According to ISO 9001 Quality Management Systems, the purpose of “management review” is to ensure a (Quality, Environment or OHS / WHS) management system’s continued “suitability, adequacy and effectiveness”.
It is the step in the cycle where the custodians of the system reflect on the performance thus far and determine if there are any additional opportunities for improvement to be gained. Unlike the tweaks that are made throughout other parts of the cycle, management review can often drive fundamental changes to the system as a whole, including changes to the organisation’s policy and often to its objectives.
Unfortunately, this is a process which is often misunderstood by the managers’ who own a Quality, Occupational / Work Health & Safety and/or Environmental Management System. In fact many Quality, OH&S and Environmental professionals struggle with its purpose.
A common pitfall is confusing ‘checking’ activities such as inspections and audits with management review. Another is confusing routine management meetings with a system review. All of these activities make up what is known as ‘monitoring’. Their intent is to ensure that the organisation is doing all the things it says it does. Whilst monitoring is a vital component of a Management System, it is not Management Review.
The specifics of the review will vary from organisation to organisation. Everything from the nature of the business to the geographic spread of operations will affect the process. Other issues to consider is the scope of the management system (e.g. OHS / WHS Management System, Environmental Management System, Quality Management System or an Integrated Systems etc), total employee numbers, size of the management team and the roles played by various persons.
The organisations objectives and how they are measured also affect management review. Some organisations have particular metrics they must keep as part of legal compliance, industry best practice or head office requirements. All these and other forms of data are inputs for the system’s review.
Regardless of these differences, it is necessary for those conducting management review to ensure they plan and scope the process to focus on the key objective of management review, being determining the system’s suitability, adequacy and effectiveness.
Suitable: Having the required properties for the task
Adequate: Having the quality and/or resources for the task
Effective: Producing (or at least capable) of producing the desired effect
The Clock Analogy
To further understand Management Review and distinguish it from monitoring activities, consider interactions with the Management System as the use of a clock.
Monitoring activities such as inspections, audits, testing of equipment, safety observations, and even the meetings where statistics or progress against plans are discussed, are like checking a clock. They are used to see if the system and processes are still “running on time” with the intent of reaching the organisation’s goal(s).
Management Review is a much higher-order process. It is about considering the findings of all those “clock checking” activities, not solely for the purpose of determining if the goals were met and the race was completed on time but also to ask whether the clock is the best tool for the organisation to make these determinations. Perhaps a watch would be better? If so, what kind of watch would suit? Alternatively, could an integrated tool be used such as a mobile phone or a laptop which has a clock?
Management Review is an often misunderstood and therefore poorly managed process. Unfortunately, it is also vital for the continued improvement of the Management System. Like all aspects of business, where internal resources do not have the competence or are too close to the system, it is recommended that external expertise, such as an Environmental, OHS / WHS Consultant is sourced. However, the role of this external party is not to take over the review but to facilitate it and impart a deeper understanding of its intent and process to the management team.