Does your management system consist of numerous written procedures and forms?
If so I bet they are all carefully administered by the quality department that gives them numbers, versions, owners and may even have them signed. Well guess what? The more you have of these the greater the potential for your organization to make some serious improvements.
Let’s be clear, a management system document describes the activities that a business would like its people to follow. A management system tool is often an IT solution that ensures people in the business shall work to the requirements of the business. So a document relies on the integrity of the people to do the right thing where as a system tool has the people relying on the integrity of the system to do the right thing. Which one would you trust, a documented procedure with business requirements hidden away in a sea of documents or a tool that is used every day and has all the business requirements continually helping and guiding your people? I know which one I trust, rules in tools!
Here’s an example.
Let’s take the excitement of an audit procedure! In here there will be references to audit plans, competencies, reports, non-conformance, timings, notifications, frequencies etc. I have seen this stretch to 8 pages and more. Yet, everything that has just been listed is capable of going into a system tool. This would then obviate the need for most, if not all of the written procedure, as there could be a simple referencing out to the audit system.
System documents hide failure
System tools report failure
Now let’s take this one stage further and audit the audit procedure. Here I have seen very diligent Quality Managers spend days preparing a series of audit check lists based upon the audit procedure. Here the focus is very much on the audit procedure rather than reviewing its outputs, which surely is where the value is. Another question, when did the procedure last get looked at by those who are supposed to be working to it? Answer, probably the last time it was audited. If that is the case then who is the procedure for, the auditor or the organization?
An audit can only be based upon sampling, so a paper based system will only allow an auditor to pick a few things to review. In cases where a proper system tool is used to manage audits there is much more that can be seen, validated and done so much faster too.
System tools automate the mundane.
With system tools an auditor has a much greater opportunity of adding some value as they can focus on how a system is operating and what it is telling them rather than worrying about the mundane within a written procedure.
It is pleasing to note that the new standards for ISO 9001 and ISO 14001 have removed all references for an organization to maintain, quality manuals, documented procedures, and quality records. Instead the standards refer to “documented information” which can be in any format. This means if you maintain system tools then your procedural requirements are documented inside the system. This is a big leap forward and something I have been trying to get businesses to do for 20 years!
In my view there is still more to do with the standards and that is to reduce them into one.
This article was first published on LinkedIn in November 5, 2015