02 Oct 2019

Integrated Management Systems AKA ‘A balanced lifestyle’

Integrated Management Systems (IMS) when well implemented enable improvement across various facets of the system. Management system implementation reminds me of the orientation that my gym instructor gave me when I first enrolled at my local health club:- “Losing weight doesn’t happen just in one day and with crash diets: you gotta workout, gotta sleep the right amount, have a little fun in life and yes, food is the most important factor, but everything is in moderation. A combination of all that will give you a satisfying result and you’ll be a happier person. No shortcuts.”

When I look at the anatomy of an organization, I remember these words and know they are applicable to those looking to implement management systems, especially Integrated Management System (IMS). With IMS, they are looking to address multiple concern areas such as quality, environmental protection, safety, security, and overall happier stakeholders.

What is an Integrated Management System?

These days search engines like Google are the go-to source for all the answers, angles, interpretations and everything else. As I thought about the IMS and its benefits, I too turned to the ‘Google’ for insights! This is what I understood: “A management system is a set of policies, processes and procedures used by an organization to ensure that it can fulfill the tasks required to achieve its objectives. These objectives cover many aspects of the organization’s operations including financial success, safe operation, product quality, client relationships, legislative and regulatory conformance, and worker management.” (Source: Wikipedia)

Another applicable example that I can give is how a country runs? There is politics, religion, economics, business all in a blender with a spoonful of “science” and “logic” to it, which is rarely used (winking). A successful balance is needed and the country well-managed for it to be successful and have happy citizens.

There has been an increased demand for integrated management systems in recent years. Organizations are beginning to recognize how these systems enable improvement across various facets of the business. For organizations looking for continual improvement and efficiency as also ensuring the security of information, the question is: why to implement two different systems when one can meet both requirements. Think of a cocktail – If you want Vodka and Tequila together, why not order a Long Island Iced Tea instead of two separate drinks.

The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) has, since 2013, been aligning its standards to the new High-Level Structure in which all ISO requirement standards are published with 10 clauses and identical sub-clauses. The High- Level Structure allows for easier integration of management systems into our existing system and ensures that the policies and objectives for each standard do not conflict with those of another. ISO standards use the basic Plan-do-check-act cycle to achieve continual improvement through vigorous use of the system.

Benefits of Integrated Management System

Integrated management systems allow organizations to identify and address various and different kinds of risks to their system: financial, strategic, competitor, security, safety environmental and others. All this while ensuring continual improvement of the organization. This approach enables organizations to meet the needs of its stakeholders and to adjust to the changing needs through systematic and planned changes.

Back in the good ol’ days, we did not have to worry about computer hackers, though there were other means by which our security was threatened. An information security breach can be a large liability for many organizations these days. How do we ensure that our organization is prepared for such potential breaches? We do not want a cyber-security system operating outside of our business system. We want it integrated into it.

Integrated management systems also are more cost-effective in the long run. There are cost savings in implementation, training, and auditing. Why spend on two/three different system audits in order to meet with the requirements of each Standard, when an integrated audit can assess the common requirements of each standard at the same time. These include competence, control of documented information, system measurement and analysis, etc. For the users of the system, benefits include objectives that align with the integrated policy, reduced duplication of effort and no conflict in the expectations of the management with respect to each policy. This makes the system more efficient, effective and very progressive. It also makes the system more flexible and adaptive in nature to the changing context of the organizations and needs of the relevant interested parties.

Conclusion

Integrated Management Systems can help the organization align its existing system to the requirements of multiple international standards using a single common factor in lieu of discrete systems. Hence, reducing duplication or redundancies. This includes its scope, policies, objectives, programs, processes, protocols and many more. In the maritime field ISO 9001:2015 can easily be merged with ISM Code or in the aviation industry, aerospace requirements along with requirements for occupational health and safety. To meet the growing demand of stakeholders for environmental sustainability, you can also add on the requirements of ISO 14001. Add Security to it, and you got your self a perfect Long Island Iced Tea, I mean your perfectly integrated system.

A lot of time and money is saved in implementing integrated management systems. It also helps in maintaining accountability and consistency for one perfect integrated system. Once your management system is integrated, you will notice reduced bureaucracy along with a reduction in duplication of efforts, redundancy, and expense. It will optimize resources and streamline the process. Integrated management systems will also help with the following: –

  • Curbing conflicting objectives
  • Eliminates conflicting responsibilities and relationships
  • Improves Internal and External communication
  • Harmonizes practice for each Standard in one
  • Business focus is unified to maintain its objective/goal
  • Customer focus is one and not for various tasks

Oh and continuing my health analogy, a well-integrated management system will give you the desired outputs and satisfaction as does those number reducing on the weighing scale! Lastly, remember that there are no shortcuts. Templates come with many promises but do not enable the long-term gains that a well-implemented system will afford. Refer QMII’s time tested approach here.