Management review: A Necessity or Improvement driver

The management review is a critical step to ensure sustained success of the management system, yet this is often left to the relevant manager to document to meet the system standard requirements. A myriad of reasons is given for a management review not being done within the timeframe as defined by the organization. These include unavailability of senior management due calendar conflicts, waiting on inputs from department heads and sometimes just a lack of commitment by leadership.

Even when conducted ‘timely’ the review is often done purely out of necessity of meeting the requirements of the standard. The review, however, is a critical step for the success of the system and enables the continual improvement of the system. Leadership may, at times question, why money invested in a Quality Management System; that certification to ISO is not delivering the intended ROI. The answer often lies in their lack of commitment to the system as perceived by the users of the system.

Why are my reviews not driving improvement?

Management reviews when done out of necessity become a documentation exercise. The responsible manager collects all the data and analyzes/evaluates it for presentation to management. They proudly share these presentations with whomsoever asks about the management review. The ISO standards (e.g. ISO 9001, ISO 14001 and others) in clause 9.3 give the requirements for what shall be included in a management review. However, the review need not be limited to just these topics.

In consulting, QMII has often heard, “But we do daily reviews with our team and weekly updates with the managers”. Why not record these as a part of your management review? Do keep in mind that ISO standards ask organizations to conduct management reviews at planned intervals. It does not say it has to be a meeting or be held in a boardroom or the planned intervals need to be equally spaced. When the system is incorrectly implemented, or the standard incorrectly interpreted it often leads to a weak foundation of the system. Soon users of the system are complying and doing what has been documented rather than asking “is this really correct for us?”

With the passage of time, the lack of commitment percolates through the system to where the person tasked with championing the system, such as a quality or environmental manager, is fighting a lone battle. This lack of commitment may be apparent from the lack of decisions by management to issues presented in the review.  At times the concerned departments are trying to drive their own agendas, and this creates conflict and disconnect. Also, in recording the outputs of the review, the decision and actions from management must be recorded. QMII, often finds these missing.

How do I improve my management reviews?

To do so the organization must first understand the intent of this clause in the ISO standards. Clause 9.3 (under the high-level structure) asks management to review their systems to ‘ensure its continuing suitability, adequacy, effectiveness and alignment with the strategic direction of the system.’ This, in essence, must be the guiding principle for the management reviews.

This is the reason why these reviews must be done holistically. It is this guiding principle that will determine the intervals for the review. Clause 5.1 of the ISO standards (those aligned per the HLS) asks leadership to take accountability for the effectiveness of their systems. The management review is the platform via which they can assess if the system is effective in meeting their policy as set. The management review is also where management reviews the system and determines the required changes in the context of the organization, the needs of the interested parties to determine new risks,  if any changes to the policy / strategic direction needs to be made and resourcing needs.

Engaging Leadership and the rest of the team

There is no mantra that will deliver sure-shot success. I wish there was one, for I know many an organization that would willingly invest in it! However, educating management on the WHY of the management review has often helped. If need be consider external consultants to deliver the message. Additionally, you can consider these three steps to get more engagement:

  1. Gather review inputs from management team: This is a good method to get everyone involved. Pass around a draft meeting agenda so all system users can prepare for the review (should you be having a meeting) and can provide their inputs /items that they need management’s decision on. It is also an opportunity for them to gather opportunities for improvement from users of the system.
  2. Use a review format that works for leadership: Document how your reviews are done exactly the way they are done within your organization. Perhaps some agenda items are discussed on a quarterly basis and others on a weekly basis. The intent is not to please an auditor but to use this tool to drive improvements through the system, as needed. Remember, the guiding principle discussed above.
  3. Communicate the outputs of the review …. including leadership’s decisions. While the standard does not require this, it is implicit in ensuring continual improvement. Communication is important but the outputs of the review need not to be communicated to the entire organization. Perhaps relevant parts to the concerned managers and their teams. It demonstrates to the users of the system that management is involved, is aware of the problems and has provided decisions on various matters presented.

Management Reviews ….  Improvement Driver

When done correctly management reviews become the springboard for improvement throughout the system. It comes at the end of the ‘Check’ stage of the PDCA cycles leading into the ‘Act’ stage for continual improvement. It enables leadership to assess how well their system is doing. It delivers, in the long run, the engagement needed from users of the system and the ROI that leadership are seeking in their quality management system.