Maritime Leadership – Beyond Designated Person Ashore (DPA)

It appears the maritime leadership is limited to the DPA/DP (Designated Person Ashore). The worst is when senior leadership of a company, washes its hands off, of the leadership role, by assuming a DP will do all that needs to be done! The ISM (International Safety Management) Code, in clause 4 defines the role of the DP (designated person).  It is to be remembered that the DP is indeed the link between the company and those on board, to the extent decided by the leadership/ ownership of the maritime company. The DP with clause 4 of the ISM Code has his/ her role defined as the link. However, there is much more to it. There is a kind of upstream and downstream relationship between the safe operations of a vessel, and the leadership exercised by the shipping company. The DP can represent and do his best in meeting objectives if he/she is resourced and supported by the leaders. Maritime leadership is strengthened by the contribution of the DP. This is particularly true when a tragedy occurs, and the crisis management team is called to minimize the aftermath of the tragedy and hands-on dealing with the tragedy. The DP as part of the crisis management team and must play a lead role in providing his/ her experience, expertise to ensure the situation does not worsen. DP should be competent, involved and participate in designing the safe operations of the vessel as also to predict the risks and trends from the available company and industry data and make timely recommendations, to ensure tragedies do not occur. But once they occur the same detailed knowledge has to be used to meticulously plan the response actions.

The leadership of the company, particularly when not from the marine background, should orient itself to matters maritime during good times. It is in normal good times that the relationship of confidence has to build with the DP. Regular access to the TM (top management) of the company by the Designated Person Ashore, makes teamwork smooth in a crisis situation. The leadership working together with DP and the team is able to ensure the company’s safety objectives, environmental policy implementation and functional requirements are met. Regular drills and exercises and analysis of situations ensure that the lessons learnt thereof, are used as input for further planning and resourcing.  Clause 4 of ISM Code is not just a job description basis for the DP, but also an input to the leadership to see where they fit in so that the support when required can be provided in a crisis without delays in a crisis. Building trust is a responsibility both the DP and the organization must build. There is much more to this dynamic leadership role. Meeting the safety, prevention of human injury or loss of life, and avoidance of damage to the environmental objectives of the company given in clause 1.2 of the ISM Code are the DP’s responsibilities. He/ she is the implementer of safety and environmental policy as given in clause 2 of the ISM Code. This however cannot be achieved without resources and support from the company top leadership.

Emergency preparedness is a requirement of the ISM Code. Clause 8 of the ISM Code requires implementation on board, with office support lead by the Designated Person Ashore and resourcing provided by the top management of the company. The DP with his/her team brings the considered opinion as input to the organizational decision-making body. Making preparations for being able to respond to emergency situations at sea needs forethought in appreciating the risks, and preparations in advance. It starts with recognizing the hazardous situations, creating the procedures, conducting drills and exercises, and learning lessons from exercises conducted, other industry inputs, similar occurrences anywhere. Data drives risk appreciation and trend recognition. Managements have to look ahead at possible crisis and be prepared with timely quick response.

Crisis if handling well, requires and brings out clearly that not just competence, but motivation and leadership are all of the utmost importance. As primary consultants in the field of maritime work,  QMII ( ) has worked on crisis management, handling media, and building teams for over 30 plus years now. Our experience shows clearly that a leadership team working with not just the Designated Person Ashore, but all departments in a participatory manner determines the success of addressing a crisis.

Safe operation of ships and prevention of pollution requires dynamic leadership at the company level with the involvement of the DP using the expertise in the ISM Code and SOLAS as also other relevant IMO conventions, as also Flag State advises to formulate robust, well thought out plans for crisis management.  A process-based management system approach is most important. “If an organization can do not describe what they do as a process, then they do not know what they are doing,” it is to be remembered that behind every casualty at sea are many detentions, and behind them indicators like Major NCs (non-conformities) and near misses. The maritime leadership with Designated Person Ashore included must lead to prevent a crisis.

Obtaining Top Management Commitment

Who cares about the system? 

Management systems need top management commitment to work well, and yet many systems lack the necessary commitmentYou may recognize some symptomsPolicy – ignoredObjectives  are barely alive. Corrective actions remain open. Managers seem not to appreciate the value of the requirementsEmployees are unsure about the system’s requirementsProactive identification and addressing of risks/opportunities is rareRoot causes of failure remain in the system. Consequently, the system is not improved. Employees are unaware of what the system should do for themManagement reviews are embarrassingLeaders either do not show or do not contribute. Top Management Commitment is lacking. Audits may temporarily energize the playersManagement representatives ask, Am I the only person who really cares?” 

Who trained the leaders? 

Many leaders do not explain their management systemsThey may know the importance of certification, but they rarely explain why their system is vital for survival and growthWhy is this? Examine your internal audit program; is it driven by top management’s objectives?  Audit your training recordsDo they show that leaders are competent and confident to show their top management commitment? Who trained the leaders in their organizational management systemCompetent leaders take responsibility for their systemThey explain how their system works and why its requirements are so important to themUnaware leaders blame employees for mistakes caused by their system. 

Your system, is it perceived as worthy? 

Even if your system is certified, do not expect leaders to support it Every organization is a systemDoes the documented part of this system describe how it converts stakeholder needs into cash (or continued funding)?  Is this the management system that was certified or was it some new ISO system built on templates?  

Is your system irresistible to the leaders?  If notshow how your system converts needs into cash so top managers would not want to lead without itTry our methodology to appreciate how others have developed systems and gained top management commitment beyond certification. Everyone should fulfill their objectives and earn their bonuses by using and improving  the system.  

Awareness Leaders Workshop 

Engage us to design and facilitate your one-day Awareness Leaders Workshop™Select attendees who are leaders by job title and those who are leaders by personalityInclude the skeptics! 

We listen to your objectives and design your workshop to fulfill your required outcomesThis may need  system analysis to result in a diagram that explains how the system converts needs into cash. This  workshop is facilitated by our senior management system consultant and auditor, who for over 20 years  has helped many willing and reluctant managers to understand and commit to their systems. 

Prepare for action 

Remove the root causes of what ails many management systemsYou want your top management commitment  to the requirements of their management systemClear the backlog of stale CARs  and pending actions on identified risks to prepare for the surge of improvements flowing from the renewed leadership of your system 

When you are ready, please email IJ Arora or call 888.357.9001 with your requirements.

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.

Defining Measurable Objectives/ Metrics to Drive Continual Improvement

Measurable objectives are an essential input for all levels of the management and come from the top management (TM). These objectives guide personnel at the work level to help ensure the success of a management system. The need for a set of value-based metrics is met by looking carefully at the company policy (based on the strategic direction) and then drawing the measurable objectives from it.

My thought is for any organization giving more than the desired value is a challenge! Values in today’s business world are often related solely to the ROI (Return on Investment). Providing value to the customer is a goal. The question is at what cost? Due to budgetary concerns, no organization wants to do more than what is required. Availability of funds is input to the design of the final product and or service. Consequentially, the values that an organization sets for itself must be based on trying to meet the objectives and expectations of the customers, or the statutory bodies (if relevant) within the constraints of the resources. Where a statutory body is involved, it is the vital responsibility of that body to precisely define expectations and what metrics they will accept.

My opinion is that the statutory bodies such as the FAA, FDA, EPA, and USCG, would have concerns about continual improvement by the external service providers. It is therefore critical to conduct an analysis and conduct management reviews internally to achieve the intended purpose of Clause 10.3 of ISO 9001:2015. However, it all starts with defining, providing and monitoring these clear expectations. This means that the statutory body should provide guidelines for stated requirements, as the IMO does in the ISM Code, within Resolution A.1118(30) & MSC-MEPC.7/Cir8. In a similar manner, the USCG could provide clear guidelines for TPO (Third Party Organization) and for the towing companies for the Subchapter M.

Statutory bodies, understandably, may struggle with defining their policy in the initial stages and clearly converting it to a set of measurable objectives (Value based metrics) for external providers. The need for the Leadership (TM) is to spend time and resources well at the plan stage of the PDCA cycle (Plan-Do-Check-Act) by understanding the context of the organization (Clauses 4.1 and 4.2 of the ISO 9001) and appreciate the various risks (Clause 6.1 of ISO 9001) keeping the customer focus in mind. The Standard here provides useful clauses to make the decision. An objective audit of the internal procedures of the statutory body (Clause 9.2 of ISO 9001) would provide the inputs for the Management Review (Clause 9.3) and ensure a robust decision-making process. This then should be followed by regular audits of the organization to which the processes have been outsourced (meeting the requirements of Clause 8.4.1 and 8.4.2 of ISO 9001). The organization which provides the outsourced service or product needs the information in terms of clause 8.4.3 to perform to the total satisfaction of the statutory body. As such providing clear requirements is a vital role of the statutory body.

Once requirements are clear, then the organization providing a product or service will use these inputs to design their Policy (Clause 5.2 of ISO 9001) 5.2.1d. This policy would then ensure that the feedback loop will help to drive continuous improvement efforts of the QMS. This policy would then provide the framework for the “value-based metrics” which in Quality terms would be the measurable objectives in terms of clause 6.2. Both 6.2.1 and 6.2.2 would put the organization on the correct path to success. The statutory body would vigorously and regularly audit the correct implementation itself or by using an independent professional service provider.

In effect, what this means is that just being certified to e.g. ISO 9001:2015 is not enough for any organization. What is required is a functioning PBMS (process-based management system) based on the chosen standard and other criteria implemented by committed leadership and motivated manpower.

(The author Dr. IJ Arora, is the President and CEO of QMII)

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.