a good job”.  That may provide a false feeling of self-satisfaction and complacency.
    Does it have to be that way? No, definitely not. There are certification institutes and auditors that are different. The good consultant would ask the question: do you want a certificate or do you want to get better in what you are doing? And there are people who can see beyond certification and will use that what is required to get the certificate to make their company better, to get better control over unwanted events allowing them to survive in a competitive market.

What about "integrated management systems"?

What we mean by “integrated management systems” is nothing more than putting things together that belong together. A job well done is a job without unwanted events, be it safety, or quality or environmental or anything else.


We call it integrated because we are putting together management systems that were separate for safety, quality and environment due to:

  • historic reasons – the focus on these aspects did not develop at the same time 
  • legislative reasons – safety legislation, legislation for health and environment  
  • different certification schemes – OHSAS 18000 for safety, ISO 9000 for Quality, ISO 14000 for the environment and you may be able to add a couple more ISO or other schemes 
  • requirements from customers  
  • traditional measurement of safety in terms of lost time accident rates  
  • territorial claims –“my area”, “my responsibility” 

Separation of safety, quality, environment etc. may lead to territorial claims and sub-optimization. A good example is the risk identification which is mandatory in the contractor safety certification process (VCA/SCC) in which I have been involved when setting this up between 1989 and 1994. If you would look at the system today, you will see that the system itself is almost exclusively focused on lost time injury accidents and the risk identification process as well. The core of the certification scheme is “control of tasks with increased risks”. But when you look at the risk identification process which should be the foundation on which to base the VCA/SCC system, you will find that is directed at uncovering personal injury type of risk. This is at least regrettable as the process could be used to also find other potential problems that may originate from the same tasks or job. And don’t forget that this “job safety analysis” (JSA) has been around for decennia. What a lot of wasted effort.
If we would have to do it all over again, maybe we would learn from history and start thinking in terms of “unwanted events” rather than letting the outcome of the event decide whether this is for the quality manager or the safety manager or somebody else.


Mind you, we may still get there and maybe one day we will be talking about the “unwanted event frequency rate” or just “failure rate” referring to failure of the management system to control the events that we do not want to see.


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