A successful start to the business year would include a microscopic look at the events of the past year. This is important because some happenings in the business should not be repeated due to the consequences that may arise if they did. In this wise, it would not be out of place to share most portions of an article I wrote the same time last year for emphasis, and the fact is that it is timeless. It is true that confronting the past can be draining, especially if things went wrong; but the pros of reviewing the past far outweigh the cons.
Manufacturing businesses may go through a great deal of challenges ranging from product recalls, product defects, equipment breakdown, supplier deficiencies and many others. A careful review of the overall quality, food safety, environmental and safety management systems in a particular year will give a business cause to improve on successes and also put resources behind activities that did not go too well. The following is the core of that article for your information and action.
The ISO 9001 Standard does not state exactly when a management review has to be done, but it specifies that management reviews should be done at planned intervals. This means management can schedule the reviews monthly, quarterly or annually. The nature of the business should generally give guidance as to how to schedule these management reviews. If implementation of review outcomes is very critical to be implemented in order to resolve quality issues, or affect the quality management system significantly at shorter intervals, then it makes business-sense to hold review meetings monthly – or at most quarterly.
Hence, management reviews shall be planned and carried out taking into account the changing business environment and in alignment with the strategic direction of the organization according to ISO 9001:2015. Some businesses depend on annual management reviews but the disadvantage is that there could be issues which should have been resolved far earlier regarding sustenance of the business when it came to quality.
If the same attention given to the tracking of sales, cash flow, operating margins and the other financial indicators were to be given to quality, businesses would be much healthier in totality. To this end, therefore, businesses are encouraged to begin quality management reviews at the start of the year, and maintain a consistent interval in such reviews to ensure their businesses thrive.
The other challenge has got to do with the calibre of people that participate in management reviews. Again, there are several instances where quality reviews are relegated to line managers while senior management excuse/restrict themselves to ‘strategic planning’. It is not for nothing that the ISO Standard recommends management reviews to comprise of top management, a quality management representative who chairs the meeting, line managers and compliance managers. It is also important to invite any other person who may give quality input into the review.
The importance top management gives to quality and related issues in a business determines how far the company will thrive. Short-term goals of seeing profits go up may give a company a lifeline for a few years, but a long-term plan that embraces the right management of quality gives a business oxygen for life.
Management Review Inputs
There are four major inputs to management review prescribed by ISO 9001:2015 – and each is very critical to the advancement of quality management in the organization. Remember that according to the Standard, quality management includes all the activities that organizations use to direct, control, and coordinate quality. These activities include formulating a quality policy and setting quality objectives. They also include quality planning, quality control, quality assurance, and quality improvement. The inputs to the management review will therefore encompass all elements of the definition above.
The first input will consider the status of actions from previous management reviews. This follows a typical review of actions in meetings. It is not prudent to keep adding actions at meetings without first considering previous actions and the status of those actions. Accountability is key to improvement. We laud achievements, but sound reason should form the basis of identifying why we miss targets.
Another input to management review is changes in external and internal issues that are relevant to the quality management system. In the course of the year, certain changes such as reviews in formulation, processes, external supply chain, regulatory issues and a lot more may emerge. These internal and external issues may have a direct impact on the quality management system; such that things should be done differently to accommodate them. The overall impact on quality of products and services should be positive, and ultimately satisfy customer requirements.
The third input to management review is information on performance of the quality management system, including trends and indicators for: Non-conformities and corrective actions; Monitoring and measurement of results; Audit results, Customer feedback; Supplier and external provider issues; and Process performance and product conformity. All these pieces of information come as the result of active participation by individuals within the organization, because these are mainly driven by records, trends and trend analysis, and a cycle of activities geared toward closing the loop on non-conformities.
Activities such as process audits, hygiene audits, supplier audits, consumer/customer complaints monitoring – just to mention a few, are so crucial to bringing to the fore how well or otherwise an organization is performing with respect to quality management.
The last input to management review is opportunities for continual improvement. This is usually ascertained from the overall performance of the system; what went well and could be improved, and what didn’t go well and must be worked on.
Management Review Outputs
At the end of the meeting, management should have a set of activities that can be executed to improve on the quality management system of the organization. These are a set of actions and decisions that will seize the opportunity to bring about change toward the upward lift of quality in the organization. These include decisions related to continual improvement opportunities. The successes chalked up from resolving non-conformities must be sustained.
There are instances when the process of resolving consumer complaints brings in its wake brilliant ideas for improving a product. In the end, the initial defect resulting in the complaint is resolved – in addition to an improvement that gives the product or service a better functional outlook. Another output of such review is the opportunity to make changes in the quality management system. Such changes are due to the overall effect of the inputs to the management review.
A quality management review is as essential as a financial review. The first step is to ensure you have a quality management system set up for your business. This will come with training of both top management and staff on how to run the system. Once done, it becomes easier to set up planned reviews of the system – and, of course, the benefits will follow. In an article titled ‘How Jack Welch Runs GE’, I could understand how it was possible for Jack to make GE so powerful with the Six Sigma programme. He understood how a quality programme could help him turn his business around. Every organization has the capacity to see a turnaround when focus on quality programmes become paramount.
Johnson Opoku-Boateng is the Chief Executive & Lead Consultant, QA CONSULT (Consultants and Trainers in Quality Assurance, Health & Safety, Environmental Management systems, Manufacturing Excellence and Food Safety). He is also a consumer safety advocate and helps businesses with regulatory affairs. He can be reached on +233209996002, email: [email protected].