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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.

The demands on a business to manufacture a product or provide a service are voluminous. The primary focus of all businesses is to address its' needs in terms of: raw materials, employees, competition, sales, production, equipment reliability, waste, regulatory compliance, etc.

Suffice to say, the primary and fiduciary duties of top management in a business is to ensure they deploy company resources in an effective and efficient manner to meet customer demand. How do businesses find time to focus on energy, environment and sustainability? Kit Oung explains how this is being achieved by many.

When addressing the energy and environmental issues, many businesses implement a barrage of guru soup on an ad hoc manner. Some examples of these so called guru soups are 5S, lean manufacturing, kaizen, treasure hunts, six sigma, ISO 9001, ISO 14001, OHSAS 18001, ISO 50001, etc.

In this age where lean is seen as the “must do” cool thing in business, there are less people to meet and at the same time, people have to carry out additional and growing lists of tasks assigned by top management. In fact, many businesses are suffering from an initiative fatigue and not able to apportion successes or otherwise to specific initiatives. The following evidence is not in short supply in the media:

“Not another management initiative!”
“I have no time! Come back in a few months.”
“We are very busy!”
“Well, when the consultants leave, everything goes back to the normal anyway!”

Why is this happening?

When businesses chooses to implement new initiatives, many implement them as independent projects, following a rigid process to meet the requirements word for word. For example, a business organisation certified to ISO 9001, ISO 14001, OHSAS 18001 and ISO 50001 end up spending time driving five independent management systems (the fifth being the way the business operate on a daily basis).

Inevitably, many organisational activities are focused on closing non-conformities and collecting evidence for meeting the requirements before the next audit. Businesses get caught into a spiralling loop of constant catch up from audit to audit. When employees who are stressed and stretched, begin to miss targets and deadlines, the psychological need for self-protection kicks in and they start apportioning blame – it’s human nature.

So, while it is possible to apply guru soup on an ad hoc project basis, it is not a good use of company resource. It is an expensive method. It’s also a way to wear down employee motivation and drive up politics wihtin the organisation.

There is a better way

Yes, there is a better and more cost effective way. A good and thorough understanding of these principles allows businesses to distil and operate one management system: incorporating quality features (ISO 9001), environmental features (ISO 14001), features of health and safety (OHSAS 18001), and energy features (ISO 50001) ... or whichever the business subscribed to.

These fundamental principles are:

Use consistent language. Management systems are based on a set of very basic terminologies: Plan, Do, Check and Act. Each terminology has several requirements that are described using simple language. Using these readymade terms makes it simple and understandable for all in the business.

Whole firm involvement. Many people think that management systems are only for those in a “management” position. In fact, it is a way of working inside the business: From the raw materials input to the product output and from the marketing to satisfied customers.

Allocate responsibilities and resources early. Planning and allocation of roles, responsibility and authority must be allocated as soon as the system is rolled out. An important point is not to assume that everyone knows their job function and description – a person’s interpretation of their role may be different to another persons’ interpretation of the same role.

Challenge established assumptions. Organisations have in its operations, a set of assumptions, such as regulatory requirements, customer requirements, design parameters, etc. Assumptions could also be how the organisation structures its cost and profits leading to the availability of capital and investment criterion. These are invariably correct at the time they were written, however these requirements do change. Every change may offer opportunities for improvement.

Integrate into daily operations. Once the ways of workings are established, it has to be put into practice. An organisations failure to practice what it preaches can lower personal authenticity, integrity and trust with the management can begin to dwindle.

Utilise appropriate performance measurements. Performance measures are necessary to inform the business where they are in relation to where the strategy says they want to be. The worst cases are where everyone is measured against the same parameters. If this is the case, everyone hides behind it and blames everyone else for the failure. Create a good set of overall business performance measures and then divide them into sub sets of performance measurements tied to individual job roles.

Integrate into life cycle. Management systems do not stop at product delivery and service delivery. It involves the product and service innovation, buying replacements, designing new facilities and when purchasing too! The one management system has to fit and be integrated into your value chain and the life cycle of your business. More opportunities can then be identified.

Continual improvement. DO. DO. DO. Make mistakes, learn from it. And DO SOME MORE. Very little management initiatives are successful in accordance with initial plans. The key is not to be deluded by the success and/or failure. The halo effect by Phil Rosenzweig comes to mind.

Set stretched but achievable objectives and targets. Objectives, targets and plans have to be stretched to add urgency and excitement to deliver the programme. After all, what is the use of goals if it could be achieved in a business as usual context? However, it has to be achievable. Otherwise, people lose interest, brand it as wishful thinking and continue business as usual activities. Be specific about how the goals are to be achieved.

Generate opportunities for quick wins. Finally, there must be actions and things everyone within the organisation can do to move the management system forward and its objectives. The repeated contribution of all employees and in repeated encouragement from management, raises a greater awareness of actions required, until those actions become part of a new way of working.

Implementing a management system does not have to be onerous with a voluminous manual. I have seen multinational companies roll out their ISO certified management system without uttering the word ISO. I have also seen fully certified management system manuals spanning no more than four A4 pages that are made up entirely of flow charts.

The key is to understand the fundamental principles of management systems, tap into the similarities, and integrate it into the [existing] ways the organisation operate. Those that do, find they are able to save precious time and resources for other areas within the business.

There are some effective integrated management system training courses that have proven to help businesses achieve and maintain ISO certification. Click here to learn more about a course near you.

Kit Oung is an experienced energy manager at Energy Efficien:ology, board member of Energy Managers’ Association, and Advisory member of 2degrees Network. He is the author of Energy Management in Business: The Manager’s Guide to Maximising and Sustaining Energy Reduction (Gower) and Energy Audits: The Key to Delivering Real Energy Reduction (BSI).

Authored by: Kit Oung