Are management systems still valuable?

It is well known that the concepts of management systems began to generalize in the eighties, with the development of the standards of the ISO 9000 family of quality management, and more intensely in the following twenty five years, both due to the general interest generated for the updating of the standards of that ISO 9000 family, and the development of other standards on management systems, such as ISO 14000 for environmental management, ISO 20000 for information technology - service management, ISO 22000 for food safety, and ISO 27000 on information security management, as also has an impact on the learning about the concepts of management systems the explosive development of national conformity assessment schemes, worldwide, that took place in the last decade of the last century and the first of this one, as well as the proliferation of international commercial agreements, where aspects of recognition of accreditation and certification schemes of this type of standards.

From my personal point of view, those were times when there was a great general interest in the technical elements of the management system standards, which generated a great development of many professionals in those technical fields, and of knowledge about these issues, in many people related to the operation of this type of systems.

Interestingly, in recent years we have had a much greater development of management system standards, both of what the ISO calls Type A, which are those that contain requirements for these systems and are certifiable, such as Type B, which are those that only provide guidelines or support elements for the application of management systems, so they are not certifiable. However, the concept of generalized application of management systems has been largely lost, as this scheme was initiated, and currently most of these standards cover management systems that are too specific, which would be from relatively very few organizations, for the the vast majority of these rules are inapplicable and irrelevant.

However, despite this explosive growth in management system standards, I feel that in recent years we have been losing that interest in these types of standards, as well as the drive for learning and proper understanding and implementing the different management systems, by those responsible for their application in many organizations. This is what I perceive and I will be glad receiving your opinions on that issue.

It is quite clear for me that the multiplicity of management system standards has caused confusion in these managers, on one hand, among so many standards of this type that have been published, and on the other, in order to identify which of the management systems standards, in such a rapidly growing universe, can generate value for each organization, both through their application, in terms of performance, and through their certification, derived from the interest of their customers and other stakeholders.

Additionally, I believe that in many cases the lack of interest, professionalism and competence of many senior managers and those responsible for the application of these systems in organizations have been negatively influenced by the sometimes inappropriate actions of hundreds of consulting service providers in the field of management systems,  which offer these services without having an adequate level of competence in each of those fields, as well as several certification bodies and some accrediting organizations, which have failed to guide certified organizations to properly comply with each of the requirements of these standards, which has prevented these organizations from establishing in a proper way their continuous improvement schemes.

For example, using the case of Mexico, many heads of organizations that have achieved some MS certification in previous years now show little interest in maintaining their certification (s), when some of them have already maintained those certifications for more than twenty years, but they have not detected relevant improvements in their performance in reference to that management system(s). Several of them blame that little capacity for improvement on the reference standards, and few recognize that the main fault lies with themselves, who have not been able to promote an adequate compliance, by their organizations, with all the requirements of the standards, due mainly to the lack of capability in terms of understanding and compliance with the different requirements of these standards, often accompanied by their consultant services provider or certification bodies that may not be competent, or not ethically committed to strict compliance with said requirements to offer an adequate professional service to their customers, as well as a great disinterest of their accreditation body.

Obviously, the organizations that have had good results using these standards based management systems, and have received relevant support from their consultant services providers and certification bodies, generally maintain operating their management systems, as well as their certifications, and many of them have established integrated management systems, expecting to multiply their benefits.

After so many years of using these types of standards, there are still many managers of organizations who consider the certification of a management system as a trophy to show off, or as a mere requirement to access to a customer or a market, but who have no interest in the improvements or benefits that any of these management systems can generate for their organizations. In fact, there are many organizations that have established one or more management systems, in which their managers do not recognize their own responsibilities within those systems. Many think that it is normal for the corresponding standard to assign responsibilities to all the personnel of their organizations, but not for them, so they want an external consultant, an auditor or any other person to fulfil the responsibilities that are naturally assigned for the role they perform.

I am sure that both the management systems and their supporting standards continue to be of great value to organizations, as long as they are applied appropriately and in accordance with the needs of each organization. And that this value will be more relevant day by day, due to the growing competition that the globalized world is generating.

For these reasons, I believe that it is important that we generate a new wave of interest in learning, or re-learning, on these concepts and on the information contained in management system standards and that it is very valuable, since from my point of view, many people in those technical fields assume that by reasonably understanding the concepts that are presented in a standard, they already master these issues globally and that it is not necessary to know better and in detail the particular elements of the standards of other management systems.

This explosive growth of management system standards that we have had in recent years represents a great challenge to promote, achieve and maintain competence on the part of those responsible for these systems in organizations, as well as for professionals in support management services for the establishment, operation and improvement of these systems, such as consultants, auditors, evaluators from certification bodies and from accreditation bodies related to these management systems standards.

Personally, I will continue to insist, through my posts on this blog, as well as with instructional videos that I will create and present through this medium, on providing information on these topics and on reinforcing the knowledge and analysis of the technical elements contained in the different management system standards.

By the way, I would like to share with you, in this post, the first video that I have created, with the title of "What are management systems?", and that I will appreciate your comments on the matter, with the expectation that some of the contained information favours the understanding about these themes.


I believe that it is important that all of us who professionally dedicate ourselves to the fields related to management systems, be able to exchange information, in a continuous way, to maintain and improve the level of competence, in order to always promote the best results for our customers and for our organizations.



Ernesto Palomares Hilton