Improving the Management System - a Continuous Effort
Once you have decided to improve and adapt your organization's performance through an management system, you
also want to improve your management system. This follows the fact that the desired organizational behavior and
culture can only be obtained after considerable time. The environment in which your organization operates will not
be stagnant which is another reason why "constant" attention and care is required.
There are a number of ways for improving the management system, including:
- Unwanted events - accidents/incidents Learning from what went wrong
- Results of your management system
- Exit Interviews
principle of definition
A logical and proper decision can be made only when the basic or real problems are
Audits of the management system
Purpose of an audit is to assess if activities are being carried out as intended. Audits are carried out using
audit questionnaires. In principle, an audit is to ask questions and verify and assess the answers. An audit should
be carried out by people who are familiar with the audit process and know what answers to the questions may be
Verification of management system related aspects can include:
- review of system documents (to verify contents and structure of the management system)
- review of registrations (containing data in relation to the execution of management system activities)
- interview of persons assumed to have knowledge of system and execution of activities
- site/location visits to observe physical conditions and the behavior of people during their work
For further detail on audits, including some audit system examples, click
Unwanted events or losses are a good source for management system improvement, provided that cause analysis goes
all the way back to the management system.
To use accidents, incidents or other type of unwanted events for improvement purposes, you need to have those
reported and people in your organizations have to be aware of this. A good protocol will be a valuable help here. Risk classification, which should be included in the protocol, may help to get
proper attention to unwanted events and their often unnecessary consequences.
And if you run out of unwanted events and their improvement opportunities, just extent the scope, broaden your
vision to include more or other unwanted events that may come from the same basic or "root" causes.
For more on unwanted events, click here.
Audit and unwanted events are the two most important means to improve your management system and to make sure
that it works properly.
Results of the management system
A good starting point to assess the effectiveness of a management system is to measure the results and evaluate
those against objectives set.
The result measurements include:
- the overall management system results
- the specific results of individual management activity areas or "elements" of the management system
The overall objective of a safety management system could be a certain the number of accidents and/or other
unwanted events/losses. The overall results of a quality management system could be to have no more than a certain
number of customer complaints. Results measured above the objectives set could indicate an improperly functioning
When only the results of the overall management system are being measured, it may be hard to identify the
causes that may have led to the undesirable results. Measuring element results against the specific objectives set
for each element will give a better indication of what may be causing the less than expected overall system
results. This, of course, assumes that the elements are relevant to the objective(s) of the management system.
Both measurements - overall system and specific element - should be taken and evaluated for optimal results and
opportunities to improve.
It is important that the elements that make up the management system have the proper structure, including
element specific objectives. That way, if you have a system including 15 elements toy will not only have the
overall objective as a measurement item. You will also have 15 different objectives that have their own value and
serve to reach the objective of the overall system.
Be careful by giving commendations in relation to end results. This may have a counter productive effect. If
having no accidents or complaints will be the basis for giving rewards of presents, the effect may be that
accidents or complaints may not be reported. If looking to reward people on output or end results, try to combine
this with input performance.
Basically, inspections are intended to find deviations from standard (= good) conditions or situations.
Deviations that are, or may be, caused by unwanted events; either sudden - like a forklift truck bumping into a
storage rack - or over a certain period of time - as in the case of corrosion.
As such deviations, noted during inspections, are very similar to accidents and should receive the same
attention. Normally, however, the situation is corrected either immediately or through a work order system,
without risk classification and cause analysis. If causes are not treated it is very likely that the same or
similar will happen again.
Basically the same as inspections but now directed at people and their behavior. Both general behavior as well
as during the execution of work, in particular critical tasks.
Projects could originate from various sources and for various reasons. Projects often deal with problems or with
opportunities. In both cases projects may generate information that would help to improve the management
Exit interviews could be a good source to learn how people or companies experienced your company and its
management system(s). They may be a source to find out about unwanted events that took place but did not get
reported. They may give you feed back on how your management system, or parts thereof, has been experienced. Thus,
exit interviews may be a valuable source to learn what went right and what went wrong. They may help your company
to become better, build a good relationship with suppliers and improve its market image.
principle of multiple causes
Accidents and other loss producing events are seldom, if ever, the result of a single