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Is Implementing a Management System Difficult?

04 March 2015
How do businesses find time to focus on energy, environment and sustainability? Kit Oung explains how this is being achieved by many.

*Updated June 15, 2021

An effective management system is a worthwhile goal for any organization. Once implemented, it can streamline internal processes, strengthen client relationships and allow the entire organization to work more effectively. 

If your team is considering formalizing a management scheme or wants to achieve specific International Organization for Standardization (ISO) certifications, you may be wondering what the project will entail. The good news is, with the right level of commitment, you can create and implement an effective, harmonious system. Let's talk about some of the challenges you could face along the way and how to overcome them.

Challenges of Implementing a Management System

How difficult is it to implement a management system? The answer can vary quite a bit. Some companies, while they don't know it, already have the makings of a successful management system. In that case, implementing a few improvements and getting certified may be a quick and easy process. Other companies require some substantial changes. Even then, the process can go quite smoothly if your team manages its resources and timeline effectively.

Either way, some of the hurdles organizations may have to overcome as they implement a management system include:

1. Fostering Employee Commitment

Change is emotional. It can make some employees fearful of making mistakes or hesitant to learn new skills. The new system may cause some roles to change hands or bring new hires into the fold. Some employees may feel overwhelmed by the new processes or the added workload. Management must recognize employee's potential qualms and put employees at ease early on in the process. Involving employees and considering their input can nurture acceptance of and commitment to the new systems.

2. Ensuring Proper Leadership

Hands-on leadership can be elusive to organizations that are used to delegating. Ensuring all managers are heavily involved in the process and committed to a successful outcome can therefore be a challenge for some. But a company's leadership must put its full weight behind any new initiatives. 

Recognizing this, ISO standards purposely build in requirements for leadership involvement. Section 5 of many ISO standards, including ISO 9001, ISO 27001, ISO 22301, specifically address the need for leadership commitment. The company's top administrators must perform specific actions involved in planning and implementing a management system, and they cannot delegate these steps. Company leaders are responsible for setting policies, assigning roles, reviewing audits and ultimately guiding the rest of the team toward a successful implementation.

3. Planning for Implementation

Every company implements its management system differently. There are no step-by-step instructions to follow, which necessitates thoughtful planning. 

Research has shown many of the challenges involved with implementing a management system stem from planning, including:

  • Inadequate planning of financial support
  • Underestimating the time requirements
  • Challenges implementing a system appropriate for the company's size and industry
  • Misunderstanding the system's value and purpose

All these challenges correspond to steps and strategic decisions taken during the planning phase.

4. Communicating with all Key Players

A management system involves every member of an organization in one way or another. Understanding this and ensuring two-way communication between relevant departments, managers and employees are crucial. Miscommunication can occur when managers unintentionally omit critical information from relevant employees. Thorough documentation, another universal ISO requirement, can prevent such communication blockages.
implement management system

Which Steps are Most Difficult?

The difficulty level of implementing a management system is undoubtedly subjective. After all, it can be a very different process for businesses of various sizes, industries and structures. Still, there are general considerations to make, and some of the steps many companies find a challenge include:

1. Allocating Support

Estimating the time, budget or employee involvement required to create, implement, document and certify a management system can often feel like a guessing game. Clause 7 of many ISO standards emphasizes the need for proper support, such as:

  • People
  • Infrastructure
  • Equipment
  • A suitable work environment
  • Resource monitoring
  • Organizational knowledge
Besides these resources, adequate support also requires communication, documented information and staff competence and awareness. 

It can be challenging to estimate how much time, labor power and budget will be necessary for your initiatives. Your company must recognize the project as an investment and dedicate enough resources to ensure its success. It can also help to loop in a consultant with experience in your industry who can help you understand the resources and time required.

2. Operational Changes

Once the planning phase is complete, many companies can face hurdles making the required changes. You may encounter unexpected circumstances that weren't addressed in your initial plans. Or employees may not understand how to follow the new system. Managing change is critical, alongside a thorough understanding of your operational processes. During this step, companies will inevitably experience some growing pains as they work out the kinks in the system and manage any nonconformities. 

Those that recognize implementation as a gradual process can eventually see their changes fully implemented and functioning correctly.

3. Internal Auditing

When companies want to get their management systems certified to the corresponding ISO standards, they must perform an internal audit. This task is often unfamiliar to companies getting certified for the first time. Even companies that don't need much effort to get their system aligned with ISO may face hurdles at this stage. The internal auditors are staff members or managers themselves and face the sensitive task of looking objectively at their own system. They must work closely with both upper management and employees spanning all ranks while remaining impartial.

The proper training allows auditors to be successful in their roles. NQA offers training to help internal employees develop the skills needed to audit their management systems. 

How to Make the Process Easier

Implementing a management system takes time, dedication and skill, but creating an easier process for yourself and your team can give you various benefits of implementing a management system. You'll enjoy operational consistency, improved employee onboarding and communication, increased profits, continued improvement and a range of other advantages.

With the right team, timeline and commitment, it can be easier than you might expect to implement a management system and gain those benefits. Here are some tips to help you make the process a little smoother:

1. Start with Company-Wide Commitment

Making any changes to the systems in place will require a united front. Leaders need to support their teams through the process. Employees need motivation, investment and faith in the new systems. It's also critical that the management system aligns with customers' needs and expectations. 

Adequate communication and clearly defined responsibilities can go a long way toward getting all stakeholders on board. Employee participation and, if necessary, customer involvement can ensure the system's success and quell fears related to change.

2. Perform a Gap Analysis

Performing a formal gap analysis lets you understand the management system currently in place and what changes are required to meet your goals. 

Working with an external auditor for a gap analysis can be an excellent first step. The final report will identify the elements that conform and do not conform with the desired standards. It will also determine which components of the chosen standards apply to the business and form a basis for a project plan with suggested corrective actions. Many companies find this step helpful for orienting the team toward the project at hand.

3. Break Down the Process

The more time and thought you put into planning, the easier implementation becomes. Once you know what's required to bring your management system in line with ISO standards or client expectations, create an action plan. Break down the requirements into key steps and deliverables and create a timeline. Make sure all team members know what's expected of them through every stage in the process.

4. Plan to Improve

Continual improvement is a required component of any management system aligned with ISO standards. It's also important to recognize the framework will not be fully formed as soon as it's implemented. It will evolve and become stronger over time as your needs change and your team improves. 

While the idea of reviewing and making changes to the system regularly can feel intimidating, it actually makes implementing your management system easier. It doesn't have to be perfect right away, so you can take as much time as you need to grow your system into something that makes your organization stronger.
NQA management systems

How NQA can Help

As an accredited certification body for management systems, NQA offers a range of services for companies planning system-wide improvements. Besides our informative pre-audit gap analysis, we can provide training in quality management systems, which will teach you or your team how to perform an internal audit. 

We can also put you in touch with qualified consultants who have experience in your industry and chosen standards. While we don't perform consulting ourselves, the consultants on our register can offer the support and guidance you need for a successful implementation.

Once your organization is ready, we'll be happy to serve as your certification partner. We offer accredited certificates for many management systems. As part of our official audits, we aim to find opportunities for improvement, helping you make your system work best for you and meet or exceed certification requirements. For more information about how NQA can help your operations, contact us today.

Authored by: Kit Oung