The term “Management Systems” can seem a little formal and stuffy, and it seems to imply “complicated” and “expensive” and certainly not something a small business needs to worry about. As I have often seen, all companies need systems to survive, thrive and grow. If you have ever experienced an audit from your friendly federal taxation department, tried to work for a large client, dealt with an employee complaint, or bid on that critical project, your business is often scrutinized on how well your systems work.
So, let’s peel back the complexity to show how a “Management System” approach can help your organization achieve excellence in a simple, consistent way.
What is a “Management System”?
A Management System is simply an organized way to achieve the organization’s objectives by identifying and managing business risks and opportunities to achieve exceptional results. There are many ways to represent these systems, but we have landed on these elements:
- Plan – this might include things like a Strategic Plan that assesses current risks, processes, opportunities, and key projects to achieve your goals, Policies, Standards and Procedures.
- Implement – how you train people and provide the necessary resources to succeed.
- Reinforce and support – how you help your people consistently do the things you expect and ensure your systems work effectively.
- Assess Effectiveness – periodically examine how everything is working and where you need to make improvements.
Use a Consistent Approach Throughout the Organization
One of the significant weaknesses I see in organizations is that each topic or department takes a different approach to Management Systems. The typical argument is that Accounting and Finance is totally different than the Safety Function, which is different from the Training Function, which is different from Human Resources, which is different from the Quality Program for a new product. After all, the audit, regulatory, and other areas’ processes are totally different. Right? Well, actually, no. The underlying processes are the same for all of them.
Let’s take Finance and Accounting for a public company. There are certain regulatory and audit requirements to ensure the practices have the necessary checks and balances in place to adequately manage all the risks, such as proper reporting of results, preventing fraud, paying appropriate taxes, securities reporting, etc. A Safety Management System also requires proper practices to meet regulatory and audit requirements and have proper checks and balances to help workers be safe in their jobs. We could go through each area and see similar patterns even though the details will be different.
Focus on Employees and Results
So why do the different areas of an organization typically end up with such different approaches? There are two key reasons:
- Different Departments/Functions – Each department or function has specialized knowledge and backgrounds that can lead down different paths. It may take some work to bring groups together to see the value in a common, underlying approach that will make it easier and more productive for employees.
- Focus on Audits and Regulations – If we use a compliance approach to organize the Management Systems around audit and regulatory requirements, typically, programs become large and complicated, with each one even having its own set of terminology. You can make the program easy to learn and apply for workers with a more creative approach while still meeting the regulatory and audit requirements.
The focus for our Management Systems needs to be on employees, so requirements are easy to understand and apply to achieve results. With a “Compliance” approach, the systems are often complicated, documentation sits on a shelf, and the training is difficult to make it stick.
Example of How to Keep it Simple
We have worked with many companies that needed to establish a Safety Program that lives up to a particular audit protocol. At the same time, they may also have a Quality Program that needs to meet a different set of requirements. The two programs have a lot of overlapping needs, such as operating procedures and training processes. Here are some ways of creating a common approach that makes it easier for employees to understand:
- Leverage Technology – modern software platforms can make it easy to have document libraries to assign properties such as which audit protocols the document supports. This lets you quickly sort documentation from different perspectives like safety and quality while avoiding duplication.
- Use a Common Model – at DETAC, we developed our 4 STEPS/4 SKILLS® models for common business functions so employees can learn basic steps and skills to tackle any business issue. The model is built into the overall method for creating Management Systems for any part of the business (Plan, Implement, Reinforce and Support, Assess Effectiveness). The important thing is to pick a consistent method that works for your organization.
- Focus on Employees – if it is a process that needs to be formally audited, we still keep the program based on our typical approach and build a simple cross-reference for auditors. Our job is to make employees’ programs easy to understand and apply while ensuring that auditors and regulators clearly understand how the simplified approach still lives up to all the requirements.
A Management System is simply an organized way of achieving exceptional results. Whether you are a start-up or an established organization, by focusing your Management Systems on how employees need to apply them, you can develop a simple, common approach for all business areas. A simple, repeatable, learnable process builds better engagement and outcomes. It takes some thought and work to peel away some of the complexity, but the results make it worthwhile.
Need help to simplify business processes and create effective Management Systems? Call us at 403-650-0413.