Many organisations have a quality (or environment, or safety) management system. If you’re in one of these organisations, then I bet you’ve sometimes felt like the “system” rules your life, rather than you ruling the system. How did it get to be this way? More importantly, how can you change this?
It probably got to this because systems auditors have made numerous, well-meaning suggestions,or demands, over the years. And you’ve thought to yourself, “I’ll just go along with these suggestions or demands to make my life easier”. Two things you need to do are take stock and simplify, and learn to critically analyse feedback from auditors.
If you’re going to go through the task of refining your systems, then it’s always a good thing to start at the top, with a hard reflection of your vision and mission- why your business exists, what the business is striving to achieve, and the market in which you will offer your products or services. It’s important to write these things down, even if you’re a one-man band. It will create some clarity for the tasks that follow. If you did this exercise years ago but have not given these things any thought since you started, now is the time to revisit your vision and mission. A lot may have changed between then and now. Not only does this make good business sense, it’s something which management system standards are including as requirements. I’d suggests you get your beverage of choice and start this once you’ve finished reading this article! If you’re part of a bigger organisation and others are responsible for this, make it your business to find this out – beverages are optional.
Alright, so now have a clear idea of where the business is heading. What next? Think about your objectives for quality, or safety or environmental processes within your organisation. Make these objectives SMART (simple, measurable, attainable, relevant and timely). Importantly, make sure that they are related to your vision and mission. If your vision is to provide a high quality testing service, then good objectives would be set around achieving low (but not zero) numbers of non-conformances from QC used in testing processes and a small number of statistical outliers from external quality assurance activities. Let your staff know what your objectives are. After all, they are the people who will help you achieve your vision, mission and objectives. Put your objectives up on the wall for all your staff to see, and reward them when the objectives are met.
The last step is to review your current systems. Do they help you to achieve your objectives? This task can be bigger than you think, so it’s a good idea to break down the various aspects of your system. If your objective is to do with your QC outcomes, look at the agility of your system for capturing, reviewing and acting on QC results. Can it be automated? What system do you have for setting action and warning limits? Be brave and take control!
In the next article, I’ll talk about how to critically analyse and respond to auditor feedback.
If you’re not sure where to start with revamping your systems and taking control, contact us at MAS Management Systems. We have expertise working with clients in developing and redesigning systems, as well as helping business to identify why they’re in business and linking their systems to this higher purpose.