The following information is so important that it is one of my downloadable Top 5 Essential Tips for ISO systems. Why is it so important? Because a) your management system must be simple and practical or your staff won’t use it; b) cumbersome systems don’t help a business achieve its goals; and c) overcomplicated systems are expensive to maintain.

You need a simple system that effectively helps run the business & meet the needs of both customers & stakeholders. Just how simple depends on many factors including your services & products, contractual requirements, legal requirements, size & your risk profile. A day surgery will need more work instructions than real estate agent who mightn’t need any.

Regardless your management system need not be a weighty one. It shouldn’t fill 10 lever arch folders & its value must never be measured by the thud it makes when it hits the desk. Today, it’s much more likely “that thud” will resonate from the waste bin as people throw all the useless things away. Tip: See Top Three Mistakes Companies Make In The Name of ISO

Don’t keep it on the shelf. Policies, procedures, specifications, work instructions (if you need this level of detail) should be available at point of use. If people’s main tool at work is a computer, then soft copies are all that’s needed. If staff are in the field, on the factory floor or a construction site then some (not all) documents need to be in hard copy. The trick is to limit the number of hard copies you hand out because it’s much harder to ensure everyone has the latest version. Above all, be practical about it. Heck, I think that if it’s an important document the best place to put it is on the back of the toilet door. Everyone will read it then.

There’s nothing in the Standard that says your documents have to be in written word. Process maps (I use Promapp), diagrams, photos can all be a very effective means of communication, often more so although those of you who’ve struggled to assemble Ikea products may disagree!

Although there’s no singular format for a system, I’ll give you advice on what not to do:

• Don’t use a structure based on the clause numbers of the Standard. This only makes sense to nerds like me & the auditor & you aren’t writing the system for us.
• Don’t use complicated sentences or words that come from the Standard such as “product realisation”. This isn’t an English test.
• Don’t use lots of numbers such as in your headings. They’re meaningless.

• Do use plenty of white space & make it look good. It will then be easier & more appealing to read.
• Do use plain English & the terms your staff use at work. Even though the latter may be jargon to outsiders your staff understand it.
• Only write what you need.
• Keep it practical & flexible.

All the best – Liz