Three Essentials for the modern Quality, QHSE, ISO or Process Improvement Professional

With experience of creating Process-based Management Systems with organisations such as Siemens, Babcock International, Interserve, Centrica and Total to name a few, I have realised that there are three key fundamental facts that should be considered by all Quality, QHSE, ISO Compliance or Process Improvement Professionals who are embarking on this journey.

Recognise this…?

Are you still working with mountains of text procedures even though ISO 9001 has been advocating the Process-based approach since 2008? Will ‘Risk Based Thinking’ stop you in your tracks and will the intention of Annex SL be understood?

Management Systems have grown in importance over the years but as the responsibility to manage content, (Process, Risk & Compliance) has grown exponentially, the budgets available to the professionals has often not been increased over time. As an ex Quality Manager, my experience was that without an accident, incident, near miss or bizarre event, senior management like to leave the QHSE systems to someone else and preferably to a person who accepts the status quo.

Some Management Systems are constructed consisting of fragmented parts built up over time as compliance demands and poor client audit reports have forced structures to be redesigned.

Current Market Products

On reviewing many of the current software products on the market, you would be hard pressed to note any innovation possibly because there are only so many things you can do with an audit tool, incident form or calibration register.

However most of the systems I view are developed specifically for the Quality/QHSE Manager but certainly not for the workforce; in fact some of these `module based systems` still provide the workforce with the traditional text based procedural approach. I see an imbalance on the prioritisation of this information as the workforce must be considered.

The truth will be out soon enough when the younger generation starts to balk at the way these organisations present their information as bundling documents into a mind-numbing repository or folder structure won’t cut it with the next generation. Until the robots take care of our work processes, we need management system content to be written for the user and in a style that is easily accessible and simple to understand.

We are all aware that the SharePoint phenomenon has arrived. I was told by a QHSE Manager recently that all their troubles were over, `no thanks` he told me with a smile, `we have SharePoint now, we can build what we like`. What really surprised him was that the program was delivered like a kit car in that it was delivered with a thousand parts but unlike Meccano, it’s not cheap to put together.    

Who Decides Structure and Content?

 The role of IT in deciding the style and structure of the Management System is a contentious point. I remember one experienced IT man rounding on me when I groaned about a forty page procedure saying, “How long did it take to open”? He barked … “3 seconds”, I replied, “Well, what’s up with that”? He fired back…I shook my head in dismay.

Adopting the Process-based approach involves removing excessive documents, creating graphical business models, process overviews, and mapping out core and supporting processes with users. Becoming process-orientated involves more than a few Visio maps hidden within a standard Word document. Anyway, here are my top tips to take note of when making the journey.

Press the Paradigm Shift Button

If you work within a traditional (QHSE) Management System that really is a Document System in disguise and is as subtle as a brick, my advice is to hit the Paradigm Shift button!

Presenting a clear case to the management team for a project to transform must contain the costs of maintaining the existing system. There are certainly a few intangible costs within an existing management system but the obvious inefficiencies such as document duplication, non-conformances, man-hours of resource required and importantly perception from clients on the robustness of the system.

Transformation from the traditional approach to process requires a change in the presentation of information to the workforce, but it will open the door to invention, simplicity, efficiency, improvement and cost reduction.

Point 1 – Senior Management Sanction

 Transformation Projects by their nature involve change that can translate into delays, therefore the stick you need to keep ‘them’ on track is the Project Mission Statement. This has to be placed in every email footer and plastered on posters to unblock where change isn’t accepted. Asking the disciplines to identify their processes or procedures is not as simple as it sounds, especially if they haven’t been opened in years.

Irrational defensiveness can be shown.

For example, when an affected document that hadn’t been opened in years sets off the hard wired, emotional connections in people, it’s suddenly treated like the treasures of Jerusalem.

Often the person who has responsibility for change within their job responsibilities can be the least innovative and most resistant to change…an oxymoron I’d say.

Without the continued sanction from senior management, project delivery will struggle.

Point 2 – The Discovery Exercise

 Controlling a transformation project requires a baseline plan to dictate the scope of work. A Discovery Exercise needs to be performed to gain an understanding of the size and complexity of all the documents, tasks and activities that will be affected by the project.

Discovery is designed to deliver a Master Information Register as well as supporting the Project Plan to identify all of the business processes and supporting information that are required to support the organisation in their daily operations. Re-using existing knowledge is essential though the way the information is provided can be assessed. For example, shall we continue to use a ten page procedure or would it be better used if mapped out as a process?

Ensuring that the Discovery Exercise is robust and comprehensive will provide the project with the solid foundations necessary to support full delivery.

Point 3 – Process Map Selection

There are numerous mapping tools on the market but the key to success is to find a tool that is quick to build processes, can be administered with relative ease by non-technical people, and that ongoing changes and revisions are not difficult to make. Sounds fairly obvious but one of the most known tools is the exact opposite of what you would expect.

Some tools allow for the building process to be done in real-time which is a great benefit for live sessions where a selected group of employees identify the key stages of the process (inputs and outputs) together with any supporting information, links to associated documents, databases, applications and websites as required.

The mapping process should be streamlined itself and preferably controlled by a facilitator whose role is to ensure all attendees contribute and not let the manager or senior position dictate content.

Whether you chose the IDEF Model structure of Swim-Lane, standardisation across the group is paramount and should allow for process harmonisation where one process can replace numerous site specific routines which are usually identical though developed independently. Duplication equals cost, and this area is where Return of Investment for the Transformation Project can be achieved.