The author of this article is the holder of various higher and tertiary qualifications with diverse exposure to multiple international blue-chip companies in a manager role. He was also responsible for the implementation evaluation of management systems in these organisations.
I have held positions in Design, Marketing, Head of Departments, Supply Chain Operations and various others, expanding my knowledge every step of the way.
What I didn’t know about Management Systems
What is a Management System? I thought I knew. But it turned out that I knew very little about management systems and what their purpose is, even though I’ve been working in the corporate environment for many years. So, I set myself the task to master these systems or as many of them as I can.
I knew there was a process, and I knew that results should be obtainable. But how does it all fit together? And do I have to study all these different systems? (There are thousands of them.) There had to be a better way. And it turns out, the better way was there already, built into international standards.
The International Organization for Standardization, or ISO for short, develops and publishes International Standards. They are an independent, non-governmental international organization with a membership of 167 national standards bodies and have developed over 24316 International Standards. That’s a lot of standards to get your head around. And each standard can be implemented as a management system. Some big, some small.
So, back to the question, “What is a Management System?”
Management systems are like Houses
Imagine you are planning to build your dream house; with all the bells and whistles and automated technologies, your mind can conceive. The Management System would be your vision of the house, all the bricks, cabling, paint, wires, tiles, baths, shower heads, screens, electrical doors and whatever else you want in your house, all piled nicely in a heap on your empty property. On its own, a Management System has massive potential. But without proper planning and implementation, that’s all you’ll ever have, a nicely piled heap of resources and some ideas.
Before you can move into your dream house, it needs to be built first. And before you can build it, you need to plan it. You will sit with your architect and explain your vision. Taking stock of all your available materials, your architect will then start pulling together the plans for your dream house. They will probably also add some additional features to your dream house that you never even thought of. Now, your architect is also part of your Management System, but your project is not completed yet. You still need the construction team, and the painters and roofers and tilers. And your house is still not complete.
Okay, so they all came together, built your house to the architect’s specifications, painted it, tiled it and handed you the key to your brand-new house. It should all be done now, right? What if, in 5 years, you decide on a new colour for the lounge? Surely you don’t need to go through the whole process. No, you only need to make small changes now, to ensure that your dream house keeps up with your needs.
That is a Management System. It is all the planning, people, policies, procedures, systems, tools, and technologies that go into managing a certain aspect of your business. And instead of bricks and wires, it uses documents. And just like building a house, it needs to be planned properly otherwise you will just be sitting with a heap of useless rubble. But planning is not everything, if your construction team is not up to the task, you might have your garage in your kitchen. The same applies to Management Systems. If they are not properly implemented according to the plan, your business or organisation will have a very expensive document collection that does not achieve its intended objectives.
Road-Map to Management System Maturity
Step 1 - Understand Business Environment
This is probably the hardest part of the whole exercise. Understanding your business environment, and the internal and external issues that can or will impact your business.
- TCRA, etc.
If these acronyms are not known to you, you might be on the wrong side of an Environmental Scan.
Once you've established all these elements and defined them, you can put together your Scope. This Scope is not the type that goes on a rifle, but rather the exact requirements that you intend to focus on in your Management System.
Step 2 - Importance of Leadership
Without proper Leadership, your Management System is guaranteed to fail. After having spent many hours with many high-level Executives and Managers in powerful organisations, I came to the shocking realisation that these leaders have no idea of the impact their decisions and indecision make on the business.
In a lot of these scenarios, top management had to be "trained", by us, in a position that they should have been in control of. They were and are only occupying their positions because of the time spent in their organisations, and not necessarily because of their knowledge or experience in the respective field.
Step 3 – Risk-Based Planning
Risk flows through every part of life and every part of a business or organisation. The scary and shocking thing is that organisations have no idea how to measure and plan for risk.
If you do not understand your business environment, can't define your scope clearly and lack strong leadership, the risk is going to be the chain around your neck that drags you to the bottom of an endless pit.
Proper Risk Management includes identifying, evaluating and analysing each risk and each control individually to define its impact on your business.
If you hold a Risk title in your organisation and terms like ICE and DAM are new to you are in for a very scary ride.
Step 4 - Resource Planning & Management
I've spent time with some powerful leaders in the private and public sectors and realised that they are more worried about themselves and their position than the resources under their control. They want to increase the resources under their control because this gives them "more power"
Many hours have been spent with these leaders trying to identify the resources under their control, and all they come up with is people as resources, completely missing or forgetting about the other extremely important resources under their control.
Every heard of P2ST2? These are the resources that are required for any business, doesn't matter its size. Let me break it down:
And these are not just resources, they also become your controls that ensure the efficiency of your Management System. So not investing in all of them is a guaranteed recipe for failure.
Step 5 - Operationalise the Management System
In my personal experience, the default setting for most organisations is to dive head-first into this step, with nasty consequences. How can you go into your operations if you do not understand your organisation's environment, have poor leadership, a terrible risk approach and weak resource planning and management?
You won't know where you are, and you will have no idea how to get there. As the age-old saying goes "you can't see the wood for the trees."
Management of operations is easy. If you do not lift your head from the operations and focus on the tactical approaches and strategic vision for your organisation, you will never become a successful leader and epically fail in implementing an effective Management System.
Step 6 - Manage the Performance
Okay, so you've done all the leg work, your operations are running, and the management system is implemented, but now what? Now you must measure how effective all your efforts were.
Most organisations I've come across, miss 7 very important steps. And when they do measure the performance, they measure the Operational Performance and completely miss out on the performance in achieving their Organisational Objectives. Failing to reach your objectives is a guaranteed way to fail.
These steps are:
- internal audit
- management review
And top management, the CEO, GM or EXCO, must be involved in the performance reviews. How else can they know if the business is on the right path?
Step 7 - Always (Life-Long) Continuously Improve
In all the organisations I've consulted with over these years I have never come across a single Continuous Improvement Strategy. If you've failed in any of the previous steps or missed anything, this is your golden opportunity to turn things around. Continuous improvement should be the very cornerstone of everything that is done in and for your business or organisation. This is how your business becomes better and how you ensure longevity and a very competitive world environment. Organisations that strive to be better tomorrow than they were yesterday, are the ones that stick around forever.
Covid-19 has changed the world we live in and many businesses did not make it through. The future lies in your hands and mine, and we are the ones that need to prepare for the uncertainties that will come our way again.
If you fail to follow these simple 7 Steps to Management System Maturity, you are guaranteed to fail in your organisation. You are the management system, you decide the effectiveness thereof, and you are responsible for its failure.
Acknowledge your shortcomings. Obtain training, consulting and guidance in Management Systems. Don't go cheap. Find an experienced entity that can guide you and your organisation to a successful Management Systems Implementation.
We can help you with the following:
- Training on over 20 Management Systems
- Consulting and Advisory on the implementation of Management Systems
- Gap Analysis to determine what is your current state and your desired state of your Management System in your environment.
I am Alexander Venske, Executive: Digital & Management Systems for Crest Advisory Africa.
Email me today at: firstname.lastname@example.org