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.


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.

Myth: Management system implementation – documentation must align to the ISO standard

Companies use different management system implementation methodologies to understand the requirements / inputs of their customer and then plan to deliver outputs meeting requirements as a conforming product / service. The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) publishes standards which when correctly interpreted enables companies to systematically and consistently provide desired outputs while addressing risks. Using the framework/methodology provided by ISO, companies design systems / processes to work together to deliver desired outputs.

The endeavor of the organization should be to define the outputs (products/services) accurately, after understanding customer requirements, both stated and unstated. ISO standards allows companies of any size and industry to implement them. Hence a lot is left open to interpretation. Despite this, certification of these systems delivers confidence to potential and existing customers that the company is implementing a process with the intent of continual improvement. Across the globe, an ISO certification gives confidence of a certain basic framework being implemented and followed.

The risks are appreciated in the context of the organization. The core process of the organization has its objectives directly derived from the company policy. The Key and Support procedures ensure the objectives of the core procedure are met and deliver a confirming product and or a confirming service.

Why ‘ISO-ized’ systems fail?

This understanding of how a management system works and delivers products and services must be understood in the spirit of the ISO standard. The use of the standard is not like a magic wand which will guarantee excellence or success. The Standard needs careful interpretation to design the processes necessary to meet stakeholder requirements. Many an ‘ISO-ized’ management system implementation do not deliver sustained success because, when written around the clauses of the standard the system is not actively used and therefore does not deliver the feedback that a good system should.

The process needs to be documented around what the users do. These processes then need to be resourced, controlled, monitored, audited and reviewed for continuing suitability, adequacy and effectiveness. Organizations blunder into believing that ‘ISO-izing’ their system is the panacea to all their problems. It is not. These systems documented to the clauses only benefit the external auditors of the system. The system should be documented for easy use by the users of the system. Auditors and auditing are an integral part of the system; meant to provide objective inputs for improvements and not to dictate how the system functions.

The process approach to management system implementation

The process-based approach is the fundamental to management system implementation. The success in ISO standard implementation (be it for efficiency, managing risk, security, environment, aerospace quality or food safety etc.), lies in a good plan that accounts for system risks given the organizational business context. Management system implementations should ideally capture the “as-is” of the system, compare it to requirements and identify the gaps enabling design of new procedures and an update of existing procedures. These procedures are designed to meet measurable objectives, that are based on the policy of the leadership. Users of the system do the work to meet the objectives and the procedures must capture the ‘how’ of what they do.

The chain from understanding requirements, risks and inputs to creating the policy should be systematically considered in designing the management system prior resourcing it. The system approach as prescribed by ISO standards allows for involvement of the leadership from cradle to cradle i.e. from the planning to implementing to monitoring and reviewing of performance for improvement. This approach gets Top Management (TM) to take personal ownership of their management systems.


ISO standards are not prescriptive and need interpretation by the users of the system. Using the Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA) cycle approach leaders convey their policy to the users of the system. The system ensures adequate controls and resources, so outputs meet the inputs and the measurable objectives as set. Management system implementation, when done correctly, allows for feedback to be captured so risks and opportunities for improvement are identified and addressed in a timely manner. As for the auditors let us have them use their innovative approaches to identify how the system meets the requirements and intent of the standard. To make it easy we could provide them with a cross-reference matrix to demonstrate where the requirements of the system are met within the documented procedures. Bottom line: Embrace your system when developing it to meet requirements, including those per ISO standards, and you will see the benefits of ‘De-ISO-ized’ system.

What Makes A System Work?

What Makes A System Work And Successfully Meet Objectives, Expectations And Requirements?

Successful companies have visionary leadership, are able to understand the changing context of their businesses, look ahead and adapt. The 20th and 21st century has been fertile with innovation. Many history-defining breakthrough inventions have been developed. Innovation is growing at a pace never known before.  The inventors and innovators are naturally accepted as leaders for their ability to clearly define their vision. These leaders can at times be harsh taskmasters; nearly dictatorial in pursuit of their passion (invention/vision). However, where the innovators are part of the team as a group and the leaders of the organization separate the leadership challenges are different. A professionally lead organization without a system cannot be only driven by the passion of its leader and this is certainly not a recipe for prolonged success.  

The need to put a system in place is but, of course, the result of a decision made by the leadership/ top management (TM). TM must have the desire to operate in a systematic manner to achieve desired results and outputs. That desire is indeed key to the motivation of the rest of the organization and crucial to gaining their involvement.  The PDCA (Plan-Do-Check-Act) cycle has to be understood and correctly aligned to the desired standard. There is also a need for commitment from the leadership to the unrelenting pursuit of their policy being systematically converted into measurable objectives and implemented throughout the organization, the implementation monitored and reviewed to ensure continual improvement. 

As experienced consultants, QMII has over 32 plus years, been implementing management systems to achieve results. Consultants never hold the recipe for success but can facilitate and guide the leadership and the organization in the right direction. The key to success is a motivated leadership. Trusting consultants to perform miracles using the perfect templates is a medicine for disaster in the making. A commitment to excellence starts with the leadership and needs the organization’s team to build a system ensuring consistency in meeting the requirements of the customer, stated or unstated. Then alone can an organization attain the success it seeks.  

As the year ends and reminiscing on my experience, education and learning from association with numerous varied organizations, my conclusion in differentiating between successful and not so successful organizations take me to the intent and determination of the TM to be committed to the system approach.