Get the true value out of management systems

Certification of a quality, environment, safety or other management system proves that your company has invested time and effort into developing and standardizing ways of working. It will also be regarded positively by customers and stakeholders. In many industries, the standards are a strict customer requirement.

management system

The value in management systems can be split into two parts – internal and external. During my time as an advisor, I have seen systems focusing on external value – getting accredited. Fortunately many companies have understood the true value – striving for internal excellence as well as receiving the external accreditation.

The external value comes from the “stamp” of the system. But if this is your only goal, beware!

Receiving accreditation can open up new markets, bring new customer relationships and secure existing ones, satisfy regulatory bodies and create a feeling of trustworthiness.

There is of course nothing wrong with satisfying customer requirements and wishes, but if ISO 9001, ISO 14001 or OHSAS 18001 (ISO 45001 in the future) certification is only an afterthought, a ‘tick in the box’, the company will likely struggle to achieve accreditation in the first place, let alone keep it in future audits.

To truly gain internal value, the management system needs to be built from inside the organization.

Think about how your company can most benefit from creating a structured management system, no matter whether it is a quality, safety or any other system. Following the ISO guidelines means that you should start from the company and its unique operating environment, and gradually progress towards leadership, resourcing, operations, measurement and, most importantly, continuous improvement.

First design, then implement, then measure and improve. Always keep in mind the business perspective – the management system is built to support the business – not vice versa!

Planning is easy – implementation is the hard part

Implementation of a management system means rethinking and redesigning parts of your operating environment, processes, ways of working, communications, change management and a variety of other essential company activities. This is the hardest part and requires good skills in change management, process development and communications.

The required effort, in terms of pure working hours, will be significant. According to our experience, a cross-functional project team must be created to avoid delegating the management systems design and implementation only to the company’s quality function or EHSQ manager.

The true value will be reached through effort and support at all management levels

Rebuilding the management system in a holistic way is a major project, and must be included among the company’s strategic objectives. With management team’s full buy-in and support, as well as sufficient internal and external expert resources, the end result will be much more than a barely-passed external audit – a functional management and continuous improvement system with significant long-lasting benefits.


Ville Huovinen is a Manager at KPMG Global Strategy Group. He has worked as a Strategy and Operations Advisor with Finnish and multinational companies for close to 10 years in various development programmes, including improving supply chain performance, designing and implementing management & performance systems, as well as building and running Program Management Offices. Outside office hours Ville enjoys cooking, cycling and travelling.