When we think of management systems, we immediately think of international standards, such as ISO 9001 and ISO 14001. How can we manage all of them?

When we think of management systems, we immediately think of international standards, such as ISO 9001 and ISO 14001, among others. And, of course, these are excellent standards that can and (I recommend) should be followed. The problem is not the standards mentioned above, but the way we build our management system. Anyone who has been with me in training sessions, consulting and auditing has probably heard me mention the “umbrella” Management System. But what do I mean by that?

Well, let’s have a look. Many initiatives, tools and methodologies are used by organizations. Six Sigma, TPM (Total Productive Maintenance), 5S, Lean and Kaizen, among others, are widely used and encouraged in all types and sizes of companies. It is clear that these initiatives are important and have a lot of relevance in the daily activities of an organization. The big problem is that management systems have ignored such tools and, instead of being built with them, they end up being built with new ways to do the same thing.

Management standards, such as ISO 9001, do not specify the tools that can or should be used in organizations. It is every company’s choice. However, we should not insist on creating new initiatives beyond those already used in everyday activities. When we do that, instead of the management system being the “big umbrella,” where everything is covered by it, we have a number of other umbrellas that become competitors. As a consequence, practices defined as “standard” in the management system become underutilized, giving space to those other umbrellas that are most heavily used. For example, we create a form for handling non-conformities and continuous improvement. And then, if the company already uses the Kaizen methodology, our form becomes obsolete! Or, the TPM initiative leads to changes in maintenance processes, but the management system is not aware of them.

The fact is, I do not know of any of the tools mentioned above that cannot be put under the big umbrella. Not one of them!

If you want your Management System to provide better results, and that people understand that the Management System is not something in competition or isolated within your company, do not open new umbrellas. Rather, consider all the initiatives and put them under a single “big umbrella” called the management system.

In practice, this means that such initiatives will be audited, their relevance evaluated, their documented information checked etc. Have you ever considered this: during an audit, when the continuous improvement item is questioned, instead of presenting that awful form, which no one uses, you show them a fully functioning Kaizen? Or, when auditing the infrastructure maintenance item, instead of presenting a maintenance plan with a lot of flaws, you show them TPM practices being used by productive staff? Or, when evaluating the environmental conditions for process operations, rather than not knowing how to respond, you present that 5S program that works so well?

Do not be at the mercy of the storms that plague companies. Before the storm, open your big umbrella, also known as the management system.

DelterDelter Lopes is Senior Consultant at Deal Consulting and Bureau Veritas Veritas. His focus is on training people in management systems (internal auditors, head auditors, implementers) and management systems (implementation and monitoring).

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