A well designed management system is a valuable asset. All company assets has to be managed to ensure effective performance and this is of course also valid for the management system. I use Deming’s circle to explain what this means for the management system. Deming talks about plan, do, check, act and sort these into a circle which becomes continuous improvement. If the management system is an asset we can understand how to manage this asset with the help of Deming’s circle.
To Plan means to in advance, based on best practices and wanted position, agree on how to do things and who to do this. The outcome of the “Plan” part is the Management System in itself. It is made tangible via documents like organization chart, process description, targets, etc.
The Do part is where we all in a company follow the Plan, use the management system. We act according to processes, assigned responsibilities and defined activities. Important then is to ensure right competence for each activity and to always act in the best interest of customers and owners and with a responsible behavior towards employees and environment.
The Check part is where we monitor performance of the management system. Often this is limited to compliance controls, where we verify quality of “Do” in terms of fulfillment of “Plan”. We monitor compliance in audits, in reviews or tests of operational activities, including formal controls. Besides compliance controls it is likewise important to monitor if the design of the management system support company objectives. We have to monitor this by comparing performance towards important business characteristics like customer satisfaction, speed, resource usage, position towards competitors, etc.
The Act part closes the improvement loop and use information from the Check part to analyze performance of the Management System and make decisions of improvements that can enhance performance. The ISO standards 9001 and 14001 defines the Management Review as an essential part in the management system. In my view this is the decision meeting where top level management “act” according to Deming’s circle.