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Documentation and Work Instructions

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Keep Your Management System FIT - How to Remove FAT from your Management System

Why is Lean and FIT better than FAT? When we gain a little weight around the middle we do not feel as energetic. Some tasks may take us longer to accomplish. A management system is just as important to keep lean as it is to keep our bodies fit.

Notice that the only difference between the word FAT to FIT is the center letter. If the A stands for All and I stands for Individual, we can go from FAT to FIT by focusing on idividual responsibility as opposed to making all responsible for keeping your management system lean. When All are made responsible, the responsibility tends to fall in the void. Your system will stay FIT if you ensure that each individual is accountable for keeping the management system lean.

Lean Manufacturing is a technique used to make a manufacturing process leaner. Applying that same focus on lean to your management system will help you make things more effective.

What is a FAT Management System?

A managment system that is FAT contains process and task information that is no longer needed. Parts of the system are either obsolete or were not required in the first place.

When a company gets registered at first it tries to document and control every aspect of the management system. When a group of people get together to document a process "the would be nice" sneeks into the process. Some of the "would be nice" are:

- We should record all the data that we get every hour, so that we can tell if there is a change in the process

- Everytime we do a Special Task the whole department needs to be informed

- When a decision needs to be made a whole comittee needs to be involved

- A sign off is required by 5 layers of management when the Big one happens

- A report needs to be generated and sent automatically to all monthly, weekly, daily...

These activities look so innocent on paper when you document them. Some of them are added to the process without being documented. Some of the requirements were a result of the style of a particular manager. As she or he leaves the tasks are continuing to occur even though there is no use for them.

A FAT management system is a system that contains information that is either:

-obsolete, (for example: a piece of equipment that is no longer in use, instructions related to that equipment, checklists that include the equipment, training manuals, etc.)

-no longer applicable (for example: old versions of software, instructions for tests that are no longer performed, data gathered but no-one is using it for any purpose, detail in instructions that is common sense)

-the requirement expired (for example: law or Code has eliminated a requirement; a problem was occuring in your process and you made changes to help eliminate the problem, problem was not fixed by these changes, yet you continue with those changes as implemented.

-no one knows why you are performing part of the process, (for example: old copier would get stuck if you used lower grade paper so you changed to higher grade/more expensive paper. Two generations of copiers later you continue to get the higher grade paper even though it's no longer necessary.

-no one knows information is missing except auditors, (if auditors are the only ones that care that information is missing it is likely that the information is not needed at all- careful though it could be that there is a legal or statutory requirement forcing you to track the information)

-printed copies floating everywhere while all reports are available on line, (many employees tend to print everything, clutter is staggering everywhere and important information is missed in the process)

-distribution e-mail noise, (automated reports add to noise in the organization, employees moved to other responsibilitites continue to get the e-mail about their previos jobs)

Stop doing things! Pull out the weeds from your management system.

What would happen to a garden if you just kept planting more and more plants and did not remove the weeds. Your garden would be starved from nutrients and your plants would slowly die. That same fate could be facing your management system.

When your processes have not changed in anyway for over a year, your system is likely filling up with unnecessary information. Weeding your system from non-value adding resource-hogging tasks is an ongoing job of everyone in the organization. With the emphasis on I to make the system FIT you can ensure that everyone is constanly questioning themselves "why is what I do important?".

Your auditors need to be trained in spotting the weed in your system. You can use lessons from lean manufacturing to help your management system get leaner. A leaner management system will make your system more responsive and able to adjust quickly to everchanging external factors.

Danuta Highet

Foqus, Inc. October, 2006

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