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Management Systems -
General Overview

Every company and organization has a management system. All systems evolve over time. Employees change, management personnel implement changes, new tools, technology, laws constantly challenge and transform the system. What’s in place to keep it all together and make sure that all the pieces still fit together and work as one? What’s in place to ensure that changes are implemented and everyone affected has been retrained and is performing their job correctly? Very few organizations today have a system in place that will ensure that changes are implemented flawlessly. As a result errors are made, failures of parts of the system result in product or service not being delivered, and the failure cycle continues leading to customer dissatisfaction and customer looks elsewhere to fulfil their need.

The standards provide a guide or a framework with tools that help in organizing the system in a way that the system maintains its integrity over time. There are also tools that make sure that the system is continually taking advantage of new techniques and improving. The tools that are provided with the standard are common sense proven business techniques that any organization can implement. The difficulty is in interpretation of the standard. A company can make it very difficult or easy to comply with the standard depending on how the system is designed. A system that is designed inefficiently may result in additional cost rather than cost savings.

If you can envision a framework of a building that is put together and then the rest of the building is built such that you can change the appearance constantly to adapt it to the new materials and styles. That’s how a well designed management system will function. Management system needs to be like a foundation and framework of a building that will remain solid over time yet will have flexibility to adapt to changes easily.

There is a need to balance the flexibility with the sturdiness of a framework. Implementing a system that is too difficult to change will make it cumbersome and almost stifle a company. On the other hand, if the system is constantly changing and that change is not managed the system will fall apart. It can be very expensive to build a system that complies with the ISO 9000 standard, but it's also very expensive to have a system that is not managed. The cost of the mismanaged system is not obvious and is imbedded in the P& L statement. It would get management’s attention a lot faster if it was an item on the expense sheet and was tracked as an expense item.

A system of an organization involves management of the flow of information and materials. Materials and information are processed to result in products. There are many processes within the organization. These are usually grouped around the skills of employees or departments. Depending on the size of an organization the number of departments will vary. In an organization of 10 employees there is no need for departments. System is broken down between individuals who can perform the different tasks. As a company grows departments start forming since it is more difficult for any individual to be skilled and process all the information that is generated. Therefore artificial walls are created and system is broken down to smaller sub-systems.

Within each subsystem there are tasks that need to be performed. Some tasks need to be performed sequentially, some periodically, and some only when an event occurs. The map of how these tasks are to be performed is called a process. There may be many processes within each subsystem. Each process has inputs that are used to transform them into outputs. There are planned inputs and outputs and informal ones. All the processes within an organization are linked together at the artificial walls that are created. When an employee is moved and replaced these linkages do not function as well. When changes are introduced and part of the system is removed the trickle down effect may affect parts of the system months or years later.

In any organization these changes are constantly occurring. The system exists but it falls apart. Organization is constantly solving the same problems. Customers complain but reasons for complaints can not be found. Employees are disciplined or fired because of the failures that were inherent in the system created by management. For a lot of companies the consumer stays only because they may not have a choice, but as soon as choice is available they will leave. Therefore revise, improve, and design, your management system to withstand the time and move your organization forward to the next century. Grizmo can help.

Danuta Highet

Foqus, Inc. January 2006

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