Management on “autopilot”, without critical analysis of actions, is a great risk for companies, making them work to “put out fires” with limited resources, instead of building a solid and sustainable path for continuous improvement.
Management systems allow processes to be optimised and help managers to obtain organised and systematised information so that the decision-making process is as assertive as possible, i.e. based on evidence.
The practice of management review is not exactly new, although this theme began to be more widespread and implemented in organisations with the introduction of ISO standards. For example, it was explicit in ISO 9001 (quality management system) in the 2008 version and the 2015 version, and in other standards with requirements for management systems.
The reference standards do not specify the periodicity for the occurrence of the review, as the timing of the review may depend on several factors, some of which I will highlight in this article. However, they provide guidance on the information that should be reviewed by management (e.g. changes in significant internal and external issues; feedback from relevant stakeholders; performance of external suppliers; degree of achievement of objectives and adequacy of resources provided).
The management review is normally conducted in a meeting where the board/managers critically analyse the results of the system performance, its effectiveness, suitability and alignment with the organisational strategy, in a given period (monthly, quarterly, half-yearly or annually, as defined by the company). It is on the basis of this analysis that management is able to outline new actions in order to meet the desired/established objectives.
The management review is normally performed in a meeting where the board/managers critically analyse the results of the system performance, its effectiveness, suitability and alignment with the organisational strategy
Countless times, in consulting projects for implementation and certification of management systems, I am asked how many review meetings should be held and how often they should be held.
As mentioned above, this is an activity that should be performed at planned intervals, determined by the organisation, according to its management model, operations, needs and expectations of shareholders and other stakeholders.
However, as this is a regulatory requirement, the organisation must ensure that it holds at least one review meeting per year to demonstrate compliance of its management system.
Furthermore, although the topics for review are pre-established in the standards, it is not necessary that they are all discussed at once. The management review can take place over time, i.e. be performed in a phased manner, and can be part of regular activities such as management or operational meetings.
Management review enriches the information in the organisations’ planning meetings
Among the various factors that may determine the timing(s) of the review are:
I. Maturity of the management system;
II. Company objectives
III. Management cycles of the company and its business processes;
IV. Significant changes in the context of the organisation, legal/regulatory requirements, customer requirements and other stakeholders;
V. High number of complaints or non-conformities or poor process performance.
It should also be noted that the determination of a frequency/periodicity for holding the meeting does not invalidate the fact that it may occur in an extraordinary manner when the circumstances and context of the organisation so justify. In my interaction with companies from different business sectors (banking, construction, communication, cargo transportation, among others), when asked about the main challenges they face in preparing and holding review meetings, most managers mention the difficulty in collecting data/information that may serve as inputs for the analysis, due to the lack of time of those responsible for processes for the consistent and regular monitoring of the system.
The existence of the necessary data for this moment is a critical factor, taking into account that it is difficult to make an effective analysis with partial or incomplete information.
Remember that one of the principles of quality management is evidence-based decision making. The decision-making process is complex and worsens if data are not sufficiently available for management to assess the positive or negative impacts of a resolution.
In many cases, data is partial or incomplete due to deficient monitoring of the Organisation’s processes, objectives and indicators up to the meeting date. Companies that have the systematic practice of holding process monitoring meetings can easily have the data available when needed, facing fewer challenges and optimising resources, namely “time”. The standards present the order of analysis of the meeting agenda items. Following it is not compulsory, however, following it can make it easier to visualise and understand, as the agenda items are correlated to each other.
Who should participate in the management review?
The regulations do not specifically mention who should participate. It is recommended that the leaders/managers who act directly on the processes, as well as the top management of the company, actively participate in the management review, whether carried out formally or informally.
Benefits of the management review
The main benefit of conducting this activity is to bring the top management to a meeting with an agenda rich in essential information for defining the organisation’s next steps.
It is common, due to various urgencies or priorities, for top management to lack day-to-day insight and timely information on customer and other stakeholder satisfaction, supplier performance, resource requirements, compliance with applicable legislation, process performance, product or service conformity, number, type and origin of complaints, non-conformities received and dealt with, or the status and effectiveness of corrective actions taken.
It should be reiterated that the meeting agenda may vary according to the management system implemented. However, the information indicated above is generally part of the review points, allowing management to have and analyse the relevant data generated by the system and reported by the designated persons in a timely manner. In other words, allowing an overview of the company’s operation that may facilitate the timely making of relevant decisions by managers.
Often, however, management review meetings are not effective and conclusive. How to counteract this tendency?
The management review meeting should not be seen as a “management system meeting”. In fact, there should be no distinction between the management system and the company, as the former is a tool that assists the organisation in managing its resources and processes. Therefore, the review meeting should be considered an activity of the company which allows performance to be evaluated in order to ensure the best alignment with the defined strategy.
The management review meeting should also not be seen as a “witch hunt”, an opportunity to point blame or to “wash dirty linen” among process managers and management. Above all, that meeting should be seen as an occasion for companies to find joint solutions and to get commitment from all participants for the implementation of subsequent decisions/actions.
In summary, the management review should allow concluding on the continued relevance, adequacy, effectiveness and alignment of the company’s results with its strategic direction. In other words, the outputs of the management review should reflect a conclusion on whether the system remains appropriate, whether it meets the established requirements and whether the Organisation has achieved the desired results, taking into account its strategic direction.
Hence, as a result of this moment of analysis, it is necessary to draw up minutes containing the opportunities for improvement identified and the main decisions taken, those responsible and the deadlines for execution. The status of the actions resulting from a management review meeting should be the first discussion point on the agenda of the next meeting.