We’ve been helping integrate management systems for a while now, and it is gaining popularity and getting easier than ever to do, which is good news – because it is also gaining more importance than ever. As you know, companies that have made a commitment to becoming more “green” and more socially responsible are receiving favorable recognition by consumers and other companies that want to improve their image to meet today’s more conscientious approach to business.
We are all for it! Not only will adding an EMS (or Lean, or OHS, or performance excellence) improve your image with customers and stakeholders, but it will also improve your bottom line by saving you money and eliminating waste, making you “lean and mean”.
In fact, we are so excited about the potential gains available through integration, we’re launching a new division of McDonald Consulting Group specially focused on easing the transition from single to multiple standards – branded as Integration Doctor ™. In honor of our new approach to integration support, we’d like to share some tips and techniques gained through experience in integrating quality and environmental systems in hopes that you’ll take some new approaches of your own to develop an integrated system within your organization.
- Be open to new ways of approaching the management of the system – what can you learn from the way one system has been managed to date?
- Be open to ideas from personnel at all levels in the organization (You never know who is going to have an idea for improvement.)
- Keep records of not only decisions, but of discussion. This prevents your organization from having to re-learn the same lessons that were tried, and discarded, previously.)
- Integrate the system as much as it makes sense for your organization – there will be different levels of integration that make sense for each group.
- Start with the obvious easily related elements – the ones that are common to several standards, such as internal audits, records and document control, management review, corrective and preventive action.
- Try and keep integration at a high level within the organization – Make it difficult to deviate from the standard (don’t easily allow local modifications) and make it fun/worthwhile to integrate.
- Use audit results to drive further integration. Look at the areas where there is conflict, what is happening? Look also at audits to identify areas where there is opportunity to streamline or combine processes.
- Get more out of your internal auditors. Take every opportunity to provide cross-training in the standards. The better versed the auditors are in the standards, the more ideas for integration will be opened up for discussion. To nurture this level of involvement, offer incentives to the auditors for learning more. The incentive doesn’t have to be big, but it does need to be consistent. Offering a reward for pointing out potential integration areas will only work if the reward is there for every audit, otherwise, any progress made will fall back to status quo when the auditors lose the initiative to find potential improvement/integration opportunities.
The audit team can also be aroused by ‘freshening up’ the audits. Engaging the auditors both old and new in auditor roundtables or lunch and learn can be inspiring and offers peer to peer training that otherwise wouldn’t happen. Be sure to audit different areas and people than the same old same old stations. Try turning the audit around and auditing from the end process to the front, instead of the standard front to back.
- Educate management on the differences and similarities in the standards. For example, a big difference would be quality standards have no legal or regulatory ramifications, whereas a lack of adherence to environmental or occupational health and safety standards may have significant legal /regulatory consequences. As for similarities, you should point out that both standards can help you identify areas of waste, and work through continual improvement to implement projects to eliminate this waste (perhaps using Lean techniques?) Consider using these findings to integrate Lean and Six Sigma, or Lean Sigma, into the organization.
So, which of these methods should you try in your organization? Some of these techniques may make sense for you, and others won’t. The key is to customize to your unique culture. You need to look at the integration from the very beginning in relation to your company. Some companies may find they need to implement one standard and then add in the other standard. This is most often the case when a company already has a requirement for a standard, or they have already implemented one standard. Others may find their organization would be better suited to implement both new standards at the same time, especially if different customer groups are requiring different standards implementation, within the same time frame.
If you already have one management system, there are some best practices for adding a new standard. We’ve found that for most companies, the addition goes smoother if you don’t try to tackle all the elements of the new standard right away. We call this a staggered implementation. Start with the easy – to- integrate pieces of the new standard. The easy pieces are those that are closely aligned with your existing standard, as noted above. You should also begin keeping additional records right away. Don’t worry if the records demonstrate your weakness to the new standard. You have to start somewhere, and knowing where you fall short is the best way to make big strides right out of the gate. Create a list of deltas to help you understand what you need to work on, including a timeline for critical steps; and don’t forget to assign responsibility and dates.
The most important thing to remember is that it will get easier and the benefits will be great. Change is a process, if you try and force it, you will face resistance. Ease in and build support, gain buy-in at all levels. Allow employees and people in all areas of the organization to be a part of the implementation – in fact, the more the merrier (and the easier to get employee buy-in). Reward people who identify areas for integration, and also those who help you accomplish the integration. You’ll find that your integrated systems will be well worth the effort, and well received by your customers.