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№ 11 (November 2010)

Insides of Management Systems Why Some Management Systems Work and Others Don’t?

   During my 16 years of hands-on consulting experience in working with organizations on four continents and ranging from five people up to 17,000 employees, I hear constantly two opposing points of view expressed, strangely enough, by the same group of professionals – the organizations’ Top Management.

By Tad K. Pilinski, president, AUTUS Corporation, Houston, USA

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   They either are enthusiastic and extremely supportive of their implemented Quality Management Systems (QMS) or, on the opposite side, very negligent or even dismissive, convinced against the QMS implementation or its support. The first group of management type, as a rule, achieves quite impressive results. However, the latter (as it happens often) that have been forced to register their organization’s QMS due to contractual obligations, being pressured by a competition, or implement the QMS due to tender requirements in which they attempt to participate, does not enjoy such distinct benefits from the QMS as the first group.

   As experience shows, there is a simple explanation to the all above. First, the QMS are as good as the people that run them are capable of making them effective and efficient. Secondly, the QMS are not effective when the managers are not deeply involved and participate in the QMS functioning.

   A secret of not having effectively functioning management system, either QMS, EMS, QHSSE, or any Business Management System (BMS) model lies not necessarily in the lack of knowledge of the system requirements, even it’s understanding, or how and what QMS improvement tool to implement but in not complying with, often, self-imposed requirements and rules! Using other words, majority of people know what to do but they simply do not do it.

   Naturally, there are many other reasons why QMS might not work. I’d like to shade some light on  most common ones. Understanding QMS failure causes should help identifying ways to overcome them or even prevent them from happening and make grounds for developing habit of continual improvement – a straight way to success.

   Let’s review some of the common causes, not necessarily in the order of their importance.

Lack of the Top Management Involvement

   One of the most common problems, preventing QMS from being successful is lack of the organization’s Top Management genuine interest and involvement in the QMS maintenance. Too often, the only involved organization’s staff are the people directly responsible for the QMS development ordered by the Top Management to do so with no the Top Management active participation at all.
Frequently, responsibility for organizations’ management system implementation and maintenance rests on the shoulders of a few, often, one person, i.e. the QA Manager, working at the Standardization and / or Certification Department. It is not reasonable expecting positive results from the QMS functioning in such a situation.

QMS Not Integrated Into Operations Business System

   One of great mistakes seen allover is utilization of the implemented QMS as a standing along system, separate from an existing organization’s business structure. Implemented QMS must be an integral part of the organization’s operations.

   It can be observed that very frequently implemented management system (mostly quality management system – QMS) represents in an organization a separate structure not connected with an overall business functioning.

Seeing QMS Certificate as the Final Goal

   Another problem preventing, very often, the QMS to be as effective as it can be is wrong interpretation of the QMS nature and its significance. Often, implementation of the QMS is understood as a process of obtaining a pertinent certificate. The receipt of a certificate is understood as a final step in the process.

   Often, the QMS certificate is understood as a panacea for all kind of internal company problems. It’s expected that just a fact of the system registration is going to make all the problems going away.

   Nothing can be more wrong than that. The QMS is only a tool and as such can only bring effects if used properly. The better the tool is known, the better its capabilities are understand, the more skillful use of the tool the greater effects from using it are going to be seen.

Replicating QMS From Other Organizations

   There are no two organizations alike, even if they manufacture the same product or render the same type of services. Therefore, the same (replicated) QMS cannot be implemented in these organizations. What works well at company A may be not effective or even plainly wrong for company B.

Outdated Mentality

In general, the management can be divided to the following three groups which:
1)    Do not understand the QMS requirements and/or realize the importance of the system;
2)    Understand importance of the effective implementation of the QMS but do not know how to interpret and/or implement the requirements;
3)    Understand the QMS requirements but are not interested or concerned with its implementation.
The main reason for these scenarios existence is organizations’ top management mentality. Unfortunately, many managers do not want, or perhaps, cannot change or adjust their viewpoint on surrounding them free market economy. They feel safe in their own (familiar) world. Many managers instead of learning new methods, new production philosophies, new customer expectations, have been trying at all might rationalize existing at their enterprises situation as “good enough.” This type of mentality is represented by the third group and is probably the most difficult to work with. They understated the requirements but ignore the importance of the QMS. They like the status quo: “It’s been OK for so many years, why change it now?”
Much easier to work with or to “convert” are the management types that are represented by the second group.

Misinterpreted Money Issue

   Very often, organizations’ managers postpone QMS implementation explaining their decision as the consequence of lack of financial resources. It seems to be proper mentioning here, specifically during the recession times, former Intel boss Craig Barrett’s expression: “You can’t save your way out of a recession; you have to invest your way out.” Many managers interpret required for the QMS implementation financial resource as unnecessary waste and do not see it as a very perspective strategic investment. The investment, which should, and how practice proves it, will bring concrete measurable returns.

   On the other hand, financial instability of many businesses makes often for them realistic quality planning very difficult. However, experience shows that 80 percent of improvements can be achieved without capital expenditures; just through organizational changes, training and follow up. Very often spending millions of dollars on capital improvements but not complying with simple requirements of technological process requirements nullifies all the capital investment value – its effectiveness.

Lack of Training

   The next reason that makes QMS ineffective is due to almost complete negligence to conduct serious in-depth management system and job related training that would encompass organizations’ top management and all personnel. Performed training is habitually executed very relaxed and shallow way; very often, it does not include organizations’ top management.

Language Barrier

   Additionally to the abovementioned problems, in non-English speaking countries, like in Russia, another issue should be stressed. Even though the Russian organizations employ mostly very eager to learn, dedicated, people there are some obstacles in the implementation of requirements of internationally recognized management systems, specifically if the basic standard documents are in English language. Technical English language is not widely spoken among the Russian technical personnel or management.

Lack of People Empowerment or Lack of Assigned Authority

   Often only the top management, i.e. general director, president or chairman of the board, has authority to make decisions related to the QMS development or maintenance. Often, I do not see delegation of the decision making process even to the first deputies. The deputies could consult but do not have the decisive voice in the final decision making. The top management is very often inaccessible; therefore it takes a long time to resolve sometimes routine business issues.

   Lack of effective QMS project execution and follow-up
Very often, organizations do not have clearly developed action plan for their QMS implementation. Relevant tasks have been worked on chaotically without proper follow-up and coordination. No final product is envisioned by the top management. Too often one can hear that tasks were not completed due to “no time available” or “being busy.”

Conclusions

   To better understand how to make the QMS effective organization has to understand and be ready to overcome possible difficulties that typically are encountered during the QMS development, implementation and maintenance. Organization should perform QMS FEMA, which would be extremely rewarding in a process of QMS development and later in its effective functioning.  Organization has to very well understand why the system might not work in the first place.
People have the amazing capability explaining and convincing themselves that “if it was done for so many years one way, it sure must have been good.” One must learn trusting the world proven experience showing that only continual improvement (change) is a way to success in the international market.
Sometimes, the QMS may not help you selling the product, but lack of it may completely prevent the sale. However, it is prudent to acknowledge that in numerous countries, including Russia; QMS become gradually a standard requirement among the myriad of customers or potential customers.
The QMS is a tool and only a tool. It depends on how a company will use it to make it a profitable one or not. The QMS should be treated as an investment not an unfortunate and imposed expense. If treated as an investment, it should bring earnings. If the profits are not visible – you must look into possibilities for improvement.

   The manufacturers must be aware of misconceptions surrounding QMS and develop plans to overcome them on the way to conquer the market with their unique approach, superb product quality, unparallel reliability, very competitive service, warranties and ease to operate their product. Only such approach would help them to earn the right to expect good or even better sales results.

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