Management Systems and the New Normal
As restrictions continue to ease in the UK and the effects of the pandemic become something to be managed and lived with, it may be time to consider what ‘normality’ is for your business, now and going forward.
Over the past two years the focus of many businesses has changed from one of stabilisation or growth to one of survival. For some, that may not have been possible and their names have been consigned to history; others may have managed to keep their business going and are now slowly seeing a return to pre-pandemic business levels; the fortunate few may have been able to take advantage of their capabilities and expand their offering to current customers or expand in to new markets.
Whatever the current status of your business, it is unlikely to have returned completely to the way it was before the pandemic struck.
How to move forward when you don't know what to expect
And so now, as you look expectantly to the future, you should review the recent past and ensure your management system reflects the changes you have undergone and is appropriate to help drive your business forward in the future.
The items to come are not meant to be an exhaustive list of issues you may wish to consider but are instead a means to encourage you to think about how your business may have been affected in the terms of the management system standards so that you may identify areas where change has occurred or is needed.
What do you need to consider in this new world?
How has the context of your organisation changed? Have you entered new markets that have different requirements? Have your interested parties changed? Maybe you have a new ownership structure or key customers and suppliers, along with their needs and expectations from you, have changed. Are the current internal and external issues affecting your business still the same as they were? Does your scope of approval still accurately match your organisations activities?
From a leadership view point do you understand your current customer, statutory and regulatory requirements? How are you going to continue to enhance customer satisfaction? Is your quality policy still fit for purpose? Have roles and responsibilities changed in relation to the management system?
Do your planning actions reflect changes to your current management system risks and opportunities. Have you reviewed and updated your objectives, plans to achieve them and monitoring activities. Have any management system changes you have made been effectively planned and have they considered all potential positive and negative consequences and any additional controls required.
How have your organisational resources been affected? Have you moved premises, purchased new equipment, upgraded information technology systems? Have you introduced offsite / homeworking? Have maintenance and calibration activities been disrupted? Do you need to implement any additional training? How have your internal communication processes been affected? Does your documented system accurately reflect your current working practices?
How have your operational processes changed? Are your processes for determining customer requirements still fit for purpose? Have processes for managing development activities changed? Are your processes for controlling externally provided processes, products and services still appropriate? Are your production / service activities still the same regarding the provision of information, monitoring and measuring activities, identification and traceability. Have your post- delivery activities been affected? Have your processes for releasing product and services and controlling non-conforming outputs remained unchanged?
Have your performance evaluation process been maintained? Are monitoring, measuring, analysis and evaluation activities still appropriate and effective? How are you monitoring your customer satisfaction levels? Have you maintained your internal audit plan? Does your plan reflect the current importance of, and changes to, the processes concerned? Have management review activities continued to be performed at planned intervals? Have all changes and planned changes been considered? Are there any further opportunities for improvement or are there any additional resource requirements?
Have non-conformities and complaints been actioned appropriately? Have continual improvement opportunities been determined?
Within all of the above, consider changes you have made to your organisation and its activities, how these changes affect your managements system, how your management system has been updated to reflect these new requirements and practices and how the lessons learned can be utilised for future management of change and identification of improvement opportunities.
Author - Tim Brown, NQA Regional Assessor.