What are some of the signs that your management system isn’t hitting the mark?

  1. The systems is excessively wordy and lengthy as a result of including documents that were added over time to address various requirements. Such may be integrated if they remain valid as policy/procedure – otherwise it’s likely best to host them elsewhere or strike entirely. Employees may voice their concerns during audits, reviews or interactions with managers or supervisors.
  2. Some management system processes may be supported mostly – if not entirely – through software applications that may not have been in use during initial policy/procedure development. Such policy/procedure may be greatly revised to point to these applications rather than describe arrangements that may no longer be supported as written. Examples of processes that may fit this category include inspections, maintenance, corrective action and preventive action management, etc. If your using software systems such as these, take a close look at your policy/procedure if you haven't done so for some time. Chances are, you may substantially streamline related content.
  3. Depending on who’s been involved with initial management system development and revision over time, several sections may provide excessively detailed narrative and background information that does not qualify as policy/procedure. It’s essential to appreciate the qualifications and experience of management system end-users and not spell out details that are well understood by the nature of their qualifications and experience. Where industry references are provided (e.g., ISGOTT) -- do not restated such guidance within the management system. Stick to making references where you intend end-users to abide by related standards.
  4. Related to the previous item, policy/procedure should clearly identify WHAT they are intended to address, WHO is responsible to implement them, and the ACTIONS that are necessary to achieve the intended result. Procedural documents should clearly identify the preceding as well as applicable references and associated records that may include forms, checklists or other company specific logs or records. This is simplified by using a consistent format for policy/procedure and by eliminating any guesswork on the part of end-users to arrive at an interpretation what they think the company expects. Be direct, be concise, and don't mince your words. 
  5. Speaking of checklists, certain procedures may be made more memorable and user-friendly if revised into a checklist format. Checklists, when developed thoughtfully, reduce the volume of management system documentation, and force a mindset to break-down essential operations into discrete steps that must be complete in order to achieve a desired end. If you haven’t already done so, read Atul Gawande’s “The Checklist Manifesto” to gain insight into the various type of checklists and what goes into making them effective. 
  6. Inaccurate policy/procedure or other stated requirements may contribute to liability concerns. If an unwanted event occurs, what’s reflected within the management system may not coincide with actions taken by company personnel, or if policy/procedure is followed, may provide insufficient mitigation against a known risk. If it’s fiction – remove it from your system and replace it with factual requirements that can be upheld within your organization on a consistent basis.
  7. Disorganized management system structure may lead to repetition of similar requirements within different sections. This particular issue may result for several reasons including insufficient control over management system revisions and too many parties involved in making changes without sufficient oversight of the entire system. Aside from confusing end-users, this may lead to presentation of different standards for the same process throughout the management system. This, in turn, contributes to liability concerns. While tedious and detailed work, taking an inventory of what's included in your entire system will lead you to eliminate overlaps and present requirements in single locations.