Management Systems, at their best should be simple, structured, user-friendly enablers of efficient operational practice. However, all too often they become as unmanageable as long hair in August westerly winds.

Over time, management systems tend to morph into unwieldy beasts, becoming overly complex, tedious to apply and even more burdensome to manage… and then the task of overhauling them seems to drift into the too-hard basket.

If a root-cause analysis were undertaken to figure how the management system got to that state, there would likely be some interesting revelations, such as:

  • a lack of consistent management oversight
  • a failure to consult or listen to the end-user
  • a perceived need to over-specify or duplicate details
  • a blind-faith belief that the legislation, ISO standard or industry requirement says we need separate procedures for this, that and the other.

Overhauling these fattened, cluttered, complex management systems is an effort.

If the Japanese workplace organisational method of 5S  can be used to improve our workplace and minimise the hazards and risks, what if the same approach were applied to management systems fattened by lengthy documents, to minimise their risk of failure?

The traditional 5S program is based on principles seiri, seiton, seiso, seiketsu and shitsuke.

To take a little liberty with the traditional Japanese principles by applying them to management systems rather than workplaces, there is a certain logic in 5S that could be applied to making management systems more zen.

The most obvious applications are:

  • Seiri, which translates to ‘sort’, by which perhaps the biggest gain would be to sort out which management system documents are necessary and which can be earmarked for removal because they add little value as a result of being a duplication, generic, or redundant.
  • And this links to Seiton or ‘setting in order’ where the various tiers of the management system would be organised to make clear links between (for instance) a Corporate Standard and a Workplace Procedure. A failure to attend to these links is often where problems originate, because ill-considered document hierarchies and templates prompt duplication and generalisation.
  • Seiso refers to ‘shine’ and under a typical 5S program relates to cleanliness, and (putting aside any reference to the need to remove layers of dust from a shelved management system…) this can refer in a management system to ‘sharpening the look’ of documents to be more succinct and focused.
  • Then there is Seiketsu, which relates to ‘standardising’. With the standards and expectations for the management system established, it needs to be enshrined and protectively guarded to ensure there are no deviations.
  • Finally, Shitsuke which translates to ‘sustain’ – once the all the hard work has been done to establish a management system, it then needs to be robustly maintained.

Or we could adopt an Aussie version of the 5S:

  • Scrap what doesn’t add value.
  • Structure what does add value.
  • Sharpen up the valuable detail to suit the end-users.
  • Specify what is needed in the system.
  • Safeguard or protect the system from becoming unnecessarily complex.

Please contact QRMC for more information.