Do you often complaint on lack of attention from top management? Is it hard to get “air time” to discuss important management system issues? Is top management present in Management Reviews just because it is a mandatory requirement in the ISO standards? If we all agree that the responsibility for management system starts with top management, how come it is so hard to get their attention?

Sleeping management

You give them the wrong problem.

No manager will ever give staff full attention if it is not important for him/ here. Top managers have created an organization structure and delegated responsibilities accordingly. This is done in order to allow management to focus on issues relevant for the particular management level. Let’s pick an example from function “business control”. They have the task to monitor cost and revenue, and support managers at different levels with decision data. If there is a problem that all units do not use the agreed tools or ways of working, this is not a top management issue. This is within the responsibility of the business control head to fix that problem. If the issue impact reports to top managers they have to be informed. But, unless the head of business control need top management decisions or direct support to fix the problem, there is no need to escalate “no brainers”. If the head of business control to often report figures about how often different tools and procedures are used within the function business control, of course the fellow management colleagues will put attention on something else.

What problems are the correct ones?

What topics and decisions are to be managed by top management? What is, from the view of the management system, most important for the top management team? It is the effectiveness of the management system. That is; does the management system support the business model and the strategy? Do we act and interact towards external stakeholders in the way we intend to do business? If there are changes coming up in strategy, what changes has to be done in the ways of working?

These questions are the most relevant for top management to focus on, and this is basically about the purpose of the management system. Compliance towards standards, compliance towards internal requirements, use of defined processes, etc. are of course important but shall not be put on top managements table unless there is a critical problem that cannot be solved otherwise.

The way to top management attention is to put focus on management system effectiveness; how well it fulfills its purpose and what changes in the design may be needed. Ones you got top management attention via these topics, you will also get there respect for business contribution and will be seen as an important member of the management team.

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