ISO Management Systems: The Lean Revolution: Harness the power of Lean to innovate your ISO management system (Author Interview)

How did your two-plus decades of consulting and auditing ISO management systems inspire you to write this book?

Good question. I was thinking about writing my story for a long time, but customers and travel did not leave much time for fun work. Everything changed when the pandemic hit. Many businesses went dormant, and I realized that I finally had plenty of time to go through my endless notes and articles to write this book.

In your experience, what are some common misconceptions about ISO management systems and their documentation?

Some companies see ISO management systems only as a mechanism to get a certificate and tell their customers that they have the paper. Regretfully, these businesses do not realize and do not benefit from their system to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of their operations.

Can you share a story from your consulting years that illustrates the impact of an over-documented management system on a company?

The main measurable impact of an over-documented management system is the cost of training. A company employing some 450 personnel spent on training over one million dollars a year without even realizing it. The proposed Lean optimization of the management system projected savings on training of approximately 500,000 dollars a year.

Your book mentions that 91% of employees think their procedures are too long. Why do you think this issue is so widespread?

Management system requirements started a long time before ISO. The history of contemporary standards for management systems traces back to 1959. Then, the U.S.  Department of Defense released a quality management program under the designation MIL-Q-9858. For nearly four decades, this standard was primarily used in the U.S. defense and aerospace industries. As with any government initiative, this standard was poorly written and lengthy to serve one purpose: to communicate the government’s requirements to its contractors. Bad habits die hard: many management systems still carry over bureaucratic, age-old approaches and techniques to document their ISO management systems.

How do Lean methods specifically address the problem of waste in ISO management systems?

Numerous definitions of Lean boil down to “eliminate or reduce waste in processes.” Countless companies worldwide utilize Lean techniques in manufacturing, service, and other industries. When we apply Lean to a management system, we will clean our procedures from unnecessary waste, such as excessive wording, grammatical errors, duplications, etc.

What are some of the benefits companies have experienced after implementing the Lean approaches you discuss in the book?

The main benefits are increased effectiveness of the documentation control and training processes, resulting in significant money savings. For example, if you used to spend one hour training an employee in a 30-page document, you will spend half of this time training them in a 15-page document. The effectiveness of training also skyrockets: the shorter the message, the greater the retention.

Your book includes dozens of templates for Lean procedures and records. How should businesses use these templates to their advantage?

More than once, folks asked me why I share paper documents in this electronic age. Firstly, you will not believe how many companies still run their business on spreadsheets, paper forms, etc. Secondly, I do not “sell” templates, I promote Lean processes illustrated by my templates.

Can you share a success story from one of the case studies in your book where a company significantly improved its ISO management system through Lean methods?

A small medical device company used to have some 400 plus work instructions. After the cleanup, the number of procedures was reduced to a little bit over 200.

Lastly, what is the Lean Jump-Start Kit, and how does it complement the lessons from your book?

The Jump Start Kit is a set of a few essential documents to get you started on your journey to the Lean ISO management system. It includes templates of:

-       Business Manual

-       Document Change Record

-       Procedure Template

-       Forms templates, and

-       Project Plan Template

By the way, the book gives you a link to the complimentary version of this kit